Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Horses, by John Mitchell, son of Everett and Vera Mitchell

The Horses

Don, the horse, was crazy. My father bought him from a man who'd abused him. Don was gray and he was big and he was strong. The man had entered him in pulling contests at county fairs. To get him to pull more-and-more weight, the man beat Don with a knotted rope. From the day my father brought him home, Don was trouble. He'd kick down anything you'd try to pen him up in. He kicked down the stalls. He kicked down the doors. He jumped fences. Any time you put him out to pasture, he'd run away.

In the short time we had him, my father and brother spent most of their time chasing him. They chased him around our pasture or our neighbor's pasture trying to get a halter on him to lead him home.

That winter, while my father was away in Canada, working in a lumber camp, my mother sold Don for dog food. That made my brother happy (no more chasing Don through the snow).

The horse I remember was Bob. Bob was an old horse (eighteen or nineteen years old). He was a Belgian draft horse, but he was not as big as the ones you see in shows. He was a gelding. Because he'd been castrated he didn't grow up to be as big as his peers.

He was docile. If there was no one behind him telling him to go, he'd stop where he was, hang his head and fall asleep. But if you kept after him he'd work all day. He was strong enough and he pulled tons of wood out of the forest.
I saw Bob angry once. My father rented a filly from a neighbor to help pull the wagon for haying season. She was tied-up in the barn in the same large stall Bob was in. While we had her she went into heat. Since Bob was the only male horse around, the filly expected Bob to service her. She followed him everywhere; and in their stall she nibbled at him. Bob took it all. But one night she was courting Bob and he suddenly had enough. Since he was a gelding he didn't know what she wanted, and she'd annoyed him to no end. Bob turned on her and bit her on the neck. She whinnied and jumped. Bob just went back to his grain. After that my father put the filly in an empty cow stall. She was not too bad there. But the next day when my brother took Bob out and hooked him to the hay rake, and left the filly in the barn alone, she went wild. She began rearing up on her hind legs and kicking at the front of the stall with her front hooves. She neighed wildly and nearly kicked the front wall out. My brother had to stop raking the hay and bring Bob back into the barn and calm her down.

The next morning my father took the filly home. Bob was the last horse we had. My father sold him for dog food just before we left Maine. By then he was too old to work.

We had several horses. I don't remember them all. There was Don, Bob and Colonel. I don't remember the name of one that I rode. Colonel died of polio. He couldn't open his mouth anymore and he had to be shot. My father used the other horse to drag his body off into the woods. I was very young when that happened. Once, when my sisters and I were playing in the woods, we came across his skeleton. It was a few years later, so I remember that. His jaw was huge. His bones where gray and broken. We didn't touch any of it. My sister, Mary, had loved that horse and out of respect we never went back to that place again.

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