Milt & Mary Decker's memories of Alice Pratt

She rode her horse about eight miles to grade school when the weather wasn't too terrible.  Near Bell Fource (sp), SD.  After eight grades, she opted to help her Dad with the ranch and help send her sister on to high school.  Like many, she educated herself after that, and in those days, eight years of grade school amounted to quite an education.  

My very first visit to Mrs. Pratt's was late March of a terrible long and cold winter. Her horses looked awful, but that lady was a gem. Along about June, we went back and those skinny, dirty, and shaggy beasts had shed off, fattened up, and delivered some beautiful babies. Mrs. Pratt was a widow with a big annual land payment, and just barely survived------the horses were almost on their own when bad weather happened.

Pratt Sully Fire was about a year old. He was still skinny and not shed off, but his shaggy robe was starting to loosen up. His skinny legs looked silly poking out from under that floppy rug of old matted hair. A month later, he started looking good. 

How we came to own Pratt Sully Fire

We saw him first as a yearling and a pretty rugged sight, he was.  Shaggy, skinny, and covered with loose fitting robe of dirty hair.  After he turned two, he finally got fattened up and started looking really good, but only about 13.3H.  His growth seemed very slow until about four when he jumped up to 14.3. He ran with 22 other young stallions on a 90 acre hillside pasture.  None had ever been handled, but all were calm, and would wander over whenever Mrs. Pratt showed up.  Pratt Sully Fire finally grew a bit more but was just under 15H at his prime.

Anyway, after Mrs. Pratt had used him a few years, I offered her $5,000 for a half interest.  We would winter him and breed him early, then return him in June of each year, which was when she put her stallions out with her mares.  She pretended to think about this, but probably was just being nice.

From 1992 until she sold her  farm, we selected several mares, fillies and a stud colt to purchase.  What a treat to be able to help her put her stallions out, then see the foals, the following Spring.  A real living labratory for me to study Appaloosa genetics.

When she sold her farm and had to sell all her horses, she called asking us to Sunday dinner to talk about "the black stud" (Pratt Sully Fire).  I told her that we could no longer afford to buy him and thanked her profusely for the honor of being asked.  She said to come to dinner anyway, as she had some more ideas.  We went, had a good steak dinner of beef she raised right there, and had home made pie for desert.  Soon after, she said we should buy the "black stud"  Again, I thanked her, but could not proceed.  Finally, we said our farewells, and went home.

The next morning, she called and asked what the asking price was on a nice red, near leopard filly from Sully Fire's mother.  I asked her, who wanted to buy, and she said that she did.  I reminded her that she was selling out, but she said that she and her daughter wanted a few left for daughter's ranch.  So, I told her $2,500 would be fine, and she informed me, that the filly was worth at least $3,000.  Then she said that I could have the "black stud" for $6,000, with the filly as down payment.  Again, I thanked her, but said we just couldn't afford the balance.  She, then asked if we would stand him to the public, if he were ours.  I told her we could do that. Then she said she would accept the balance owed as half of each outside stud fee that accrued.  Well, of course, we really could not pass that up.  We asked her why not Germany or Florida, etc. ???  She said that after selling her farm for cash, she really didn't need money, for the first time in her life.  She also said that she trusted us and wanted him to be near, where she could see him.  She signed his Transfer papers as if he were paid in full.  We honored our commitment, but she had passed on before we paid off the last of it to Joan Nixon, her daughter.

After having him here a month, we invited her for dinner and afterwards, asked her if she wanted to go pet the "black stud"  she was elated and loved on him good when we led him out.  He was wild when he left her place and she had never petted him.

I never imagined stepping back in time 50 years. That was Mrs. Pratt THE REAL WORLD, for sure. Very little Social Security, as self employed people well know. Her living came directly from her horses and her polled Hereford cattle. She was smart and an extremely dedicated Christian woman. Without God, she couldn't have survived, at all. She reminded me so much of my own Grandmother. Loved life and prayed a lot.

When Mary and I had given all our energy to our nursery business and employees, we would take a few hours and visit Mrs. Pratt. We realized, early on, what a treasure she was. All our kids and grandkids got to experience this. I still get teary when I remember the honor of being one of her pall bearers. We still miss her and love her. 

One day when Mrs. Pratt was visiting, I teasingly told her I knew why Appaloosas were so nice and gentle to be around. She took the bait and I said that I had read where the Nez Perce had three staples they could count on for their food supply----dog meat, salmon, and horse meat. She agreed that sounded correct. I then told her my theory was that all the mean and ornery ones got eaten. 

When we helped Mrs. Pratt make her sale of 9 bred mares to the Nez Perce, she asked me how much commission I was charging.  I told her that I wanted none of the purchase price, but sure did want that Buckskin mare.  She just about exploded.  She said, Sorry, but that's my best mare.  I reminded her that the whole reason to sell mares was that her ranch was sold and she was liquidating her herd.  It was time, as her health was starting to cause her trouble.

Anyway, after she thought about it she agreed that we should have two mares for all our trouble.  We took videos, made copies, figured out, with her, their pedigrees, etc.  That Buckskin mare had just a bit of something not found anywhere I've been. 

Besides Mary and I, Arita Harwood visited quite often and she also purchased quite a few Pratt horses, over those year

Pictured below is Mrs. Pratt & Pratt Toby Secret
Noell Devenny's memories of Alice Pratt:

Alice knew more in her pinkie finger than I will ever know in my lifetime.

We were so young when we (Leroy & I) met her and bought Storm & Chip. She shared a great deal of info with us, but I wish I had just recorded the conversations... (I should be doing that with my visits to Milton too, ;-)  ) so I could transcribe the info.

She was very kind and never condescending ... people just trying to learn appreciate that, not being talked down to or looked down upon for their lack of knowledge. I think she really liked sharing what she knew. 

I enjoyed Alice but sure wish I could have spent more time with her and learned more.