From "Ruth's Fables"
By Ruth Shoger Zurbrigg and Karen Van Fossan, her granddaughter
In memory of Grandma Z
Would you like to hear the story of the runaway horses? It began (like so much of my life) with piano lessons.
I had a very fine piano teacher when I was about eight years old. She was Mrs. Wernicke, a German lady. Before I took these formal lessons, my mother had taught me to play hymns from the old pump organ. But after my father presented my mother with a new piano, arrangements were made for me to take lessons from Mrs. Wernicke! I hummed all day when I heard the news. (I still had to do chores, of course, but couldn't I hum a little while gathering eggs?)
Well, naturally, I was quite insulted when Mrs. Wernicke had me start in the Beginners Book. It was much too easy for Ruth Shoger! But she taught me more about technique, keeping fingers curled, and other important matters. With her persistence, I was able to finish Book Number One during the first summer (thank goodness).
My younger sister Lucile and I took lessons from her for several summers. Since Mrs. Wernicke lived in Aurora, Illinois, and we did not – our dear Aunt Carrie opened her house in Oswego for lessons one day a week. Also, we studied with others, one being Mrs. Marshall Updike. We were fortunate to have so much music in our lives. (At least I thought so.)
Sometimes I had to walk two miles to the house where the lessons were being given – and several times walk home, too. Many bushes and weeds grew on either side of the gravel road. I walked as fast as I could. I could just imagine all the slippery snakes, waiting among the grasses for my ankle.
Mrs. Wernicke herself often walked through our little town of Oswego, in order to take the street car back to Aurora. One afternoon, she walked past our home, carrying an open umbrella. Umbrellas were not only for rain in the 1920s. Umbrellas could keep out a little heat and a quite a bit of sun.
At this particular time, my father happened to be on the road as well. He drove a team of horses, Bell and Switchtail, in the opposite direction – in the direction Mrs. Wernicke was coming from. They pulled a small cultivator up, up, up the hill.
Well, Bell and Switchtail saw this lady and her strange umbrella. And oh, my! They ran ahead, willy nilly – the cultivator clanging and clashing behind them. Panicked, my father chased behind them up the hill. He was certain Mrs. Wernicke would be flattened beneath their hooves.
Poor Mrs. Wernicke!
Well, thankfully, no one was hurt – not even Mrs. Wernicke's umbrella.
But the horses! Where had they gone? Had they been bitten by a snake? Caught on a lonely fencepost? Run over by the cultivator?
No, indeed, they hadn't. After such commotion, Bell and Switchtail finally stopped at the water tank. They stood there, with their front feet soaking in the water.
The moral of the story? Everybody feels the heat sometime.