Montana Magazine’s sidebar on page 9 of the July/August 2014 issue asked, “Did you ever ride a horse to school?” with no apparent positive answers. Well, I did: three different times, three different horses, three different schools! Beginning in 1936, in the first grade and half of the second, Spark Plug was my noble steed. I went to the Boston Coulee School, a one-room structure with a lone teacher and eight pupils. The schoolhouse was 2 ½ miles from our ranch.
My mother, a widow at the time, would rise early, saddle “Sparky”, pack my lunch and away we would go; me riding, my mother leasing Sparky to the Maurer Ranch, which was halfway to the schoolhouse. I don’t remember missing one day of school during this time.
After two moves, a wedding and a mortgage, we were living on the “Pete Fake Place”, the schoolhouse had been moved – it was now only a mile and a quarter away. I was now in the fifth grade and Grace Smiley and I were the only two pupils in the school. I was capable of saddling “Crumbs” and riding him to and from school. Crumbs had one bad habit – he would not stay “ground hitched”, in other words, if you dropped the reins while opening or closing the gate, he would take off. Several times I followed him home, cursing (6th grade curses) to no avail. I was not fond of Crumbs who was an ugly horse to begin with. I rode him most of the year
Two years later, the Boston Coulee School was closed. The Meisenbach School was four miles to the east of where I lived. I rode “Bob” for two years. Bob was a great horse – big, strong and a good looking black gelding. By then I was big enough to wear my father’s chaps and a cowboy hat. I wished for a six-shooter but even in those days “carrying” a pistol was not allowed.
Six miles a day, sun, rain, sleet, snow or wind (and there was always wind), four gates, one small stream crossing (which Bob didn’t like and occasionally balked at for two years), concluded my riding a horse to school. I didn’t think it was as glamorous as it sounds.
Anyway, there was at least one Montana kid who rode a horse to school. I just wish it had been more exciting.
— William (Bill) Herbolsheimer