Ralph Nester was a trainer of thoroughbred horses. He has wonderful tales and stories of the track. Ralph is also a Jack of all Trades, and I’d say a Master of all of them, too. Reading about him is like watching a John Wayne movie, or better. Maybe like a character out of a Louis L’Amour book. I will continue to post his stories, this is just the beginning. To me, he’s what our country used to be ~ hard working, humble, appreciative, thankful for his life and family, he’s what this country was built on. Yes, he is the Fabric of America and doesn’t even know it.
“My earliest memories of horses started on a peaceful dairy farm where I grew up. It was along the Little River near Riner, Virginia. The farm was set in a valley along the river, the farmhouse sat on the side of a hill across the road from hayfields that lined the river bank.”
“I remember dad walking behind a team of horses, pulling a single bottom plow, the long reins over one shoulder, and both hands on the plow handles, struggling to keep the plow shear deep in the ground. I can still hear the creak of leather from the harness as the horses strained to pull that plow through the ground and the heavy breathing of the team of horses, each had a red tassel hanging off either the collar or bridle. I think it was for decoration only. The two horses were Jim and Salem. When dad backed a hay wagon in the shed to park it with the horses, Jim would run back so fast he would break the tongue if you weren’t careful. I remember the intrigue of unharnessing the horses and what I thought was so unique was the collars that fit around the front of the shoulders, where the horse pushed against when pulling a load.”
“Us boys, three of us, would help with the chores around the farm, slopping pigs, feeding and milking cows, gathering vegetables out of the garden, gathering eggs, and feeding dad’s racoon dogs. I remember a bay riding horse that was one of the owners that he rode when he came to visit the farm, to check out the animals and crops. Well, I rode her the rest of the time. I had a game i played. I’d ride her as fast as she would go toward a clothesline and I would duck under at the last minute. It was a game us brothers played well. One time, my brother Howard didn’t duck in time, and he got knocked off by the clothesline. I also rode the mare to pull the shocks of hay from all over the field to a main stack which was about 10 feet tall when finished and rounded off. Hay was stored like that; the shocks were about 4 feet tall and 4 feet around and I pulled them with the mare, the shocks were stacked on two 3 inch poles about 3 feet apart that was a sorta sled if you will.”
“We had an Australian sheep dog named Jenny. When we rattled the stainless milk pails, she’d go out and bring in the cows to the barn yard so we could put them in barn and milk them. I remember walking across stanchions which were wood and throwing the latch down that held them in the stanchion and dad would let us help milk by hand about 30 or 40 cows. But the fun part was putting the horses in their wooden box stalls and feeding them ears of corn in the wooden feed boxes, a sound I can still hear. It must have intrigued me because I remember sitting down to the supper table, and we had roasted ears of corn as dad called them. I just simply leaned over and started eating the corn just like the horses did. Mom asked dad, “What’s he doing?” Dad replied, without even looking up from his plate, “He’s eatin ’em like the horses.”
“One day, we were across the river doing fencing and we had a buckboard type wagon with a team of horses and the mare I rode. Well, it was pouring rain so we tied the mare to the back of the wagon, it had a canvas top, sorta like the conestoga wagons of the prairie days. Mom was with us as we had lunch across the river on the rolling hillsides and small mountains, so my older brother drove the team off the steep mountain as mom was scared. The farm was a wonderful start to my life.”