136. A Visit from Elvis

In Shakespeare’s King Richard III, the pathetic but arrogant hunchbacked villain-king Richard III is about to meet his doom at the hands of the future king Henry VII.  In the battle, Richard’s horse has just bit the dust, but desperately, valiantly, he cries out, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Unfortunately, none was forthcoming, and Richard got whacked.

My daughter Susy was never the king of England, or, for that matter, pathetic, arrogant, hunchbacked, villainous, or girded for battle, – but she did share one thing in common with Richard III.  During her childhood, SHE HAD DIRE NEED OF A HORSE.  In capital letters.

This passion commenced when she was about 5 years old.  She consumed  information about horses from books, photos, movies, TV.  And, like chicken pox, it was catching.  Two of her sisters – Gretchen and Terry (now Teresa, thank you) were similarly infected.

When they reached their early teens, my husband Gene started taking them to ride horses at the Aquabarn, and soon after at Ralph Dodd’s farm in Redmond. By this time, Susy’s head was crammed with information about the equine world.

In the summertime, Gene liked to give each child a special outing of their choice (as long as it was something we could afford).  One year when she was 12 or 13 years old, Susy chose a trip to Longacres Racing Track here in Seattle.  This gave me cause for concern because thanks to my barefoot-pregnant-and-cloistered life,  I imagined that a racetrack must be a den of iniquity and no place for impressionable children.

As they were leaving the house for the racetrack, I said to Gene worriedly, “Now, don’t let her gamble any money.  It’s okay if she watches the horses, but she shouldn’t be learning about gambling at her age.”

“Oh, a couple of dollars won’t hurt her”, said Gene.

“No, not even one dollar”, I insisted.  “Promise me you won’t give her any money to gamble with.”

“All right”, he grumbled.  “Well, let’s go, Susy.”

I still can’t believe what happened.  While they were there, Gene kept his promise and didn’t give her any money, but he did let her pick who she thought would win each race.  And all of her picks won.  She was starting to draw attention from people around her in the stands.

Pretty soon, some people from Longacres public relations office came out to talk to her and take photos of her for their newsletter.  They told Gene that young girls who like horses often have the ability to sense which ones will win. They said that professional gamblers in the stands can spot a streak like that going on and will often capitalize on it.

It was nice to know somebody made money on Susy’s “winning streak” but I’m still glad it wasn’t her.  She might have ended up working in a casino or on Wall Street, instead of in a nice wholesome place like Ford Video where she may not get rich but at least she can stay out of jail.

When Susy started going to Ralph Dodd’s farm, she met Curt Warden who helped Ralph operate the farm and stables.  They had their first date when she was 17 and he was 21 years old.

It was also on her 17th birthday that Susy’s dream of a horse came true.  After supper, she opened her presents.  The last one was a birthday card from Gene and me.  Enclosed in it was a check for $100 and a note that said “You can either buy a coat or a horse”.  Susy started weeping with joy, and so did the rest of us.

Curt told Susy about a wild horse on Orcas Island that she could get free if she could pay $50 to haul him, so sight unseen, Susy made the arrangements.

The next day, Gene took her to Northgate Mall’s Western Wear store. She still remembers exactly what she bought. She used the rest of her money to buy a new bucket, bridle and bit (which she thought was a hackamore), bareback pad with cinch and stirrups (she didn’t have enough for a saddle) and some brushes.

Excited beyond belief, Susy was waiting at Ralph Dodd’s farm on the day the horse was to be delivered. When he arrived, Curt and other helpers help unload him – a wild creature, with a long mane and tail covered in burrs, and pitifully skinny.

He didn’t stay that way though.  Susy named him Rusty.  It wasn’t long before he became a husky beautiful, horse, his coat brushed to a gleaming red.  Rusty was a wonderful “first” horse for Susy and he lived a long “horse-life” – into his twenties.

When Susy was a senior in high school, Curt got her a pure-bred 8 month-old Arabian colt named Rocky. Later they acquired a 10 month old Arabian colt named Maharazi” but called “Zi” for short.

