The Runaway

This undated story by my grandfather, Laurence M. Smith, is part of his collection of memoir writings. Smitty, born in 1908 in Colville, Washington, was clearly of the automotive age. Though his father’s delivery business started out with horse-drawn wagons, they soon switched over to trucks. This event took place when he was 18 years old, in his home town of Moscow, Idaho.

The Runaway

By Laurence M. Smith

I just never did well with horses. In fact I was nearly killed by them in the early summer of 1926. The story goes like this. Nat Williamson, who had formerly owned a big department store in Moscow, had hired me to drive him around in his Saxon automobile. The reason he didn’t drive himself was because he was drunk a lot of the time. He had at this time built and was operating the Natatorium swimming pool – the first of its kind in Moscow. There was considerable debris left over from the construction so he decided I should haul the mess of junk out to his farm.

He said, “Smith, here’s what I want you to do – you walk out to the farm and get the horses and wagon and haul off this pile of junk.” I told him that I was not good with horses, but he said, “Oh, you will do just fine.”

He had called the farm manager and by the time I had walked for an hour to the farm, the man there had the horses hitched up to a wagon with iron wheels on it. He told me to be careful because these horses had not been worked yet this spring and might be a little skittish. That scared me even more than I was scared already.

We started out and things went along well on the dirt road. Where the dirt road intersected the gravel highway was where the trouble began.

The iron wheels made a noise when they hit the gravel and the horses reared up and started running. When they reared up the left rein was jerked from my hand, leaving me with only one rein.

This started at the top of the North Main Street hill and we were rolling hell bent for leather. There was a ditch at the bottom of the hill and by sawing on the right rein I finally got the horses into this ditch. I was bouncing around in the wagon when up came a power pole in the middle of the ditch. One horse on one side of the pole, one on the other side of the pole, and there was a horrible crash.

I was thrown out of the wagon up over a boundary fence and into the adjoining field. I was knocked unconscious with the wind out of me. When I came to, a man was holding me and asking if I was alright. He was, I learned later, a Mr. Mix who lived nearby and had seen this whole incident.

He told me that he knew who the horses and wagon belonged to and that he would see that they were returned to the farm and if I was able to go on to my home. I tried out my legs and although I was a bit wobbly, I decided I could make it the mile or so to our house.

Later this same summer my dad insisted I go to Williamson and get the money he owed me for almost two month’s work. Well, the old man Williamson claimed that I owed him instead for breaking up his wagon. He did finally pay me about half what he owed to me. He was a mean, miserly man and one cold night a few years later he never made it home. He was found frozen to death a block from his house.


Laurence (standing) and Loren with donkey at Smith house in Moscow about 1916.

Smith16 015

Smith winter delivery sled, Moscow

Note: Nathaniel Williamson was born 10 Jun 1872 in County Monaghan, Ireland, and died 15 Feb 1928 in Moscow, Idaho. Source:

Feature image: Smith delivery wagons and trucks in Moscow, at the Smith house, 1916.

7 thoughts on “The Runaway

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  1. Never offer a horse or a motorcycle to someone that doesn’t ride. I though that was universal knowledge. Lol. Funny you mention Colville. I live just near there. What part of the world are you in Eileen? Cool story. Harrowing fright when horses are out of control.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Colville is a beautiful area. As a former horseman, I have seen some nasty wrecks. Had good luck on my side, but when horses spook and you feel that adrenaline tense and rise up through the saddle, and BOOM! Powerful and unpredictable creatures.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes it is. I went through in 2013. The hospital building where Smitty was born is still there, but now apartments.
        I’ve had a few harrowing experiences with horses, too.

        Liked by 1 person

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