The Horse That Won A Claim & An Election
Last week we mentioned the biography of William Thomas Little, Guthrie, Oklahoma. This week we continue with this horse story during the opening of the Cherokee Strip.
In the race for homestead claims at the opening of the Cherokee Strip, there were fine race horses used by many of the more enterprising homeseekers. One of the finest of these was that which was ridden by William "Will" Thomas Little, of Guthrie. Will Little was a born horseman -- a horseman after the order of Alexander, Washington, or Grant -- and nothing delighted him more than the privilege of subduing and training a horse that had proven to be utterly intractable in the hands of every one else.
As the time for the opening of the Cherokee Strip drew near, he began to make inquiry for a speedy horse with which to make the race for a claim. In the course of this search there was soon brought to his notice a pedigreed race horse, which had won many races and lost none. The name of this horse was "La Junta". But, sure footed and swift though he was, La Junta was notorious for his vicious temper -- he was reputed to have killed two men already and was only waiting to kill more men when the opportunity was afforded. But for this, he could not have been bought for $10,000. His owner was afraid of him and La Junta knew it.
Will Little went to see the horse and looked him over with a discriminating judgment that noted every line in perfection of equine form -- the fierce eyes were a matter of consideration. The owner frankly told Little the reason for his willingness to dispose of the animal. He named a price of $150, but refused to ride the brute to show his gaits and paces or even put a saddle on him.
Little paid the purchase price down on the spot and led the animal home. There he roped La Junta, threw him, tied him and battled with him for an hour -- until man and horse were both well nigh worn out with the struggle. Then he took off the ropes and allowed La Junta to get to his feet, leaving neither bridle nor halter on his head, and told the horse to follow him -- and La Junta followed Will Little up and down the street, with his vicious temper subdued, conquered!
La Junta had never been harnessed, yet Will Little harnessed him, hitched him to a buggy and drove him down to the stable whence he had been led, a veritable equine demon, less than two hours before. The former owner could scarcely believe his eyes, yet there was La Junta, harnessed and hitched to the buggy, a mute witness to the triumphant will of a man who passionately loved a good horse. After that first battle, the new owner had no more trouble with La Junta.
With Will Little in the saddle, La Junta was in the race for a homestead claim, that bright autumn day -- September 16, 1893 -- and La Junta carried his appreciative owner to a choice quarter section in the valley of Bear Creek, a few miles from Perry which was henceforth the Little homestead.
A year later, Will Little was nominated for representative to the Legislature from Noble county. Up and down the length and breadth of the county Will Little rode La Junta in his campaign of personal visitation, until nearly every man, woman and child in Noble County knew both horse and rider. No wonder that the latter used to proudly declare: La Junta elected me to the Legislature."
Subsequently, Will Little was persuaded to sell La Junta for a goodly price that he might return tot he racing stable and the speed ring. But La Junta never won another race, for, such was his former bad name that grooms were afraid to him and jockeys would not ride him. -- Vol. 2, pg. 722, A Standard History of Oklahoma, by Joseph B. Thoburn
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