Beloved horse known for Brentwood parade appearances remembered in book
Rebel was a brilliant horse.
Just ask his owner, Earl Slowik, 86, of Pleasant Hills, and he’ll tell you with a mix of laugh-out-loud stories and a few tearjerkers.
“I’m telling you, this horse was absolutely intelligent,” said Slowik, who recently published a short book, “Trotting Backwards: The Story of Earl and Rebel,” about his adventures with the horse who became famous in the South Hills for his annual rides along the Brentwood Fourth of July parade route.
The book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $5.50, chronicles Slowik’s life alongside his trusty companion, who he talked to like a best friend.
Slowik, who had a pony as child, has always loved horses.
He remembers dressing up and riding a pony when he was little. He had his picture taken on the pony — that led to him begging his dad to buy him one.
But, all of that’s for another book he’s in the process of writing, called, “Ponies, Horses and Me.”
Slowik first met Rebel when his cousin purchased the half-Arabian, half-American quarter horse, born in 1962, for his own children. It was named Golden Nugget on its birth certificate, but garnered the nickname “Rebel” because it was a little rowdy.
Slowik watched the horse ride across the field once and knew he had to have it. He bought two-year-old Rebel from his cousin.
“That’s the greatest thing I ever did,” he said. “I said, ‘He’s for me.’”
Slowik rode Rebel every day for more than 20 years. The two spent most of their time riding every inch of South Park.
During their journeys, Slowik taught Rebel commands by saying them out loud in English.
The horse learned quick.
“I would take him up to a telephone pole and he touched his nose to the pole and I would say, ‘Go!’ and he would go as far up the pole as he could and stay there,” Slowik said, laughing.
For 25 years, Slowik and Rebel marched in the Brentwood Fourth of July parade, usually behind a drum and bugle corps. Rebel always put on a show, dancing to the music and standing on his hind legs.
Rebel lived to be 36 years old. He died in 1998.
Slowik never was able to buy another horse, and he hasn’t ridden since he was 82.
“It was like I lost a brother,” he said, choking back tears. “We became such close buddies.”
Slowik still attends horse shows, which he used to do with Rebel. It was there people encouraged him to write down his memories of his beloved horse.
So, he did. He sat down at a table in his game room and wrote out the book by hand. His son-in-law was able to do the rest.
A large picture of Rebel still is displayed in Slowik’s living room.
Slowik’s wife, Joanne, says the relationship her husband shared with Rebel was special.
“The horse seemed to do anything he told it to,” she said. “In the book, he tells it just like it was.”
Slowik never planned to become an author, especially not at 86. But he wanted to write a tribute to Rebel.
“He was perfect. He did everything perfect,” he said, repeating the quote with which he ends the book. Rebel, he said, was the “star performer. I just went along for the ride!”
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.