By LeAnn R. Ralph
WHEELER — Trinket was not exactly a Christmas pony, but the picture that Linda Crosby received years later from her stepfather, Larry Crosby, was one of the best Christmas presents she ever got.
Linda Crosby grew up in and around Wheeler. Her uncle, Hank Lindsley, owned Hank’s Bar, and Hank Lindsley and Linda Crosby’s mother were “horse people” from way back.
“Uncle Hank always made sure I had a fast horse,” Linda recalled.
Hank used to like to teach his horses tricks, too, as was evident from the newspaper feature story about him and a horse he had taught to sit. Linda still has the newspaper clipping, mounted in a picture frame.
“When we were little-little, living in that little green trailer behind the bar, I think we lived there one winter and one summer. There was a woman from Colfax (who had) a big white house (out in the country). My mother rented it from her. We were there for five or six years,” Linda said.
“That’s when we would live for Santa Claus coming to town. We always went to the dance hall, and somebody would be Santa Claus. And we’d get a bag with popcorn. The popcorn (oil and butter) would stain the bag. And they’d put an apple in there. The hard ribbon candy. But you lived for it. The folks would go to the bar for a drink afterwards, and you’d sit in the car and go through your bag and be in Seventh Heaven,” she recalled.
“When I got to be a teenager, it was fun, because you always knew who was Santa Claus. Frank Ingebretson was a great Santa Claus. He had those blue eyes that would twinkle. When we brought the Christmas party to our house, my mother would have Santa Claus come to the house. That was always fun,” Linda said.
It was while they were living in the big, white house out in the country that Trinket came along.
“When we were living (in the white house), our mother would send us to church with Alice (Williams). She went to a Baptist church. So we’d go to Sunday School too. We came home at noon one Sunday. Usually, they would drop us off and up the road they’d go. But that one day, Larry said, ‘No I want you to come in. Girls you go into the living room and sit down.’ Herb Williams, if I could sit on his lap, I was happy. I loved him. I was sitting next to Herb. And we’re wondering, ‘What’s he got?’” Linda recalled.
“And here comes Larry from the back, through the kitchen, into the living room. And he’s got a Shetland pony. A baby. My sister said, ‘What is it? A goat?’” Linda said with a laugh.
“We raised him. His name was Trinket. Hank taught him how to sit. He had a bad habit that when he got out, he could run like a deer. He was not going to be caught. The only way we could catch him was for Larry (to chase him with the car) … back then, the land was Land Bank. It was never cut. It was always growing. The whole field was Land Bank. There was an old house and shed across the road. Trinket would run in the shed, and Larry would pin him in there with his ’53 Buick. Us girls would jump out to grab him, and over the hood of that car he’d go. We have more stories about that horse,” Linda said.
“I’d take him down the road and run as fast as I could back to the house. He got barn sour. He always wanted to turn in the driveway. So when I got to the house one day, I wanted to go past the driveway because I wanted him to go straight. I was going to break him of that habit. Well. He showed me,” she said.
“Trinket did a 90-degree turn. I went right over his head. He turned and I didn’t,” Linda said.
“Then one time they brought home a tall Babe horse. She was a big, tall horse. Really pretty. Kind of a buckskin. I was eight, riding Trinket. And my brother was maybe 13 riding Babe, and we’d have races. From the mailbox by our driveway to the silver bridge on FF, it was almost exactly a half mile. It was a nice race,” she said.
Years later, after Trinket and Babe were both gone and Linda was an adult, she had no idea that anyone had ever filmed their horse races.
“When I bought (the house at the edge of town), their son was the mail carrier, and come to find out all these years later, he had movies in his basement of me and Terry racing. I got to see them one time. He started showing movies. He has movies of the floods down here, too, when (Highway) 25 was flooded. He has movies and pictures of floods and snowstorms,” Linda said.
