Horse saves rider's life

From the left they are Roy Wilkin, Michael Gibbs, Laurie Evans, Mike Gibbs and Harvey Graham. Submitted photo

Sunday, Oct. 5, was supposed to be a quiet, restful day. It was the day after Karl and Maryann Peterson were married right here in Troy, with friends and family in attendance. There had been a ceremony followed by a party, and Sunday morning a breakfast was hosted by the couple for the whole community at the Fogerty place.

Harvey Graham, who lives next door, was there, too. He saddled his trusted gelding Backstrap up to let the Petersons' grandchildren ride. Once they were gone he decided to make a small round trip on horseback, as he had done so many times before. He headed upriver to right below the sharp bend, and started to cross over in between the two eddies, to the large flats on the other side. Halfway across his horse stepped into a newly formed channel, lost his footing, tried to get up on a large boulder in the middle of the river, slipped, fell and was immediately carried by the current into the second, larger eddy.

Graham fell into the water, but was able to keep a grip on the leadrope. Backstrap kept trying to get his bearings, but was pulled around and under each time he tried heading for the shallower waters. Due to recent heart surgery Harvey was not able to swim free as he might have otherwise. All he could do was trust in his horse's strength and instincts. How many times they were under, or how long they were caught in the current he can't say - just that he was losing his strength to hold on.

Just then Mike Gibbs and Roy Wilkin were driving downriver, and Roy spotted a man in the water. Mike got out and headed straight down the steep slope, while Roy and another friend turned around and drove as close as they could to the beach the horse was trying to reach.

As though their arrival gave him another burst of strength, Backstrap tried one more time to swim free - and succeeded. As he stepped onto firm ground, he pulled Harvey out with him.

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