Among the old trunks and treasures in a old farmhouse attic by Ossian, lays a lap robe from a special honored horse.
The story began when the late Marietta Moellers great grandfather Herman Remke, sold the farm to Leonard Moeller’s father, Anton H. Moellers, in 1908. No one had any inkling that the Remke and Moellers name would again be connected until years later when Marietta Remke married Leonard Moellers and moved to that same family farm.
Tony (Anton H.) Moellers settled on his new farm in 1908 and one of the first things he needed was a team of horses to work the land. His favorite horse was named Lady. They worked beside each other for many years, as Tony and his wife raised their family. One of their son’s, Leonard, would later take over the family farm.
Marietta’s late husband, Leonard, had told Marietta how his father had grieved when finally on that fateful day, Lady, after living a good long life, had passed away.
Marietta told me the family story years ago and at the time she said, “Tony would not let this special horse go to the glue factory, like the rest had done. Instead, he slowly skinned out his horse, alone, as he grieved and as the tears came he wanted to be left alone with his horse, his best friend. Tony brought Lady’s hide to Dubuque Tanning and Robe Company to be tanned and turned into a lap robe to be used when other horses pulled them through the snow on a bobsled, which was the means of transportation at the time. Lady was still a source of comfort for Tony and his family.”
By the time Leonard began noticing Marietta working at Cahill’s Grocery Store in Ossian, the lap robe had since retired to the attic. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be able to tell the courting tales of bobsledding in the snow, since the automobile had replaced the bobsleds long before the forties.
The courtship between Leonard and Marietta was soon noticed, maybe even before Marietta knew of it. Leonard would come into the Cahill’s Grocery Store in Ossian where Marietta worked with his grocery list. Instead of passing the list on to Marietta, like most men did. Leonard would call out one item on the list and wait as she brought the item back to him, smile and proceed with the next item. Marietta’s boss was the first to notice the extra interest Leonard seemed to be giving Marietta and told her he had a feeling it was much more than a can of peas that brought Leonard into the store so often. Marietta’s boss was right, and the couple married in 1947 and moved into the farm where Leonard had spent his childhood. Guess what was still up in the attic?
While busy farming and raising their four children, Leonard Jr., Margaret, Ann, and Jane, the horse named Lady laid in the attic among the families other treasures they could not part with, practically forgotten.
In the beginning, dutiful Marietta hung the horsehair lap robe out to air and brushed the horse’s mane. Her children remember coming home from school and knew it was spring cleaning time for “horse”, as they called it, because they could smell the mothballs a mile away.
Margaret and Ann had different reactions to the horsehair lap robe. Margaret, the oldest girl, raced in to see it lying on the living room floor and would pretend to ride it as a child, imaging it as it once had been. She enjoyed the softness of the hide. Margaret grew up and married Jim Elsbernd, whose inclination is to work beside her husband with the livestock and farm work. The reaction to farm animals was apparent even then, showing her fascination with “horse” at an early age.
Marietta had said, “Ann, who when in kindergarten at the time, went racing in the house after school, slid smack in the middle of the horse hide in the living room that I had on display after airing it out, went screaming out the door, frantic to be away from the dead horsehide that startled her.” It wasn’t long after that Marietta, who took much pride in the upkeep of the beautiful horsehair lap robe, left it in a trunk filled with mothballs.
A few years ago, the old lap robe came down from the attic as Marietta’s granddaughter, Stephanie, had a photo taken of it with her Senior portraits. When someone asks about the lap robe, she can tell her family’s story about how a special faithful horse worked the land beside it’s master and nudged it’s way into the farmer’s heart, a memory that will live on to be told for another generation.
It is quite fitting that the horse named Lady still lives on in the house where she once was man's best friend and working companion, tended to faithfully, years later by the another generation. The spirits of the pioneers who worked that same family farm, may have become part of it themselves, making it is easy to imagine that their horses spirits are right beside them, still working the same fields, still close by, as a new generation toils in the same soil.