A. Horse, Not Dog, Man's Best Friend

In September 2004, a month after returning from my PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL where I'd visited the village of Wallington where Orwell got many of his ideas for ANIMAL FARM, I came across the following story in a newspaper insert called the Senior Connector. It's about a horse that lived the kind of life that Boxer on ANIMAL FARM deserved. ~ Jackie Jura

by Enid Damer


Bob was a coal-black workhorse with a white star on his forehead, big, shaggy feet and a heart "as big as all outdoors". My father and I loved him unconditionally. He was my Dad's "right-hand-man", pulling the plow, the harrow, the mower, the rake, the hay wagon, the democrat and the stone boat. When the load was heavy, the muscles in his strong back and legs rippled as he strained to complete his task. He never complained; no task was too great, as long as it was my Dad making the request. He was loyal to the end of his twenty-odd years and the day the truck came to take him away to the fox farm was a day of great sorrow. As my ailing Dad urged his old friend up the ramp into the truck, I'm sure both their hearts were breaking.

When I was quite young I remember sitting on an upturned bucket as close to Bob's head as I could get, watching him chew vegetable peelings with his large, yellow teeth. Or mangles, a large root vegetable grown especially for the horse and cow, and cut into chunks with a rusty knife. Or, after a day's hard work, sitting astride Bob's broad back as he was led back to the barn for a rub-down and a bucket of "shorts". Or running after the hay rake, jumping the windrows of new mown grass, or riding to the field in the hay rack and back to the barn on top of the load. These may sound like boring activities today but back then, with no playmates, T.V., radio or telephone, they livened my long summer days.

Every Friday, my uncle, who lived in a one-roomed house next to ours, drove Bob to the village to buy the week's groceries. As a beginning school child, I liked Fridays because I could meet my uncle and Bob at the general store and have a ride home. But Bob did not like Fridays! He loved my father but hated my uncle and the feeling was mutual. My uncle was used to cavalry horses so, expecting obedience, he held Bob's head high on a short rein and whipped him if he did not obey. Bob would nip and lunge whenever my uncle came near him but, in the end, he had to give in.

The general store was, for me, a source of delight and envy - all the wonderful things one could buy if only one had the money. There was a tub of peanut butter with a spigot for filling the can we had brought from home, and cheddar cheese wheels as big as the moon with an attached wire for cutting, jars of raisins and dates, and hard candies in rainbow colours. There were delicious looking cookies in a glass display case - chocolate puffs and pink marshmallow with coconut, fig-newtons and plain biscuits. There were rubber boots, yard goods, thread, wool, dishpans and scrub-boards but the food was the most interesting.

Then off to the butcher shop with its floor covered in shavings, a wooden chopping block, and a huge cleaver and wicked looking sharp knives. Strings of homemade sausage hung from ceiling hooks and slabs of bacon to be sliced as required. Our order was always the same - a 4 1/2 pound rump roast. The purchases made and stowed in the democrat, we headed home, Bob trotting quickly because he knew his weekly ordeal was almost over.

In the summer, Bob had a special den in the cool darkness of a grove of trees far from the barn. Sometimes, Dad and I would seek him out and apply a tar ointment to the horsefly bites, which, left unattended could turn into running sores. Several times a year, my Dad cut Bob's hoofs with enormous clippers, and then filed them smooth with a big metal rasp. Bob was brushed and fussed over every day of his life.

Without a horse, we would have had a much smaller vegetable garden and potato patch and no hay. Without a horse, hauling the winter wood for our cook stove, dragging stones and pulling stumps from newly broken fields, and walking almost six miles to buy groceries would have been hard work, indeed. Horses, it seems to me, not dogs, were man's best friends when the homesteaders opened up this great country of ours.



Reader Eric sends a photo of his mother, as a young child, with man's best friend -- the horse

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

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