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The Old Gray Horse



Why don’t I sell that old gray horse, Now that he’s old and gray (lame),

With scarcely nothing left but skin to cover up his frame?

I know he’s over thirty years now and can scarcely eat his hay,

And most folks would like to say he’s only in the way:

But Mister, money couldn’t buy that old gray horse from me.

I mean, it every word I say, That’s just the man I be.


What makes me prize that old horse so high? Just listen while I tell,

What that old gray horse has done for me and why I won’t him sell.

And when I’m done I hardly think that you will disagree;

But say you wouldn’t part with him, supposing you were me.


‘Tis nigh on thirty years ago since Sue and I moved here.

This country was a forest then, without a neighbor near;

Excepting wolves and bears and such the settler’s souls to fright.

We used to hear them howling round most every winters night.


But Sue and I were young those days, being married but a year.

We had our fortune yet to make and had no time to fear.

So we built a little hut of logs, and then began the toil,

Of clearing up the farm we’d bought, so we could till the soil.


We had to drive ‘bout twenty miles to reach the nearest store;

Where we would buy our groceries, to last a month or more.

‘T would take about a day to go, by starting as soon as it was light;

And buy such things, as we would need, so we could get back that same night.


Well, we had done our trading in the store, and then my wife here, Sue,

Had half a dozen calls to make, upon some friends she knew.

(so it was almost sundown when we started on the road with all our

goods tucked in the sleigh a pretty decent load)

While we were in the store, purchasing our goods,

I heard a man there saying ‘twas dangerous in the woods;

And that the wolves were almost starved, and growing awfully bold.

And then some frightful stories of their ravageings were told.


Of course I didn’t say a word of what I’d heard to Sue;

But counted every mile we made as over the snow we flew.

Till half the distance we had gone. Then I heard a sound

That seemed to freeze my very soul and made the gray colt bound.

(And Sue she gave a scream and clung close to me, I knew her face was pale as death although I couldn’t see)


That sound I’d often heard before. ‘Twas the wolves wild yell,

But now it seemed just like a funeral nell.

I quickly gave one glance behind and there as plain as day,

I saw two wolves with open jaws, not twenty feet away.


I quickly grabbed my rifle, which lay in the bottom of the sleigh.

And with a quick but steady aim, I shot the first one dead.

The other stopped a moment to taste his brother’s flesh.

And then with fiercer yells, the others came on afresh.


Once more I shot a bullet in among the howling pack;

But whether one was hit or not, they didn’t all stay back.

But on they came a howling, like the very hounds of HELL.

Making the old woods echo, with each fearful howl and yell.


Into the woods to right and left, I quickly cast an eye.

There in two long lines, I saw the wolves were drawing nigh.

The gray colt saw them too, for with a shriek and bound he sprang ahead.

His feet seemed scarce to touch the ground.


The snowballs flew from off his hoofs like bullets past my head.

The forest trees seemed hurling by, as on our way we sped.

But we were nearing home, our clearing was in sight

And from the window of our home, the light was shining bright.


I saw our faithful hired man, a standing in the door.

And then I yelled with all my might as ne’er I’d yelled before.

“Throw open both the barn doors, John, and let us quickly in,

We’re riding for our lives this time. God grant that we may win.”


The faithful fellow lost no time the order to obey.

While close behind the foremost wolf had almost reached the sleigh.

The barn was reached, the gray colts hoofs thundered upon the floor.

While Johns strong arm quickly swung to the door.


But none to quick for one gray wolf came in behind the sleigh.

A blow John gave him with an ax, soon lay him stark and dead.

And then with swelling hearts, we thanked the God who rules on high

For bringing us home when death had been so nigh.

And but for him who rules on high, and gave the gray colt speed.

The old woods would have seen that night, a dark and bloody deed.

So do you wonder any more, why money won’t him buy?

I think had you been in my place, you’d done the same as I.


Recited by

George W. Shuart

November 1955





This is a two page typed paper. It is attributed to George Wesley Shuart according to family tradition. It was given to me about 1990 by Arzell (Shuart) Mills, my grandmother. She received it from her mother Anna (McGillivray) Shuart.


The notations in parenthesis in italics are hand written notes in blue ink. The highlighted words are crossed out on the original in blue ink.


Scott R. Mills

April 13, 2002