Mary Helen Apple and Her Horses

Mary Helen Apple and her horse Gypsy are practicing for one of the many horse shows they participated in.

 

In the neatly kept home on East Main Street here in Livingston that has a yard always filled with beautiful flowers during the spring and summer months lives the mother of one of my classmates. It seems as if Iíve known this lady most of my life, but I was surprised recently to learn that sheís had a love of horses her entire life. The classmate I refer to is Lamoine Apple Parsons and her mother is Mrs. Mary Helen Apple. From early childhood up through the time she married, Mrs. Apple has owned several horses that have been top winners at county fairs in places such as Lebanon, Carthage, and Alexandria, as well as other locations in and around Smith County. Mrs. Apple has a collage containing photographs of some of the horses she owned down through the years. At the request of her younger daughter, Elaine Apple Long, Mrs. Apple has written down some of her memories about the horses shown in that collage. I am including a part of what she has written, but first, some background information about her.

Mary Helen (Wright), one of ten children, was born in Paynes Bend of Smith County, a community some eight miles from Carthage. Lock Seven, a place where barges came in to be unloaded on the Cumberland River, was near their home. Her parents were Robert Marion Wright and wife Lela Lamoine Wright. The childrenís names are: Irene, Naomi, Gladys, Robert, Jr., Carmack, Horace, Jake, Coleman, Mary Helen, and Dewitt. The Wright family lived on a farm of over 200 acres. Mrs. Appleís father made a living farming, and was the first farmer in Smith County to raise Black Angus cattle. Even with the responsibility of providing for his growing family, he always found time to include horses in their everyday life.

One of the pictures Mrs. Apple has of her horses is one named "Pony" she won several blue ribbons with. Here is some of her memories about that horse:

"Pony is a horse that pulled a buggy Coleman and I drove to meet the school bus at Watervale (a community also known as Punch). Papa had wrecked our car on the Paynes Bend road as we were coming home from church one Sunday. He had put the car out of gear to coast down a hill, but he lost control and we hit a fence post on a curve and totaled the car. That happened during the depression and I reckon Papa couldnít buy another car, so we did without one for a while. Anyway, Papa bought a little buggy and harness for Coleman and me to drive to the highway to meet the school bus. He got permission from Mr. Denton who owned the land where we met the school bus to build a shed for Pony to stand in until school was out. The shed was just big enough for Pony and the buggy. Just think about her standing there all day without turning around. Papa and I tried Pony out when we first got the buggy. She had never had a harness on her, but Pony did not do one thing. We went out the road a ways and turned coming home and I said to Papa, "Letís go fast." He said, "Mary Helen, we canít do that!"(real mad). I was wanting to gallop like they did in the movies. Coleman and I took off the next morning for school early. You cannot believe how that mare could trot. She could fly. That little buggy was whizzing. When school was out, we got in the buggy and Pony took off like lightening. Coleman was trying to hold her back and the rein broke. He pulled her around with one rein until he got her stopped. He tied a knot in the rein and we took off again. We hit a good size hill and it slowed her down. Every morning when we got to what we called the beech woods, she would throw that head up and fly through there. She ran us up on the bank on morning but we didnít turn over. I mean to tell you we really traveled fast. The buggy had little iron handles on the side of the seats and I held on for dear life. One afternoon we got in the buggy and I told Coleman there is something wrong with this buggy. We drove on a little while and he said, someone has swapped our wheels. That bunch of loafers at the store had put the back wheels in front. Coleman had to change them when we got home. We drove the buggy until Coleman graduated and I was a freshman. Horace didnít know very much about horses and he let Pony run away with him and broke the shafts off the buggy. He started out of the yard trotting and when he got down the hill, he couldnít control Pony and she ran away and hit the creek bank and broke the shafts. Papa tied the buggy up to the ceiling in the garage to keep. It stayed there for years and one day Papa saw some children playing with wheels. He got that buggy down and gave it to them to play with. We were all flabbergasted that he would do that. It wasnít but a few months until it was sitting out in the barnyard rotting down. It was lost forever."

