Disclaimer: if you are an animal lover, or if you grew up on a ranch like I did, get a box of tissues ready! Working on this blog post has stirred up some tears for me more than once.
Just like my RSD products, the 1948 bags and purses are named after people (or animals) that have played a significant role in my life. This post features Casey, a bag named after my brother Josh’s amazing horse, KC.
Casey is handcrafted with our gorgeous heritage leather colors, and it’s the perfect everyday bag. I wanted to design a leather bag that was the equivalent of the Jill in the RSD collection, which means Casey is a great starter leather bag. The medium size fits any occasion, and it can be worn crossbody or carried by hand. It has an open interior cavity, so I highly recommend filling it with accessories (either RSD or 1948) to stay organized.
Like everything in our leather line, Casey gets better and better with everyday use. And this brings me to its namesake: KC.
My brother, Josh, was 12 when Buttercup, our mare, had her first colt. She delivered KC during a severe thunderstorm, which scared her so much that she refused to claim her baby. My dad and Josh tried and tried to get Buttercup to take KC — without success. So, Sarah, Josh and I (especially Josh) were given the responsibility to feed KC.
KC eventually became Josh’s horse, and Josh rode him nearly every day for 10 years. KC had a huge impact on Josh (and our entire family), so much that it was the topic of Josh’s final paper when he completed his master’s degree.
Josh said I could include his paper in this blog post, so if you have a few extra minutes, I invite you to read about this amazing horse and all the ways he helped Josh. KC was an everyday horse, and yet he looked like he was reserved for special occasions. Anytime we took him to a cattle drive, everyone stared. I’m so glad I have the opportunity to honor KC’s memory in the leather collection.
Josh ends his memoir with a quote from Winston Churchill: “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” And he goes on to say, “I don’t know that I can sum it up any better than that, but I think with KC, his insides were pretty good for me too.”
Thanks, Josh, for putting these memories into writing!
Josh’s Senior Memoir:
One early spring morning Dad came into my room and said, “Put your stuff on and come with me to the barn I’ve got something to show you.” I was twelve years old at the time and I knew when Dad said to get my stuff and come to the barn that something new and wonderful was going to be witnessed, so I quickly put on my work clothes and followed him to the barn. I could never have been prepared for the life journey I was beginning at that cold spring morning.
During a thunderstorm the night before, Buttercup, our mare had her first colt. The thunderstorm was so intense and scared her so badly that she refused to claim her baby. Dad found both of them on opposite sides of the pasture that morning and brought them to the barn. We tried and tried to get BC to take the colt but it just didn’t work. As a result, I was given the task of feeding this fuzzy little ball of life every morning and night for two years. Some morning, especially in the winter when it was so bitterly cold, I didn’t want to get out of bed an hour early just to go feed him. Honestly, I really began to hate the task. Looking back I understand that Dad and Mom were teaching me responsibility but at the time all I wanted to do was sleep. I was a teenager I was short sighted to say the least. After two years, the fur ball that stood trembling and scared in our barn had turned out to be one of the nicest looking colts in the area. He had a small star on his forehead one white sock and was the deepest red roan I had ever seen.
Raising a colt without a mother is not without its trials. KC became so familiar with the barn that he could open the doors with his mouth and open up the oats bin and eat to his heart’s content. Our other horses thought this was great too! My dad and I did not, so we had to “KC proof” the barn. He also had a tendency to knock my hat off when I was trimming his feet, I would be bent over, trimming away while he was munching his oats and all of a sudden my hat would be on the floor, I swear I could hear him laughing.
After the third year of KC’s life I knew it would be time to train him and I figured Dad would take care of it as usual, but I was wrong. Dad came into my room one evening after I had gone to bed and said simply “KC is yours we'll start working him tomorrow.” I was fourteen at time and I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t sleep much that night; I was so filled with the apprehension of such a time consuming, difficult task. The next morning I hopped out of bed and made the dutiful journey down to the barns to start working my colt. That’s how it was for the next three months. Every night after football practice Dad and I would go down to the barns and train KC. We learned together and formed one of the strongest bonds I’ve ever experienced. Some days were difficult, KC was such a pet that often times he didn’t think he needed to do what I asked of him. It was a battle of wills. Dad would say “don’t let him win, you are the boss.”
