By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TATER HILLS COMMUNITY– Life and death met in a barn late one night about nine years ago, when Girlfriend delivered her foal.
“She ruptured an artery,” said Dr. Kimberly Kelly, a veterinarian who owns Cloverhaven Animal Clinic in east Tupelo. “We found her down when she was in the process of delivering.”
Girlfriend, who belonged to Kelly and her husband, Stanley Kelly, died and the same fate awaited her offspring. It’s not easy to nurse an orphan. The newborn required around-the-clock attention, feeding every two hours and immunotherapy to make up for the benefits he couldn’t get from his mother.
“We were lucky we found him when we did. I said, ‘Stanley, we have some choices to make. Is someone going to make a commitment to him?’” Kelly recalled.
They decided to take the orphan as their own, so a quick trip to Walmart was in order to get goat’s milk for a temporary fix. Stanley Kelly took a week off from work to live with the colt that he named Bingles.
“He said Bingles after Bing Crosby,” Kelly said.
“You know, the singer,” her husband added.
“I found out Bingles is German for ‘brat,” Kelly said. “I tend to use that translation, rather than Bing Crosby.”
“He isn’t a brat,” Stanley Kelly added.
That’s spoken like a true mama, which is what Stanley Kelly was and is to Bingles. For that first week, he fed the horse every two hours. His wife took her shifts when he went inside to eat and shower, but he was the one with the time to devote to Bingles.
“Stanley lost a lot of sleep staying up all night with him,” Kelly said.
“He kept his face in my face,” Stanley Kelly said.
“We couldn’t leave him alone,” she said. “Horses are herd animals. He wouldn’t have lived if someone hadn’t been around him constantly.”
On day two, they switched to Foal-Lac, a mother’s milk substitute that was mixed in five-gallon buckets. Bingles proved to be a good eater.
“Usually they don’t grow as much as this one,” Stanley Kelly said.
“He overate. We fed him as much as he would eat for as long as he wanted,” Kelly said. “We didn’t listen to the instructions that came with the Foal-Lac. With a baby human, you feed him until he’s full. That’s what we did.”
After the first week, Bingles ate every three hours, and he was down to every four hours during the second month. They added solid food to his diet in the third month, and he weaned off the Foal-lac in the fourth month.
During that time, Kelly Mauldin, a 10-year-old who lived in the neighborhood, stopped by after school to handle feedings.
“We could have never done it without the extra help,” Kimberly Kelly said.
Through their combined efforts, Bingles grew into a robust mix of Tennessee walking horse from Girlfriend and paso fino from his sire, Milagro. He also got a solid injection of humanity from the Kellys, who live in the Tater Hills community of Lee County.
“He thinks he’s a person,” Kelly said. “When he goes on trail rides, he wants to be with people, not the horses.”
“He’ll get right in your face, too,” Stanley Kelly said.
After a snow, the Kellys lost power to their house, and it stayed off longer than it needed to thanks to Bingles, who chased two work crews out of the pasture.
“They were running off the hill. He was chasing them,” Kelly said. “He just wanted attention.”
“He was playing,” Stanley Kelly said.
On the road
The early time with humans came in handy during Bingles’ training, which the Kellys took care of themselves, partially because they didn’t want to subject someone else to the orphan’s habits.
“We know we spoiled him,” Kelly said. “We know what to expect.”
Bingles is a saddle horse, and he also pulls a buggy. Kelly bought the buggy from a man out West who said it was a prop used on the classic TV series “Gunsmoke.” She said there’s no documentation to verify what the previous owner said, but she likes to think of Miss Kitty, a character portrayed by Amanda Blake, behind the reins years ago.
“Maybe I need to get some Miss Kitty clothes,” she said. “That’ll look better.”
She sometimes hooks the buggy to Bingles and let’s him pull her to the office, where he has a pen to hang around in.
“It takes about 20 minutes. It’s not a lot,” she said. “A lot of people drive more than 20 minutes to get to work. Of course, it takes me two minutes in my truck.”
If you haven’t seen Bingles trotting down Eason Boulevard with the possibly famous buggy behind him, Kelly is planning to enter the 2012 Tupelo Christmas Parade to show off Bingles for a wider audience.
Nine years ago, the Kellys devoted their money and time to keep Bingles alive, when it would’ve been far easier and cheaper to buy another horse. Now, Bingles is a part of the family, along with the Kellys’ other horses, dogs and even the chickens.
“We don’t have any kids, so these are our kids,” Kelly said. “They’re spoiled rotten.”
“Yep,” Stanley Kelly said.
And there’s no doubt who the favorite is.
“He’s not pretty. He’s just a plain brown colt,” Kelly said. “A lot of other people wouldn’t have done what we did.”
“The babies, they’re special,” her husband said. “Everybody deserves a chance.”