I don’t have any photos of Jerry however, in my mind, I still have a very clear picture of what he looked like. Jerry was a small, slightly built man with a full head of grayish white hair. He had very bright eyes, I believe that they were blueish, and he had a subtle grin on his face most of the time. Jerry loved to play with my mind, and when he did his eyes would twinkle. When I first met Jerry he was in his late eighties.
I first met Jerry during the Summer of 51′ or 52′. I graduated from the Woodmere High School in mid year and started attending the University of Vermont also at mid year. That was unusual. Most of my friends graduated right before Summer and started to attend college the following Fall. My last Summer while in high school, I worked in the Pocono Mountains at a camp called To-Loa. I was the riding master at this coed eight week camp. I always thought that being the head of the horseback riding program at a camp was the best job. The swimming instructor and the riding master were paid a bit more than the regular counselors, but at that time no one got rich working at a Summer camp. It was a great way to spend a Summer and make a little bit of spending money. These were some of the most enjoyable and fun times of my life.
I believe my job was even a better job than the swimming counselor since he may have been the best swimmer at the camp, but others knew how to swim. Not many, if any, others of the staff had much knowledge about horses so I was left alone. As long as I ran a safe riding program, and the kids enjoyed this part of their Summer vacation, I was left to do as I felt fit to do. The riding program was mine to run, and I didn’t have a bunk house of youngsters to be concerned about. I loved being around horses, and liked working with kids so it made for a wonderful Summer. (Besides the owner of the camp’s very beautiful daughter was my girlfriend for the Summer.) Not to long after the camp got started, I needed to have a farrier to do some work on my string of horses. I was told by somebody at the camp, and I can’t remember who, that there was an older man by the name of Jerry Buckley that had been shoeing horses for years, and that he lived not far from the camp. They told me that they thought that he still shod although he was pushing 90 years of age. My first thoughts were that I had not found a farrier to solve my problem, however, I didn’t know of any other person to do the job. I decided to contact the older man and see if he was still able to shoe. I made a phone call expecting to speak with an old man who would tell me that he would like to help but was retired and couldn’t do the work. I was very wrong. On the other end of the phone line was this very sharp, clear spoken gentleman who told me almost at once that he knew where our camp was and he would be glad to do the work all I had to do was to tell him when I wanted it done.
A few days latter Jerry came to my stable and shod a couple of my horses. I was surprised about everything about this man. He was little and yet in great shape for his age. He got right to work and like the artist he was rasped down the hoofs that needed shoes, and nailed the shoes on with no difficulty at all. As an added plus that came along with Jerry with just about every nail that he pounded into the walls of the of hoofs he told a story. I worked for three more Summers at this camp and all four Summers Jerry shod my horses. We became great friends. I would say that if there was a man that I met who I would consider my mentor it would have to be Jerry.
Although I soon entered the University of Vermont, studied in the college of Agriculture taking many science subjects and classes directly related to animal husbandry I without a doubt learned more about the care of animals, most of all horses, from Jerry than I did from the four years of college that I attended. While attending the University of Vermont the University was given a beautiful and historic horse farm the Morgan Horse Farm. Perhaps the most foolish decision that I ever made was not accepting at graduation the management of this wonderful horse farm. The position had been offered to me at the time. During the time that I was at UVM many times I would tell the professors how to cure a problem that a horse might have. You can be sure that how I cured the animal you would not be able to read about in a college textbook. It was some old country remedy that Jerry had taught me during one of my Summers working in the mountains.
Abtaining information from Jerry in itself was quite an amusing task. As long as I knew Jerry he always called me “Boy.” He would never give me a direct answer to a question. Jerry would say; “Boy, if-in- it would be my horse I would…………” When he said this he would look into my eyes, and there would be a twinkle in his eyes. I’m sure that he knew that I respected him and loved him. I believe that he liked me because he thought it was strange that a person from the “city” would care so much about horses and was a rather good horseman. Being a good horseman encompasses a lot more than being able to sit on a moving animal. Being young at this time I could do that rather well. This being so, I believe that the most enjoyment that I got out of being around horses was just working with them. I even enjoyed mucking up the stable and feeding my animals.
