Ralph Nester: Leaving the Little River for a dairy farm in Virginia, ’54

After moving from the farm on the Little River to a small community named Belsprings, dad worked at a defense plant, Hercule Power Plant near Radfords,  Virginia. When the war was over, there wasn’t much work , so we moved to Merrimac, a coal mining town.  We hauled coal up the mountain in a little red wagon that had spilled off of the railroad cars to heat the old board sided houses with no insulation.  We had an outhouse, too.  We carried the water inside bucket from about 200 yards up the holler to our house for mom to wash on a scrub board for five kids and dad.

Dad got tired of not having good job, so he left with my cousin hitchhiking from Christiansburg, Virginia to Washington, DC  to his brother’s house.  He had one dollar and 87 cents in his pocket.  Dad never  drove or had a license. (Mom got her license at 55 in Maryland.)  Dad was in a wreck off a mountain road when he was  young and didn’t like cars, then the car rolled 18  times, they estimated, it was a long hill.  That was on Belsprings Road.

Well, dad got to Maryland and went the next day to get a job on a dairy farm.  He got the job and the farmer sent his man and a flatbed truck to Virginia to pick up our furniture. My uncle came to ge us and mom.  My two brothers, cousin and I  rode in the trunk with it partially opened. Someone called the cops as they  saw we had our feet in a blanket sticking out of the car.  They told the cops someone was transporting 20 dead people. We were anything but dead.

Anyway, when we got to Maryland, it was a beautiful dairy farm, running water,  inside plumbing, beautiful view of a pond.   My first look out the two-story window was of a pasture field with a  pond and my heart skipped a beat. there was this beautiful liver  chesnut filly. Her name was Princess.  Then, coming galloping from the creek , was a magnificent site: a big beautiful pinto stallion.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

In a few days I got the ok to ride the filly, but owner cautioned me to not get near the  stallion because he had been in a circus and had reared up and fell over on the rider and had to be removed from the circus. He had white eyes, very muscular and a bit of an attitude. My dream was to ride this beauty.  I watched his every move while I rode the filly. One day, I got my chance.  As my filly was drinking out of the pond, the stallion, Tony, came to the pond and started drinking.   Here was my chance.  I slid off Princess slowly then quickly walked into the water.

As Tony swam by, I was on his back so quick and was looking for all hell to break loose.  He just kept swimming wherever he wanted to go. I could feel the massive power in him as his muscles rippled under my tight grip with my legs.  He then walked out of the pond, scrambled up the bank and I’m expecting fireworks.   But, to my surprise, he wrung his head a few times andI didn’t leave his back. We went for a very long ride, from walking to jogging, which wasn’t comfortable so I nudged him with my  bare feet heels and sucked my lips to him to go faster.  Well, we did.  With his brown mane hitting me in the face and wind whistling by,  we rode for, it seemed an hour or more, and finally he stopped and reached back, smelled my leg and dropped his head and started grazing.  I figured I better not push him.   I slid off his bare back,  petted his shoulder and left that pasture with a swelled up chest and a dream come true.

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