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The Run-away Wagon: A Sherman Widener Adventure


As told to Paula Marshall
Author’s Note: Imagine you’re sitting around at the Town Café and Sherman Widener comes along and tells you a story…imagine his voice, his expressions and his laugh as you read this.
I was working for a…a…land development company, in Tehachape, California, and they had bought a big cattle ranch and they was developing part of it for homes and golf courses and all that. And, uh, I was running the equestrian center – the riding stables. And one of my duties was to take out a wagon ride every Saturday and Sunday morning, and I would take out the women and kids on the wagon ride, and, uh, the real estate salesman would take the men around to show them the property - in other words, I was baby-sittin’! 
So, I had this big team of pinto mares and I’d take ‘em out on a Wednesday and work ‘em to kinda keep them exercised, ya know, for the weekend. I’d been doin’ this for about six months and no problems at all with these horses. They was the best, ya know.
So, this one Wednesday, I took off and I got just a little ways from the stables and went around the corner of the arena. Something spooked these mares…and they took off running. 
Well, up at the other end of the arena, there was a big, wide gate, and I could pull ‘em…if I could’ve pulled ‘em out in that wide gate, ya know…I’d be out in a thousand acre pasture and I’d just let them run.
But, they wanted to go back to their stalls. So they made this turn on the other end of the arena and they went between two…(portable) toilets, sittin’ back to back, and…there wasn’t room for them to get through, but they went through there anyway, and one toilet went one way and one toilet went the other and…uh…
About thirty feet from these toilets was a parking lot and it had the, uh, bumpers that you pull your car up against, ya know. So my wagon hit one of them. Well, I had to pull on the lines, just pull as tight as I could, ya know, trying to stop ‘em, and the wagon bounced up when it hit that…uh…that car stop, ya know…and it threw me - the pull on the lines pulled me out of the wagon onto the tongue of the wagon. And I was riding…uh, I was riding that wagon with my hands on the tongue…and my knees on the tongue… and my feet was on the double trees, that the tongue was hooked to, ya know, for the horses.
Now these horses never run very far…maybe uh, a fifth of a mile or an eighth of a mile, all together…so things was happening pretty fast!
So right ahead of me…I had a hold of this…riding this wagon tongue… I could count all the horse shoe nails in these horses feet, ya know. They was right up there in my face all the time! and…and…uh…
But anyway, right across this, uh, this uh, parking lot was a, uh…a lawn for the offices, ya know, and I thought, well, when I get to that lawn, I’m gonna swing under this tongue and drop off, like Roy Rogers, ya know!
But just as I got to the lawn…I don’t know why I looked under this tongue, to look back under that wagon, but I did, and…there‘s a bolt that went through the…the double trees and through the tongue to hold the wagon…and it cleared the ground about…oh, just about three inches, ya know…so…that left that part out of it! So, I said “I’m just gonna have to ride this thing,” ya know…so…
On past there a little ways, after you cross the lawn, there was a drainage ditch that come across…that was about four foot deep and three foot wide…and the horses jumped that and the wagon managed to bounce over it and I still had a death grip on this tongue, and I wasn’t about to turn loose, ya know! And it went up, oh, another hundred feet, I guess and run through a hitching rail and a little ways further was their corral… and…uh…the gate was made out of two inch angle iron… and…one by twelves…no, two by twelves…and they rared up on that, against that gate and just splintered it, run on in the corral and stopped, ya know. 
Well…I just got off the tongue and went up in front of the…uh…horses and took my old…hadn’t even lost my hat! And…and took my old hat and…knocked the dust off of me, ya know, and…the only thing I got out of it was it tore the end of my little finger off on…on the left hand…tore my nail off more than anything else, ya know…and see there…it’s still crooked, but it’s ok. I don’t think I left out anything, but…uh, uh…that was an adventure for sure!

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