The closest town to our camp was located off a highway, which was about a mile and a half through the woods, and another five or so miles to town. It was a coal mining town called Carbondale. There was still an old fashion drug store in this town. Many times Jerry would tell me to go into Carbondale to this drug store and pick up herbs to cook and mix to make some sort of “witches brew” to use on my horses. Over the Summers I cooked a lot of wormwood. If Jerry told me that “if-in it been his horse, ” he would mix up the brew you could bet that I would try to do the same, and it worked. My very educated and knowledgeable teachers at the University would look at me in a strange manner when I would tell them about one of Jerry’s cures. Yet I believe that they would try the brew even if they won’t admit it to me.
There was a young assistant professor at UVM by the name of Don Balch, who was put in charge of the Morgan Farm when I attended the university. From time to time I would tell him things to do with his horses. The Morgan Horse Farm that I am speaking of being at one time the foundation breeding farm for the US Calvary. It is also where the famous statue of Justin Morgan’s horse stands. Years latter, I found out that Professor Balch was considered the world’s greatest authority on the Morgan Horse. (What does that make me?) Just kidding!
All the counselors, including myself would be given one day off each week. On my day off I would saddle up my horse Weir Lady and ride through the woods across the highway and through a criminal prison for the insane. The name of the prison was Fairview. This was the quickest way to get to Jerry’s home, which was on the other side of this prison. Jerry had done some shoeing for the Warden of this prison so I was allowed to ride through it. It was a very picturesque place set in a valley in the mountains. As I would ride my horse through the prison farm the trustees working on the prison’s farm land would wave and yell “hi Paul Revere.” When I got to Jerry’s home, I would talk a short time with his wife, and then Jerry and myself would go into his shoeing shed. Most times he would bring a horse out and take most of the afternoon to shoe him. Every nail that he tapped in he told another story. He loved to tell about the time that he sold a horse with no tail. He said that he wove a tail and attached it to the horse. According to Jerry the horseman that he sold the horse to never did complain since he didn’t want to look like a fool before other horsemen. Jerry would laugh and tell me that the tail did fall off. He told me many stories of this type. If they were true or not I didn’t much care since it was fun just being with him and hearing him weave the tales. I’m sure that his wife was aware that Jerry kept some home brew hidden in the shed. We would nip at it throughout the afternoon. Before it got dark I would mount up on Weir Lady and ride back to the camp. It was sort of creepy riding through the prison for the insane as the sun went down. Most times when I got back to camp, I would shower and then Bobbie, my girlfriend, and I would go into Carbondale. I knew some town men, teachers, miners and the like. We would meet them at a bar that they all hung out at. We would drink beer, dance and just have a great old time. All these men were much older than myself, yet we got along and enjoyed each other. It was a great day off.
The last time that I saw Jerry was after Mimsie and myself were married. We had not been married for a long. At that time living in Providence, Rhode Island. We didn’t have any family of our own yet so we were free to take off and go where ever we chose to. Mimsie had heard me tell about Jerry many times. I guess she thought that I built him up in my mind. One weekend we decided we should travel to Jerry’s home in the mountains. We took off, and she did get to meet Jerry. I had at that time not seen Jerry for a number of years, so I was not even sure if he would still be alive. When we got to the area where Jerry lived I met an old man and inquired about Jerry. Sure enough Jerry was alive. I was told that he had fallen and broken his leg during the past winter. Jerry was over 90 at that time. When we got to Jerry’s house we knocked at his door thinking that Jerry would be in a wheel chair or at least not able to walk. His wife answered the door. She knew me at once and called out to Jerry. He came walking towards us and said to me; “Boy how did you winter.” He always did this the first time he again met me at the start of each Summer. This is the normal way you would ask about a person’s livestock. That was Jerry and the question suited me fine. He was walking as good as the last time that I had seen him. I said Jerry I heard that you broke your leg. He laughed and said yes. He went on to tell us that he had a friend that had broken his leg not long ago. This friend was in his 80’s and let a doctor set it. Jerry said now his friend is walking around like an old man. He told us that he set his own leg and you can see the results. We spent the day with Jerry. Mimsie said that he was all that I said he would be and more.