By Billy Smith
The women in my life have always inspired me, sometimes when I didn’t care to be inspired. Here are their lessons:
They taught me to say, “I swun,” when I was amazed; “You look the Wreck of the Hesperus,” if you’d had a bad day and looked it.
Threatened me by pledging to “knock the dog water out of me,” when I had misbehaved the first time; “Go cut me a switch,” on the second time.
“I been knowin’ him for a long time,” when I introduced a friend; “It’s a real honor,” when I met a new one.
“I reckon,” when I understood; “Begapardon,” when I didn’t.
“Leave me be,” when I wanted to be left alone; “Come see me,” when I didn’t.
“Give me some sugars,” when I wanted a kiss; “Skedaddle,” when I didn’t.
“Fixing to,” when I had a good intention; “I reckon not,” when I didn’t.
They forced me to talk and demanded that I listen.
They taught me to let the molasses soak into the core of a homemade and freshly buttered biscuit, to break cornbread into my buttermilk and to pour peanuts in the neck of my glass-bottled “Cocola”. And that sardines eat pretty well with some crackers and directly out of the can.
They taught me the proper way to wring a chicken’s neck, then to pluck it, proper cleaning of a chicken gizzard, how to skin a rabbit, what wild plants I could eat and which ones would make me sick. That liver and onions were a delicacy and collards were tasty, but greens with jalapeno sauce were better. They taught me to be kind to the animals even if they’d someday end up on the table.
They taught me how to battle the merciless winds of west Texas by packing the window sills with damp towels. They taught me to play bridge, for which I have never forgiven them.
They taught me that the revolver in the night stand was loaded; don’t touch it, but if you need to, by all means don’t miss.
They let me take my first sip of whiskey when my parents weren’t looking and let me snort a little Garrett snuff and then laughed when I hacked like a dying guinea.
They convinced me that I was far tougher than I really was by shooing me back outside when I wanted some sympathy for a skinned knee. “There’s not enough blood for you really to be hurt. Now skedaddle.”
Take your hat off on the first meeting of anyone—man or woman—and women always.
They taught me that it was okay to cry, but not for very long and that you save everything, especially containers. I still cut feed scoops out of fruit drink jugs and coffee cans. Poor folk always know that things can get worse.
These were my grandmothers, aunts, great aunts, and wrinkled kin whose place on the family tree was never clear. They were great teachers, hardened disciplinarians, and the most tender of sorts. Kind when they needed to be and meaner than a plow mule when the occasion called for such. They were cut out of the cloth of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and innumerable mini natural and, some supernatural, disasters that dotted their country-folk lives. They were the knitters of a fabric that’s near impossible to fray.
The men in my life taught me when to fight and when to duck, but these women taught me to behave.
This first issue of Chrome pays homage to the 70 percent of APHA’s members who are women. You’ll see plenty of Paint Horses and a few men, but you’re more apt to see women knitting the fabric that we call the American Paint Horse lifestyle, which is near impossible to fray. Perhaps for too long we didn’t recognize that this is a unique lifestyle, even in the horse world. But it is and we’re proud of it.