By the time KC was four he was the only horse I rode. He turned out to be a really good cow horse. He had a sixth sense when it came to cattle he could read where they were going and make them turn the way I wanted without me even giving him a cue. One day as we were gathering cattle he kept trying to turn away from the cattle and I fought him half way across the pasture until finally I let him go where he wanted. As we crested the hill and I looked down into the draw there was a mother cow and her calf. Had I not let him go we would have left the pair behind. I never knew how KC knew they were there but after that I let him have a little more liberty because I knew he wasn’t just being a colt anymore he meant business.
We went on countless round-ups and brandings together and I was always so proud to unload him and watch the neighbors gawk at him, knowing he was mine. One of our families close friends offered me six thousand dollars for him. Of course, I turned him down but it was great compliment. He was my greatest achievement at that point in my life. After a bad day at school I would saddle him up and ride the herd. Riding him always made my day a little better.
When I was a junior in college my folks moved off the Ranch in Philip and relocated to Volga SD. It was really hard for me. I had never wanted anything else but to return home after college and ranch with my dad. We left KC out west for about a year and then I went and got him and brought him to Mom and Dad’s new place south of Volga. When I got there after the five hour journey and unloaded him everything about moving off of the ranch seemed a little easier. For some reason having KC close enough to ride again made the transition a whole lot easier. KC was my link to rolling hills and endless grassland that I had called home for so many years. I swear he knew he was helping me. After we moved him east river I still rode him as much as time allowed. Dad rode him too, when he needed a little time to think or just wanted to enjoy an evening on the back of a horse.
One summer morning my uncle, who was keeping his horses at Dad’s place, wanted to ride them to his place and asked if I wanted to ride along so me and KC saddle up and hit the road with him and his daughter. My uncle was riding a little Arabian, quarter horse mix and leading a very unruly 2 year old colt. After we had rode two miles I was sick and tired of watching my uncle try to deal with this colt so I asked him if I could lead the colt the rest of the way. He had no problem with giving me the lead rope. I took the rope dallied up and headed straight for the ditch with that colt, which was where my uncle had been trying to go for the last two miles. The colt tried to pull back and balk but KC was so big that colt made two quick hops and no choice but to follow us into the ditch. KC just looked back at the colt as if to say, “Would you just quit and follow I’m tired of watching you fight.” My uncle was shocked, I wasn’t. I knew that KC would do his job because he knew it was what I wanted and he trusted me.
One year later KC got a disease called Navicular Syndrome, which is basically osteoarthritis for horses. We quit riding him and just let him eat, sleep and stand but after about five years it became apparent that the humane thing to do was put KC to sleep. I dreaded the thought but I knew it was what needed to be done. Both Dad and I put it off as long as we could but the once magnificent animal that had done so much for me was beginning to falter. He could no longer run and for the last two winters he was alive he had begun to get so skinny that his ribs were showing. The problem with being an animal owner is you have to make all the tough decisions in the end. As humans we know what the right thing to do is and it’s not always the easy thing. KC didn’t know why he was in such pain and he didn’t know what he could do to make it better, he just knew that he hurt all the time and unfortunately so did we.
On October 22" of 2009 I drove from my home in Lake Norden to Dad’s place in Volga. I left with a heavy heart, Dad had called the vet and he would be out to euthanize KC at five o’clock that afternoon. It seemed fitting that the day was windy, rainy, cold and dreary.
When I got to Dad’s he had dug a huge hole in the ground for his grave. When I walked up to KC he greeted me with a familiar knicker and let me put the halter on his head and he followed me dutifully into the hole. He didn’t fight me at all, I swear he knew what was going to happen and he was at peace with it. As the vet administered the serum KC just stood there solid as a rock, looking me straight in the eye as if to say, “its o.k. Josh I’m tired of the pain, we've had a good run and we’ve both learned a lot together and I’ll see you on the other side.” It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. When the serum took effect KC laid down in the hole and went to sleep for good. We put a blanket over his head and I said good bye to him forever, it was one of the saddest days of my life. When he was completely covered up, I built a cross, placed it over his grave, thanked God that he wasn’t in pain anymore and stood there for about an hour thinking about all the things we had both taught each other over the years. We learned to fight, to get along, to work hard to get the job done and to always, always trust each other no matter the situation. KC helped me grow up, he taught me the value of hard work and seeing things through, he showed me the pride of ownership and the reward of a job well done. I will always miss him, he meant the world to me.
Winston Churchill once said, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” I don’t know that I can sum it up any better than that but I think with KC his insides were pretty good for me too.