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Aikin Home » Harvill Journal » A Tribute to Sweet Estes

A Tribute to Sweet Estes

Posted 08.24.07 at 9:16 AM

Working in the Archives, I came across a beautiful green and gold “PJC Riding Club” flag once carried by Myra Fuller’s horseback riding classes in the mid-60s. It brought back fond memories of the riding classes at Paris Junior College, our adventures and misadventures, and our friends, both human and equine.

But I’ve already written about them. Instead, I decided to tell you about Sweet Estes, who was the inspiration for it all. She was Myra’s mentor, as she’d taught riding successfully at North Texas State University in Denton for many years and owned the large Estes Riding Stables in Denton.

Coincidentally, I lived in Denton for a few years prior to my Paris High School days and again later during my years at Texas Woman’s University, and I stabled a horse at Sweet’s large facility, which was close to our home. She lived at the stables in a roomy old, battered house with her mother, whose name I can’t remember, and Thor, her huge Weimaraner, who was her inseparable companion.

Inspired by Sweet’s career, Myra talked then PJC President Dr. C.C. Clark into supporting horseback riding classes at Paris Junior College.

I hadn’t thought of Sweet in years, but the flag brought her to mind. From the Office of the North Texas University Relations, Communications, and Marketing, came a story about Sweet by Pat Colonna, published back in 1979. According to this article, in 1942, at the age of 17, Sweet rode onto the NTSU campus and brought her whole riding stable of horses with her. “Dean Fouts,” the athletic director, decided to use her horses for a new horseback riding program for physical education, and she taught the first riding classes there while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She was added to the faculty when she graduated in 1948.

In 1962, horseback riding was dropped, but she had just bought 50 acres for the Estes Stables on Bonnie Brae Street south of the university’s golf course, which is the place that I remember. She organized riding clubs and leased her horses to summer camps. Finally, she sold off 35 acres for a down payment on a 320-acre ranch between Sanger and Pilot Point. Shortly afterwards, riding came back into favor at NTSU, as well as TWU, and classes were taught again at the stables. “Thank God I didn’t sell it all off,” she said.

Then she got into backpacking and horseback packing and camping in Colorado and had already spent 12 summers working horse trips by the date of the article. Thor had his own little backpack that he carried on these excursions.

On the first backpacking trip to New Mexico, they got lost in a surprise blizzard, but the trip had a happy ending. Sweet’s motto was, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and smile through it all.”

As a child, she had acquired an old circus pony, and besides the love of riding, she enjoyed renting him for short rides by other children. She had 15 horses when she left for college, accompanied by her family, and they opened a riding stable in Denton.

In her 20s, she came down with tuberculosis, but the college held her job for her. A family member rescued her out of a hospital before she lost a lung, and she lived for a while in the high Southwestern desert country. Her mother held the business together back in Denton while she was gone and also sent special homemade foods to her.

Eventually, Sweet recovered fully and resumed her active life style although she’d been told that she would never ride again.

What do I remember of this remarkable woman who died in August 1989? I remember a rather small, pretty, compact woman with a tanned, weathered face; a clean stable for primarily women students of the colleges (there was no rough riding or rough talking); I remember her kitchen, which was the social center, and her kitchen dining table, one end of which was piled high with paperwork - it was her “desk.”

I remember a railroad track just west of the stables. I used to ride my mare down the railroad right of way and, sure enough, got caught one time by a fast train headed for Dallas. It would have been a horrific accident, but my good mare stood as steady as a rock while that train passed us by - far too close for comfort.

This is the abiding memory I have of my days at Sweet’s stable, but I wasn’t in the riding classes. I could only look on enviously. But Sweet was kind and attentive to me, anyway, and I enjoyed knowing her and her white-haired mother, and I vicariously enjoyed their exciting life style. I always have. I still do.

Thanks, Sweet, for those good times. I’m sorry my “thank you” is long overdue.

Reader comments

BJ Edwards | April 30, 2009 @ 05:41 PM

Sweet’s name was Sammie Jean “Sweet” Estes.
A name given to her by her father,Sam.
Her mothers name was Alice,Everyone called her Mom.
The ranch mentioned was The
I was a wild heathon kid ,that she took a liken to.I lived and worked there with Mom while sweet was in Colo.for several years.
I get teared up just thinking back to a wonderful life ,I did’nt relize till it was too late.

BJ Edwards
Denton Texas
[email protected]

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