The Ways of a Horse

Miss Johanna Timmer, departmental editor of Reformed Women Speak, writes: “Charlotte is a nurse and the congenial wife of the Rev. William Muller, retired missionary to Brazil.” The Mullers spent their entire ministry in South America, from 1934 to 1970.


It was at a ladies’ luncheon. The topic of conversation happened to be horses. Yes, horses. No, we didn’t talk about our ailments, although we were all elderly ladies. No, we didn’t talk about who married whom, or if we remembered who was still living. No, we didnt even go into the past which was so much better than the present. We talked about horses; each with a different nature, different habits, different characteristics, different inheritance, different genes. How wonderful!

For 14 years we relied on horses for our transportation in Brazil. Our first horse was a small strawberry roan (rosilha) named Tommy. We bought Tommy plus harness and wagon in the nearby town. Tommy ran away the morning after we had bought him. He was lost for 10 days. A search brought no Tommy. Then we offered a reward, and Tommy turned up immediately.

We did not know that so much depends on how much and what you feed a horse. We started out from the town, a three-hour ride to our home. Tommy had not been fed for 10 days and was too weak to pull us up the steep hills. We had to push behind the wagon. Then a severe strom came up and Tommy began to slide backwards in the mud and we slid with him. After this experience, Tommy, well fed, never left us stuck in the mud again, although no amount of gasoline gets anything but a tractor through even today.

On Sunday Tommy had to go to church three times and we lived about half an hour‘s ride from the church. Six days a week Tommy was at the gate of the pasture, waiting to come for his feed in the morning. Sundays he never appeared, but challenged us to catch him if we could. He didn’t like being in the harness all day.

One Sunday Tommy decided to bolt as the dominie was trying to hitch him to the wagon. The dominie was already in his preaching suit, striped trousers and cutaway (it was in the early thirties) and off Tommy went with his tail flying and kept just out of reach of the dominie who bolted after him with his tails flying. Fortunately the neighbors came along in their wagon and got dominie to church. Tommy spent a delightful Sunday afternoon in the neighbors’ corn field. If the dominie talked too long to a parishioner along the road Tommy would start nibbling his sleeve. “Let’s go” (vamos).

When we moved to the parsonage which was built later near the church, Tommy was not pleased. His pasture was much smaller and he was easier to catch. But then he did not have to work so much on Sunday. We moved many of our smaller possessions with the wagon and placed them on a table outside the house, to be taken in later. Tommy picked everything up from the table and deposited it on the ground without breaking anything.

The dominie’s legs were reany too long for little Tommy, so we got a second horse. Veado (deer) was a beauty with lots of horse sense. If only today our preachers could talk to their horses while they brush and comb and feed them! A horse never talks back, only nods understandingly and never tells secrets. If you were tense, Veado was tense; if you were relaxed, Veado was relaxed. He would run himself to death for you, if you were in a hurry. He could outrun the train, although that wasn’t such a great feat. He raced down the steep hills, the automobile brakes installed on the cart making it possible. He was very gentle with children, bending his front leg so they could insert their bare toes to climb on his back. He pranced and snorted if someone untrustworthy came into his stall or tried to mount him. He refused to travel at high speed for anybody except the boss. He was sometimes wounded by bats or he would cut himself on barbed wire, but only the boss was permitted to treat him. He never passed where a snake or a tarantula was on the road. He saw things long before we did. He heard things long before we did. He could sec when it was pitch dark and we couldn‘t see a thing. How often we threw down the lines in the dark and trusted Veado to bring us home.

It happened one night, Veado was the means of avoiding a bad accident. I was in the two wheeled cart coming home from visiting a patient where I had been detained until it was dark. There was no moon and very few stars that night. I knew there was a deep hole in the road which I had to avoid by keeping to the right and as close as possible to the barbed wire fence. I started turning too soon, without knowing I was on a bank which gradually went up until it was several feet above the road. As the fence came closer to the edge of the bank, the ledge on which we were riding became narrower and narrower. Suddenly Veado stopped. I did not know J was on the bank, but Veado knew. I urged Veado to go ahead. A troop of oxen was coming down the road and I could hear the cowboys shouting as they drove the herd ahead. I used the whip. but Veado refused to take one step. I tried to step out of the cart but found no ground to stand on. I slid down the bank until I finally reached the road below. I ran as fast as I could, afraid the oxen would overtake me, but they didnt pass Until I was home. We took a stable lantern and went back to find Veado. He was standing with the two wheels of the cart still on the bank. One more step and the wheel would have slipped off and the cart and I and Veado would have crashed down the bank to the road below.

Later when we no longer had Tommy we bought Diana. She was only with us a short time when she was stricken with colic and died within an hour. We had inserted a trocar as is customary in those regions, but to no avail. Veado was not there when we buried Diana in the field outside the pasture, but after that he always stood at the place where we had buried Diana with his head over the fence.

Some time during all these experiences with horses, I heard one of our elders read a sermon on Jonah 4:11 with an exegesis also of the last words.

Are we surprised to find that God had pity on the cattle of Nineveh? Are we surprised when the ass sees the Angel of the Lord before Balaam sees him? Are we surprised when the cows go straight to Bethshemesh with the ark, leaving their calves behind them?

If you have ever tried to tame a colt, you are surprised how Jesus rode on a colt on which no one ever sat.

Psalm 139:6: Such knowledge is beyond my understanding, a height to which my mind cannot attain.