"Pony had a colt we named Snowball. She was so cute, tiny with a little pink nose and a curly mane and tail. She had one blue eye. Old Pony wasnít a bit possessive. She just went on about her business and let me play with her colt. I played with Snowball like she was a little dog. I led her every place, even in the house, and on the front porch. I was accused of taking her upstairs to my bedroom but I didnít. I started up the stairs but I didnít go up. It was too steep. Papa had told me that I had better quit going up steps, that I was going to break my ponyís leg. I had her in the kitchen one day and Mama was baking a cake and she ran me out, saying, ĎYou are going to make my cake fall.í When it got time to wean Snowball, the boys took her down to the lower barn and put her in the hallway. All the stalls were full. They went down the next morning to feed and found Snowball in the corn crib on top of all the corn. It was big jump for her to get through the door. They had a hard time getting her down. She got up there because she knew how to climb. After she was weaned, there wasnít room for her at the barn so when winter came, she was carried to the lower barn again and put in a long shed with a bunch of young mules. Papa would buy young mules and teach them to work and pull a wagon and sell them. I would want to play with Snowball on the weekend so bad that I would go down there by myself and try to catch her out of that bunch of mules, six or eight. I would make them run and try to cut her out as they came by. I would take me forever but I would finally catch her. I would do that every weekend that it was pretty. That was the first winter. The second winter, she caught distemper from another bunch of young mules. She was so bad Papa thought she was going to die and he had the boys take her down to the lower barn so I wouldnít see her, but she got over it. Distemper was bad that year. Papa wouldnít let me get on Snowball until she was two years old. He got on Pony and I got on Snowball and he had a lead rein on Snowball. We rode a little bit and she didnít do one thing, so I just went off down the road. That first day that I rode her, I went to Rock City with the girl that lived on the next farm. She had a little black pony that her daddy rode all the time on the farm. She wanted to go fast so I tried to keep up on Snowball and she hadnít even been shod. When I got home and Papa saw Snowball, he said, ĎMary Helen, you have rode that pony too hard.í I didnít know any better. I didnít think about her being so young."

Mary Helen Apple and one of her favorite horses, Snowball.

 

"I worried my daddy to death about my horses and wanting to ride in the fairs. We carried Snowball to the fair when she was little and I showed her as a pet and did tricks with her. She could bow and stand on a chair. I was going to show her as a colt but I was told I wouldnít have a chance against gaited colts so I didnít. Later on, Snowball did go on to win at several fairs I showed her in."

Another horse named Gypsy was described by Mrs. Apple as being "a wonderful horse." "She was like riding the wind, always ready to go, fast or slow."

 

A close up of Snowball and Mary Helen Apple.  The coat Mrs. Apple is wearing was made by her mother.

 

While attending high school in Carthage, Mrs. Apple met her husband-to-be, Freeman Apple. They lived in Smith County for several years and then moved to Livingston in 1953 to open the business that remains in the family still today. Mrs. Apple continued to ride and still be involved with horses even after moving to Livingston. That same love of horses was passed on to daughter, Elaine, who could often be seen with her friend, Liz Clark Mitchell, when they were growing up, riding the backroads of Overton County. The two girls would pack a lunch in some saddlebags that once belonged to Lizís grandfather, Alford Eden, and take off for a day of horseback riding.

Itís been a few years since Mrs. Apple has ridden a horse, something her sister, Gladys, said Mrs. Apple knew how to do since she was two years old. Gladys was quite a bit older than Mrs. Apple, and had married by the time Mrs. Apple began riding. Mrs. Apple can remember riding down to the gate to meet Gladys and her husband when they would come visiting in their little Ford car. She said she could see them when they turned the curve coming down the road to the Wright home. Gladys described how her sister would ride a horse named Minnie in front of the car and how daylight could be seen between her sister and the horse with every gallop.

The memories Mrs. Apple has written down about her life growing up and the horses that were so special to her will be treasured forever by her family. Iím very happy she allowed me look back at her life and to share just a small part of those memories.

 

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