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The days of horse and buggy
The other day I completed a project that started over two years ago. I purchased from a local close-out store some old simulated carriage wheels with the intent of installing them on the six-foot wooden fence on the front of our one-acre spread.

I will tell you what knowledge I have and the times my folks had with horses and buggies.

I will start with horses, although my father in his role as farmer did not have any horses but used mules because of his early experience with these contrary breed of farm animal. As a young man just after the turn of the century he drove mules in the Imperial Valley to level the rich farm land for the orange groves of Riverside.

Most of us have seen old cowboy movies. We've seen saloon fights burst outside and into the dusty dirt streets with one of the participants ending up submerged in the horse trough and comes up soaking wet, resulting in the end of the contention! In my memories I have seen many of these horse troughs in and about Ceres and the Modesto area. Mostly on farms and a few in alleys near the old carriage houses where the horses and harnesses, along with equipment, were kept in the days of yore! These handmade devices were usually made of 2-by-12 lumber and measured about 10 by 2 . A coat of tar was applied to the inside to make them hold the water for horses to drink. There is one little factor that sticks in my memory about horse troughs. That is if just by chance or purposely a hair from a horses tail falls into one of these watering devises and left for a time it "comes alive" and wiggles about like a long little snake. Something about the germs or bacteria makes this phenomenon takes place and in our childhood we kids liked to watch these old horse hairs dance about in a underwater ballet! These horse troughs were a place where we would keep the fish, frogs, and turtles that we gleaned from local canals and swamps. The animals didn't seem to mind!

When I returned home from sea in 1946 I took on the task of cleaning the years of idleness on this farm, to remove some unwanted buildings and get rid of some of the horse-drawn farm implements. I destroyed many old relics that would be not only valuable, but dear to the family today. I burned up my folks' old buggy, wheels and all, along with scraping many tools of farm husbandry. How sad!

I also remember on many of the streets of the fine older houses in Modesto and Riverside little permanent "foot stools" along the curb and sidewalks which would enable the ladies to exit the buggy in safety along with the helping hand of the gentleman in attendance. Many of these could be seen in Modesto in the older sections of 12th, 13th, and 14th streets! Cars had running boards for many years and many of these were removed. But exploring alleys one may still see some of the old carriage houses still standing in honor of another period in our history.

It was a time of great satisfaction for me to display and see these wooden wheels - though imitation - outside of our modest abode. Perhaps by doing this I have in a small way made penance for my youthful destruction of artifacts of my family history and the milder, slow paced days of yesteryear!

Bill Noble may be reached via email at