“We always used Mexican serapes for saddle blankets. We raced bareback too. I had this sunsuit on. I guess I wore it every time I rode horse, because in all the pictures, I’ve got the sunsuit on. When Larry and Ma brought home that Shetland pony, it was really cool. It was during the summer. I suppose they’d gone to an auction. Trinket must have been 25 when he died. We were living in the cities by then. We had renters. They’d feed the horses and the cows. He had an aneurysm,” she said.
“We always had horses, and we always went on trail rides. We had a trail to Otter Creek Inn. We’d ride to Wheeler. Hank got me two horses. One was a big red sorrel. He could fly like the wind. He loved to run. I’d bring him down on Saturdays. Hank would be out there talking to him. There was always someone in the bar who knew how to ride and wanted to ride him. So we had a couple of run-aways,” Linda recalled.
“We’d say, ‘No, you can’t ride this horse.’ But they’d talk us into it. And we’d say, ‘Be prepared, because he likes to run.’ So we had run-aways that way,” she said.
Back in those days, Wheeler was well known for its Fourth of July celebration that included a parade.
“For my sister and I, the Fourth of July was really big because we got to sell pony rides. There was a big oak tree across the road from where Last Call is now. And we’d always put up a snow fence, selling rides. You’d live for the Fourth of July parade. Our kids and grandkids never got to see that. It’s sad,” Linda said.
Christmas Eve when Linda Crosby was a girl was lively and full of fun.
“Back in those days, the bars would always draw names for their Christmas parties. That was so much fun. I was a teenager, and if you had a crush on somebody, you’d just die if you got their name. You really lived for that Christmas party at the bar,” she said.
“And then on Christmas Eve, Hank always came out to the farm. The bars would close around six or eight on Christmas Eve. And we’d take the party out to the farmhouse,” Linda recalled.
“ Anybody who did not have anywhere to go would be at our house. That always was fun, knowing that you were helping somebody who would not have had a Christmas otherwise. We had good times out there,” she said.
“One year it was a blizzard, and Larry had the ’53 Buick. This kid who was a friend of my brother’s — they were into cars. They went out to race on (Highway) 25. They had Posi-traction, and you remember how dangerous that was. And one of them ended up in the ditch by the bridge. We did some crazy things,” Linda said.
She remembers getting a very special doll as a Christmas gift as well.
“I remember we each got a doll one year. Mary still has hers. Dummy me. I think we hauled it around for 40 years. Finally, I think I gave it to somebody. Maybe one of my nieces. Mary still has hers. They were different,” Linda said.
“We had lots of good happy Christmases at the farm. It was a simple Christmas tree with all of the lights. When we lived in the Cities, we had a fancy one. White flocked,” she said.
Holding the lantern
Over the years, Linda Crosby has lived in Wheeler and outside of Wheeler, and back and forth to the Twin Cities, both as a child and as an adult.
It was her mother’s best friend who brought her back to Wheeler a few years ago.
“I was born right here in Wheeler. I was born in the poker shanty. They’d had a house fire and had to move out for a while. I think the fire was in December. So they had to move into a different place. And that’s where they were living. It was just a two-room shack. But they called it the Wheeler Poker Shanty because when Mom and Dad weren’t living there, they used it for the Wheeler Poker Shanty, and the bar was right next door,” Linda explained.
“Mom’s best friend, Betty Reid, held the lantern for me when I was born. That’s how I tell the story about coming back to Wheeler. I didn’t know Betty Reid was dying. I was living out in the country with my son. I came into the post office and ran into Randy (Betty’s son) and asked him about his mom. He said she had cancer. This was September and she had been diagnosed in June with lung cancer. So I went home and threw a bunch of clothes in a bag. She was always afraid to live alone. I went down to see her, and I said, ‘I’m here to stay.’ I took care of her, and she passed away the 28th of November. I had two months with her. I told her, ‘You held the lantern when I was born, so I’m holding it for you now on your way home.’ And that’s how I got back to Wheeler,” Linda said.
During the time that she has been living in Wheeler again as a village resident, Linda Crosby has been serving as a trustee on the Wheeler Village Board.