By: Deb Kitchenmaster
Wearing a ‘horsey’ tee brought out excitement in the teenager waiting on me at the store. “Do you have horses?” “What kind?” It wasn’t but a few days later (without the horsey tee) that the ‘what kind’ question was asked again. I realized it was STORY TIME!
Would you walk 100 miles for a horse? As the story goes, Justin Morgan and farmer Abner Beane had been neighbors in Springfield, Massachusetts (1700’s), until Justin moved 100 miles away to Randolph, Vermont, where he served his community as a schoolmaster and a singing teacher. Justin found board with the parents one of his young scholars named Joel Goss. Closing the school doors for the summer, Justin and Joel began the walking journey to collect money that Justin had loaned his neighbor and was now in need of payback. Before he and Joel sat down at the table, Justin told farmer Beane the reason for their travels. “I just ain’t got the money,” sounded in Justin’s ears. “Would you take a colt instead of cash?” There were two colts, Ebenezer and Little Bub, out in the pasture. Best of friends they were, one with possibilities and the other a ‘runt.’
The return trip began early in the morning with a halter on Ebenezer and a “good-bye” to Little Bub. Suddenly, there was much commotion! It was Little Bub; he had pushed by farmer Beane to be with his friend. “Hey, Justin!” yelled the farmer. “The little one, he wants to tag along. Better take him with you.” Day after day as they journeyed northward toward Vermont, their fellow travelers admired Ebenezer and scoffed at Little Bub. Arriving home, Joel gentled Little Bub.
Mister Fisk had been watching the lad, Joel, ride a small horse in the moonlight. He had a piece of wooded land along the White River, and he wanted to rent the horse for a year. His hired hand, Robert Evans, needed a horse to help him clear the land. He would pay $15.00 a year for the rental of the horse and, of course, pay for the animal’s keep. Resurrected from this hard work, came a colt that was able to pull heavier loads than a pair of oxen. Runt and all!
The fame of this little colt grew, and men soon dropped “Little Bub” to “Morgan’s horse is handy, quick, and strong.” Morgan’s horse can pull like living quicksand.” Everywhere he became known as “Morgan’s horse,” and his extraordinary ability spread up and down the valley. In fact, farmers refused to enter their drafters and oxen in the pulling matches because no one could match the muscles and the heart of this little horse.
Another five acres of Mister Fisk’s land was cleared and planted. Men put in long hours planting, hoeing-in wheat, rye and oats. They were missing the pulling matches that seemed to help them forget their weariness from back-breaking work. It was Nathan Nye who thought up quarter-mile racing. There was an open straightaway along one branch of the White River. His vision was to make the neatest racing strip this side of New York. Nye proposed that if each one lent his apprentice boy for an hour a day, the raceway could soon be scraped as smooth as any track in the big cities. He knew how to put a question to get a ‘YES’ answer.
What tedious work, making a race track out of a rutted path, but they did it and the first race was scheduled. You could hear the comments as the spectators were placing their bids. “Yeah, when it comes to running, a pulling horse is slow as a hog on ice with his tail froze in.” Overall, there weren’t any bids on the Morgan horse for winning a race. Why? Oh, they had come to their own conclusion that if a horse was good at pulling, he wouldn’t be good at running. Makes sense, right? It wasn’t until the judge announced the Morgan had run the quarter-mile in thirty-six seconds that their perceptions exploded.
A letter dated September 30, 1796, from New York, was delivered to Justin Morgan while he was teaching; we challenge your work horse to run against our celebrated racers (two elegant thoroughbreds known as Silvertail and Sweepstakes; famed for their stamina and speed). Offer accepted. Race: October 15, 1796. The Morgan horse won that race against Silvertail by five lengths. The crowd went wild! Another race was called with a fresh horse, Sweepstakes. The Morgan horse won that race, too, on the same day.
This is the story of the little runt who became the father of a world-famous breed of American horses – the Morgan. Justin Morgan had a horse, and Deborah Ann has a Morgan.
By: Deb Kitchenmaster