Family Stories

Nick and Coalie

From Small Drops of Rain by Frances White. Edited and Arranged by Jo Ann Congdon

“In 1916 my father bought a find pair of black horses named Nick and Coalie. They were a well-matched team, and we were very proud of them. They were probably the best horses we ever owned. I very likely would not remember them had not the United States become embroiled in World War I.

One day, in 1917, a man came to our place driving a one-horse buggy. He and my father talked. I became more uneasy by the minute. I watched while the men examined Nick and Coalie, measureing them (so many hands high); looking into their mouths, (to see how old they were); feeling their joints, trotting them up and down in the barnyard, (to see if they limped and how fast they were).

They way they measured them was in this way; They stood a sapling pole beside the horse and measured it with their hands, thumb to thumb, fingers spread out, from the place even with the horse’s height all the way to the ground.

After observing all this I ran to my mother and asked her what they were doing and why. My mother said that the man was a government man, who was going around the country buying horses to take to the war. She tried to explain war to me, but it was difficult for me to understand, as I was not quite seven years old.

At last the man put a halter on each of the horses and took them away. My father and mother and I stood and watched as long as we could see them. It seemed a long time before they reached our gate and turned into the road. I looked at my father who stood with a check in his hand and thought how sad he seemed. I looked at my mother and saw tears running down her cheeks. She wept aloud seeing Nick and Coalie tied behind the buggy.

“Oh, I didn’t want Nick and Coalie to go to war.”

She turned and hurried into the house, while I looked at my father and wept, too. He spoke soething and patted me on the head. His eyes were wet and his voice choked up. I seem to recall that the governement could have commandeered our horses whether we wanted to sell them or not. Perhaps they said, “Conscripted” “instead of commandeered”

It was a sad evening at our house. We were all silent; my mother’s face still stained with tears. My father went somewhere and bought more horses, but they were not such good ones as Nick and Coalie. The government took the best for the war.

My Uncle Charles Skipper, who was in World War I, stated that the worst things about the war, after the men being wounded, was the screaming of the terrified and wounded horses. “

I do not know what Charles Skipper’s service in WWI was like. I do know that he left Hoboken, NJ on 16 May 1918 and left Brest, France on 11 May 1919 and returned to Hoboken, NJ on 20 May 1919. I do know he is in CO G 130th Infantry and was a Cook.

I love reading the stories about what it was like to live during this time. It makes it more interesting to me that it is how my family lived and the daily happenings in life. Life today is so much different and I often wonder what it would have been like to live then. I can see glimpses of what it was like for Frances as a young girl.

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