LOGAN COUNTY, Okla. - A Logan County family is devastated after the horse their daughter grew up riding was shot and killed in their own backyard. They said a neighbor's reckless behavior with a firearm is to blame.
"He was a good boy, and I'm going to really miss him," said Melinda Bush.
Bush is still in disbelief that her best friend, Earl, is gone. She'd had the 25-year-old gelding since she was just 9 years old.
Over the 10 years they spent together, the two competed in rodeos and even for the title of 89'er queen.
"He wasn't the fastest thing, but he was the safest thing," said Bush's mom, Tracy Branscum. "He was just one in a million."
Bush and Earl had the kind of unbreakable bond that many spend their lives searching for.
"He helped me through some really tough times," she said.
But, this past weekend - heartbreak.
"When I saw him, all I could do was stand there," Bush said.
Branscum said, Sunday morning, they went out to feed their animals like they do every day - only to find Earl lying in the pasture.
The horse - who had become part of their family - had been shot and killed.
"When you lose someone like that, it's kind of like losing your sibling. You don't know how it feels until it actually happens to you, and it's not a feeling you want to have."
The family said some people who live nearby had been shooting guns the night before. When bullets started to get too close, they yelled, asking them to stop - but they didn't. They said recreational gunfire is common in their area - but nothing this reckless.
"It's very normal," Branscum said. "I mean, we're pro-guns. We don't have a problem with that. Our biggest thing is there's a safe way to do it, and there's a non-safe way to do it and most of the people in this area do not do it safely."
Now, they're hoping the dangerous behavior will stop - before someone else loses a pet - or even a person.
"We've had him over 10 years. I mean, yeah, he was a pain in my butt, but he was family," Branscum said. "Family is a pain in your butt. I mean, we can't replace him."
The Logan County Sheriff's Office is investigating.
The family said they are still grieving and aren't sure yet if they will press charges. They are hopeful whoever is responsible will come forward.