A bunch of Civil War reenactors are camped in Washington, Ark. Horses and mules abound, along with wagons of every description, driven by authentic looking teamsters who could have stepped out of the 1860’s. They rendezvoused here from Texas, Minnesota, Wyoming, Alabama--all over the place, really.
I was on my side porch Saturday conversing with the lady we buy eggs from and several mule skinners were in a lot nearby staking out their big old animals. When the egg lady departed, she said, “Thank you, Doctor Ford,” and one of the skinners, an extravagantly bearded fellow named Nathan, said in my direction, “Doctor, what kind of Doctor are you?” I wanted to say, “The kind that does not do anyone any good,” but that seemed too self-effacing to use on a stranger, so I said simply, “Ph. D.” He lit up and replied, “I know what one of those is since I work with surveyors.” I did not really understand that, but let it pass.
Then Nathan came over to my porch and said, “Doctor, we do not have any water nearby for our animals; may we borrow some of yours?” Of course, wanting to be a good neighbor, however temporary that may be, I hooked the hose up for him. He filled a rather large plastic container and his “boys” came over and filled their regulation canteens from the hose, each one drinking some intermittently. However, when they brought the mules over to drink, they would not do so. Nathan tried to explain to them that it was water, but they were not interested and wanted to get back to the sweet grass next door. Later in the day when they brought the long-ears back over, they did drink with gusto. As you recall, it was mighty hot Saturday.
About the middle of Sunday afternoon, a knock came on the door and it was one of the reenactors of about 35 holding the tether of a very nervous and athletic horse. He said, “Are you the Doctor?” I confessed that I was, musing to myself how soon one becomes known in a small community. “Sir,” he said, “is there a barber in town? I need to buzz my hair down.” I told him we had no barber in Washington, but that I had an electric hair-cutting device that would suffice.” I brought it out along with a hand-held mirror. He tied the nervous horse to my pear tree and started buzzing away.
As he worked, he told me he was born and raised in Hawaii, but worked in Japan for eight years as a young man. He said he was fluent in Japanese. He told me the Japanese man he worked for there was the most honorable person he has ever met and that after he had moved back to the states he got a call from the Japanese man’s family. The former employer was dying of cancer and he was sending him a plane ticket because he wanted to see him before he died. He teared up when he told the story of the man’s last breaths in the Japanese hospital.
So, I was paid off for water and tonsorial equipment by a great and moving story and the spectacle of a variety of sometimes thirsty equines.