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Getting to know ... a US First Cavalry Division veteran PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, November 10, 2013 9:00 PM

BY ERIN COX

Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — William Lucas had never been around horses as a kid but he learned to like them pretty quickly when he became a horse trainer during his service in the Army.

Lucas, 87, was a member of the 1st Cavalry Division from 1945-49, which was the last group of men trained on the horses.

“When I turned 18, I got my card that said ‘Uncle Sam wants you’ and they sent me to camp in Indiana and then to Fort Riley in Kansas,” he said.

In his training, he learned how to rebuild ammunition for the guns and other weapon-related training. He was also trained how to ride and use horses.

“They were mostly trained already, I would say they trained us,” Lucas laughed.

Fort Riley had a big place for the horses and their stalls, he reminisced, and he figured there had to be more than a thousand horses. Since Lucas was never around horses before, he was giddy and excited at being around so many and getting to ride them.

“I always liked cowboy shows, so it was kind of exciting,” he said. “I was a little scared on the horses at first but I done pretty good.”

Lucas recalled a time when he had first started riding that caused him to get in trouble by a sergeant.

“One run off with me because I didn’t want to hurt it by pulling on it too hard but that’s how you had to stop them and the sergeant wasn’t too happy with me,” Lucas said as he laughed at the memory.

After training, the rest of his unit was sent overseas but at the time, Lucas was in the hospital with yellow fever.

When Lucas had recovered, he stayed at Fort Riley where he became a horse trainer.

“I had two horses I had to take care of and ride them every day,” Lucas said.

Each day, Lucas would wake up, clean the stalls and saddles, groom the horses and feed them.

“We fed them oats every day,” he said. “That’s what they liked so that’s about all they ate.”

Some days Lucas also had to put horseshoes on the horses.

“I was afraid they were going to kick me,” Lucas remembered. “You had to raise their leg up and hold it between your legs, so I was worried it’d hurt them and they’d kick me right then.”

He never got kicked and he was surprised to find out that nailing in the horseshoe didn’t hurt them.

After prepping the horses in the morning, Lucas would then take them out to the sergeants who would ride them around for the day and sometimes Lucas would ride the horses in parades.

“The horses were so smart,” Lucas said. “The sergeant would just say, ‘Right turn, left turn’ and the horses would just turn right or left, whatever he said. We got pretty proud of them after taking care of them.”

He ended up really liking the horses he took care and he said it was fun.

His last year in the Army, the Cavalry ended as the Army transitioned to mechanized transportation and the horses were sold. Lucas had to join another troop and start a new job. He decided to put in for cooking and ended in the mess hall for the men at Fort Riley.

After his service, Lucas went home to Troy, where he started working at a junk yard operating a crane, which he did for 25 years. Now, he resides in Delphos with his son, Chris.

 

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