Another of their horse acquisitions was discovered one winter.  They found a little Welsh horse in a mudhole next to a shack.  It was a 2 to 3 year old in mud up to his hips.  Curt bought him, told by the owner that it was a gelding. When they got him home and got some of the mud off, they discovered that he wasn’t a gelding after all.  They named him Henry, and he turned out to be a gorgeous Palomino with a good sense of humor.  Curt sold him for several times more than he paid for him.

Among their other horses was Penny, a Saddlebred. She was a high-stepping deep Palomino with high white stockings and too “prancey” for her own good. Another was Cutie, a beautiful quarter horse. She had the rare grullo color, the rarest horse color. Farmer Ralph had used her as a brood mare in hopes of breeding more in that color.

Curt has been around horses all his life.  The first ones he remembers are Tiny, and then Peanuts, her baby.  The lived to be in their thirties.  So did Elvis, the pony you’re about to meet in this video, when he came to visit us at our house in the Laurelhurst neighborhood.  He was probably the first member of the horse family to visit here since the early 1900s.

Curt and Susy were to own other horses, and after they were married, they operated a horse boarding stable.  When they started having kids, though, they moved back to the city (Bellevue, Washington) where they had access to better schools.

Someday, I’m positive, they’re going to be back in the saddle again. You’ll see.

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11 Responses to 136. A Visit from Elvis

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    Wow! I’m numb! What better birthday surprise could a ferry godmother bring, I do not know. I knew I loved you guys so much, but this takes the cake. And to capture it so beautifully on video is wonderful. Life is good. And Susy, I need to get you in touch with my friends who have the Rocky Mountain Pleasure horses in Montana, for sure. It will be a match made in heaven. Hi Ho, Elvis!

  2. susy says:

    Hello family and friends,
    Thank you for the kind words and birthday wishes. Curt and I were blessed with four beautiful kids and raising them to adulthood has been a joy in every way. Moving from the county to urban Bellevue was a terrific choice for our young family. We got our kids into the best public school district in the state of Washington. And I like to think we brought a bit of the county with us to Bellevue. Curt still has a big farm truck, pitchfork and hay hooks and I have a big vegetable garden on the side of the house. Our saddles, halters and bridles are waiting quietly in a room downstairs. Who knows what the future may bring? Hi Ho Silver!

  3. Gail Trevathan says:

    Happy Birthday Susy. I tried to callyou on your birthday but you hadn’t gotten home yet. The video brought a lot of wonderful memories. You are the best sister-in-law one could ever ask for. Both Tom and I love you so very much. You and Curt did a wonderful job of raising your 4 beautiful children. Don’t worry, I am sure there is another horse in your future.

  4. Gretchen Covey says:

    I was very competitive with Susy growing up. She always put up with me. I remember betting her that I would grow up and own horses. You know who one the bet. But she never rubbed it in. Susy is one of the most kind, loving and positive people I know.

    Wonderful tribute to Susy, mom. I love the video. I remember that day well.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Love the post and the video. I remember that birthday! It was so special.

  6. Richard .H says:

    Its Very Nice.

  7. Richard .Huxley says:

    I’m Horrible.

  8. Lynn Lawe says:

    I found your mothers story while searching on the internet and enjoyed reading it. I bought my first horse from Ralph and boarded him there until about 1977. Of course I remember you, Curt, Mark and all. I sure have some incredible memories of Ralph’s. My horse Tyco even taught my husband how to ride and was with us until 2000. Well I just wanted to say hi and to let you know that I think of you two from time to time, wondering how your all doing. So I’m glad that I found this little story. Take care, Lynn

    • Terri says:

      LYNN??? remember Terri and Squirt?? Well, I ran across this also and saw your response!!! How have you been??? Alot of memories in this!!! Ran across old pictures too of us out at Ralphs……let me know how you are doing???

      Terri Gonzalez (formally Haynes) 🙂

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