She was in a dark stall in the dark barn on a farm out in the middle of nowhere somewhere around Warren Minnesota. It was obvious that she wasn’t fed as well as her brothers ( a lovely matched set if buggy horses) and it was also pretty obvious she really wasn’t wanted anymore. She had been offered for sale in one of the “peddler” papers that farmers like to read so much. Somewhere in the middle of hay balers and cultivators was an offer to sell a ten year old mare. She had been broke to pull a buggy but she also could be saddled and ridden if you direct reined her. To show how much the farmer wanted to get rid of her a barrel riding saddle, a snaffle bit, and buggy whip would be thrown into the bargain. I was to hear for many years afterwards that the saddle was probably worth more than The horse.
It didn’t really make any difference because this was to be my wife’s first horse. A horse lover all of her life I had figured if she was ever going to have a horse of her own this would be the time to do it. I had found someone who was willing to let me keep a horse in his pasture for nothing. A member of my congregation said he would help me find a horse and so the deal was done. So here I am standing looking at what it’s supposed to be a ten year old horse, (I will find out over the years that when someone wants to sell a horse it’s always 10 years old. It maybe 4 or maybe 34 but they’ll tell you it’s 10); she is supposed to be in Appaloosa but has no spots; and she’s very thin.
So began a long acquaintance with horses, and an acquaintance with Herbert Stegman. Herb was one of those gentlemen that simply exudes a joy for life. Interested in everything, he collected everything. He came from that German stock that settled the plains and made a life for their families through a hardscrabble existence and hard work and dedication. All of them have that trait that says “don’t throw anything away, you may need it someday”. Whenever I was around Herb the old King James translation of Paul’s letter to the Philippians would come to my mind; “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Herb was not a “careful” man. By that I mean he was not full of care, he was not a worrier, he wasn’t anxious about things. I don’t want to say he was “careless”, but he had been known to take his horses to horse shows in the back of a pick up.
To my mind Herb was one of the old breed. He was like the cowboys I would meet out in the Badlands that talked about spending their life tending other folks stock and the only partner and friend they had was their horse. Herb had plenty of friends, and a wonderful loving family, but he also had that independent spirit the old cowboys exhibited.
His faith in Christ was evident. He believed in the power of prayer and relied upon the mercy of God. Christ was his savior, and God was his Father, and one of his favorite things to do in church was recite the Apostles Creed. He loved to sing the old German children’s prayers and one of them was “Ich bin klein, Mein Herz ist rein, Darf niemand drin wohnen als Jesus allein”. That simple faith also recognized the baptismal grace of God that made him the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
We had the funeral service for Herb on March 27, 2013, the day before Maundy Thursday. It was a celebration of life well lived in Christ and his forgiveness. Herb was almost 90 years old.
Years ago I wrote this song and I thought of Herb as I was writing it. It’s a simple song about an old mare being visited by her lifelong companion and friend. She is out in a sun lite meadow, not in a dark stall, and she is simply enjoying the long evening. The cowboy has an apple for her, and they both enjoy the sunset. At the end of the song the cowboy says “let’s go home now, it’s been quite a ride” and they walk back up the hill side by side. I leave it to your imagination what “let’s go home now” means.