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Remembering Mr. Barnes, Part II

Buddy Savage

Mr. Barnes had a big heart when it came to any animal whether it was a horse or a cat or a nest of wild rabbits. You could get him riled up if you mistreated one of his animals. He also understood the nature of almost any animal, and knew how to deal with anything from a crippled cat to a bad bull. He definitely didn’t want anyone abusing any of his horses. He told us about a time when a man came and bought a young horse that had never been loaded in a trailer. The man had paid him, and was getting ready to load the horse. Mr. Barnes said he offered to help him load, but the man said he didn’t need any help. Well, apparently he was making a big mess of trying to get the horse in his trailer, and began to whip on him. Finally, Mr. Barnes walked up him and gave him his money back and told him to leave his horse alone and to get off the place. He said the man called back a day or two later and asked if he sent someone else up to pick up the horse, would he sell him to him again. Mr. Barnes agreed and the deal was done.

Mr. Barnes said you could always find at least one thing wrong with any horse. One time we were over at Charlie Curtis’ place further out east on Highway 14. Charlie had a Red Rocket colt just a few months old that he wanted to show off. I believe Charlie had an old Goldman mare that Mr. Barnes had raised, but I can’t remember if that was the mother of this colt. In any event, we were out in Charlie’s pasture looking at this colt. Mr. Barnes walked around the colt a couple times, and looked him over real good. Charlie asked, “Well, Lawrence, what can you find wrong with that one?” Mr. Barnes looked a little more, and finally said, “Well, he’s not in my pasture.”

I remember the time that I bought Major L from Mr. Barnes. I had owned another fairly well known old stud, Poole’s Red Rocket, that I bought from Charlie Curtis at Ava. Rocket foundered badly at about age 23, and I ended up having to put him down. On one of my visits to Mr. Barnes place, he commented that he was not using Major very much because most all of his mares were out of Major. After thinking about it for a while, I told Mr. Barnes that if he ever decided to sell Major, I sure would be interested in trying to buy him. He didn’t say much about it, and I knew not to press the issue. Some time later, several weeks as I recall, I got a phone call from Mr. Barnes, and he said he had decided to sell Major and if I was still interested, he’d sell him to me. I can’t even remember what his asking price was; it didn’t really matter as long as I could afford it. Within a few days, Charlie and Nick Cox and I took off to Ava. I don’t remember much about that trip, but I do remember the afternoon before we were due to come back to Louisiana with Major. Mr. Barnes told me, “Buddy, if you’re going to haul that old horse off tomorrow, you need to go down to the barn and get him cleaned up.” Mr. Barnes was pretty picky about his horses looked when anyone bought one, and hauled it off. And, he’d always throw in a new halter in the deal.

I definitely remember the September morning we loaded Major. I brushed him off good again, and led him out into pen where the truck and trailer was parked. We had it planned that Nick and I would drive back to Louisiana, but that Charlie would stay behind and visit with Mr. Barnes for a day or two. I loaded Major into the trailer, shut the gate, and looked around for Mr. Barnes. He had walked off over to a gate leading out into one of his pastures, and was standing there looking off into the distance. I knew it was hard for him to part with Major, so I walked over to where he was standing and said something like “Mr. Barnes, I want you to know that I consider it an honor to own that old horse, and I promise I’m going to take good care of him.” He turned around with a tear in his eye, and said “I know that. It’s just hard to part with a brother.” We shook hands and I walked back over to the truck and told Nick, “Let’s get the heck out of here before I start crying.” I think Charlie got the worst end of that deal; he had to stay behind and console Mr. Barnes.

In his later years, Mr. Barnes had a lot of trouble with arthritis in his hips, and it made it difficult for him to get on and off a horse. He was telling us about riding in the Christmas parade in Ava the year he was 88 years old. He had a big, stout horse named Sam that he had raised and trained. He said, “By the way (he started a lot of tales that way), I never had so much fun or hurt so bad in all my life.” He said he had used a little step ladder to get up on Sam, but was hurting so bad that he couldn’t make it all the way back to the starting place. He got someone to go after his truck and trailer, and he got off on the way back. He said his hip hurt so bad that he couldn’t get his leg up to dismount normally, and had to scoot back over the saddle onto Sam’s rump and slide off the back. I think that was probably the last time he rode.

Nick Cox told us about one time he was visiting, and they were down toward the barn looking at some fence work that Mr. Barnes had done. He had changed out a corner post that had been in the ground for many, many years. Mr. Barnes was sort of complaining that you couldn’t find good posts like you used to. He said, “I don’t think that post will last more than thirty years,” to which Nick replied, “Well, Mr. Barnes, that just might be long enough.” Mr. Barnes said, with a chuckle, “Well, by the way, you just might be right.”

A day or so before the 2000 Show and Celebration was due to begin, we found out that Mr. Barnes was in the hospital at Springfield. Charlie and Nick Cox and I were planning to go to the show about Tuesday of that week, but I went on up on Sunday and when I got there, I called Mr. Barnes sister there in Ava. She told me that Mr. Barnes was in pretty bad shape, so I called back and told Charlie and Nick that they needed to get on up there. On Tuesday of that week, Nick and I were in Mr. Barnes’ room at the hospital, and Charlie was riding Sam on a trail ride put on by the association. Mr. Barnes had specifically requested that Charlie ride Sam on that trail ride. About noon that day, Mr. Barnes had a bad spell and was really struggling to breathe. The nurses were scurrying around trying to figure out what they could do to get him stabilized. Mr. Barnes looked up and said, “By the way, I’m just barely hanging on here.” They finally discovered that his oxygen supply had become unplugged. When they got that fixed, he got OK. During all that excitement, one of the nurses had summoned Mr. Barnes’ doctor who came into the room. I remember him saying, “Mr. Barnes, we have a decision to make. When you came into the hospital, you said you wanted to be put on life support equipment if necessary.” Mr. Barnes said, “Well, yes, I’ve got a few things I want to do yet.” The doctor told him that the life support equipment was not going to get him out of the hospital. Mr. Barnes looked at the doctor and said, “Well, just throw the machine away then.” Roy Brown, and his wife Donna, were in the room, along with Nick and myself, and Kay Ritter. Mr. Barnes looked at Roy and said, “Roy, we better round up some pall bearers.” Donna got a pen and paper, and Mr. Barnes started naming pall bearers. Then he talked about who was going to do the service, and who was going to do the singing. When he got it all planned out, he kind of laid back and said, “Well, by the way, I’ve never promoted too many funerals before.” Roy Brown said, “Well, you did a good job on this one.” That was on Tuesday of the week of the 2000 Show and Celebration. Mr. Barnes died on Thursday night.

These few little stories are meant to give just a very small insight into the type of person Mr. Barnes was. Having known him for twelve or thirteen years, he struck me as a man of character and integrity, a man of his word, a strong and yet humble man, a man who understood human nature as well as nature itself, a man you could count on if you needed help, and, finally a man who was a gentleman and a good citizen. There are many more people still alive who knew him longer and closer than I did. Many live in or around Ava, but also many from other states who came into contact with him through his horses. I feel safe in saying that nearly all the people who knew him would agree with my feelings about him.


Burton Foxtrotters

4597 U S 62 E, Beaver Dam, KY 42320