Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories XIX

HORSES: Here is an excerpt from one of Henry's letters that Linda did not use for her 1965 paper. Some of you may have seen a copy of this letter before as it was included in my "Guidebook to the Pratt Family of North Berrien".
"Horses were a part of daily life on the farm. They were not only the sole source of power and transportation, but one had contact with them daily whether they were being worked or not. They had to be fed and watered and curried. Above all, they were alive, and no two were alike. They had individual personalities and one's relations to them would range from admiration through through anger, disgust and frustration, to laughter. Among the twenty or so horses my father owned at one time or another, one stood out from the rest. She was black and small and we used her for a buggy horse. She could inspire all of the above reactions in the handler, sometimes in rapid succession, for she had ideas of her own. Usually she was tractible enough, but on occasions she would decide to do something which was the exact opposite from what you wanted her to do...and she knew it. Her name was "Puss".
If she was loose in the barnyard she would occasionally decide to explore outside and would simply walk over to a narrow gate, reach over it, get ahold of the hook which held it, lift it, and walk out. When you unhitched her from the buggy she would go to her stall by herself, but on occasion, when you removed her bridle and started to put on her halter* she would suddenly jerk her head, back from the stall and take off at a dead run. There was nothing to do but wait for perhaps half an hour when she would come back, walk into her stall and let you finish unharnessing her.
Buggy harness had a back pad and it was held in place by a belly band which ran under the horse's chest. To buckle this, you stood beside the horse, facing towards the horse's tail, and bend over low to reach under the horse to get the end which hung down on the other side. This was not drawn tight and usually Puss made no objection, but once in a while she didn't like it, whereat she would reach around, grab the seat of your pants along with some skin, and give a quick jerk, her teeth coming together with an audible snap as they came loose. When you jerked upright and expressed your emotion, she would jump up and down on her front feet, her head twisting from side to side, her ears laid back, the very picture of fiendish glee. When you had both calmed down you could again bend over and complete the operation without her taking the slightest interest.
*Do you know the difference between a bridle and a halter?
NEXT: More about Puss.
(July 23)

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