In this People's History, Dorothea (Pfister) Nordstrand (1916-2011) tells the story of a horse with a mind of his own. This very strong-minded horse lived with the Pfister family near Tiger in Pend Oreille County. The “Daddy” and “Mom” mentioned in this story were Joseph and Mary Pfister, whose homestead was on Tiger Hill. Dorothea was born there in 1916. The family lived there from 1911 until 1919, when they were granted title to the property, sold it, and moved to Seattle. In 2009 Dorothea Nordstrand was awarded AKCHO's (Association of King County Historical Organizations) Willard Jue Memorial Award for a Volunteer, for contributing these vivid reminiscences to various venues in our community, including HistoryLink.org's People's History library.
The Mismatched Team
When I was very young, we lived on a homestead near Tiger, in northeastern Washington state. We owned two horses. Barney was big, strong, plodding, and willing to obey Dad’s every command. Dandy was what Daddy called a “Cayuse Indian pony.” He was opposite of Barney in almost every way. He was small of stature, quick of foot, and had a mind of his own. I have never been able to understand how Daddy got them to pull as a team. He used to laugh and say the hardest part was to get Dandy to slow down enough to match Barney.
Dandy was Dad’s pride and joy. He followed my father around like a pet pup, even trying to come into the cabin, until Mom put a stop to that. Even so, his head would be thrust inside, if there was an open window. He loved to carry Dad careening over the farmland and racing along the path by the river’s edge. When they went hunting, Dandy’s ears would “point” birds or deer for Dad. In the years we spent on the homestead, hunting was our main source of meat, so that was important.
Dad and that mismatched team of horses worked all through the week days at a logging camp several miles from the homestead, bringing huge loads of logs into Tiger, a small town on the railroad line. There, the logs were loaded onto cars and taken by rail into Spokane, 125 miles to the south. This was our family’s main source of income while we were “proving up” the claim.
On the weekends, the work was on the homestead, where plowing and haying had to be done, in season. Both of these tasks were right up Barney’s alley, and he was so willing and docile that Mom or my 10-year-old brother could spell Daddy at the work. Dandy considered these chores to be beneath him, and refused to cooperate, although he happily allowed Mother or my brother or sister on his back, behaving like a perfect gentleman with those precious burdens.
One of my favorite stories from that time, is when Dad decided it was time for Dandy to help with the plowing. He tried to hitch him up to the plow, while Dandy did a wild-eyed dance around the barnyard.
Finally, Dandy got tired of the whole thing, picked Dad up by the seat of his trousers and dunked him into the horse trough. Dad laughed so hard he almost choked, but Dandy had made his point. His horsey brain had their “job descriptions” clearly figured out:
- Barney and Dandy and Dad hauled wagonloads of logs.
- Barney and Dad did the plowing.
- Dandy and Dad went hunting.