The wise old man was reclining comfortably in my porch swing this morning when I stepped out to check the weather. I thought he was back in Hillsboro Manor but he explained to me that he had been living with his cousin in Hope, a Mike Huckaby (no relation to the famous one who spells his name differently) for the past month.
“How did you get over here,” I queried.
“I caught a ride with an interesting fellow who runs the horse surrey here in your town. That is one tall dude!”
“Yes, Algie is six feet, eight inches tall. We were born exactly two months apart.”
The wise one pondered that for a moment as we walked into the house to the coffee pot. I poured him a cup “barefooted” as he called black coffee and he made this comment: “Well, Dan, that must have been a time for tall fellows to be born. Maybe gravity was a little less demanding as you grew. Or, maybe the turnip greens were richer.”
“I am not sure, sir, but that man is certainly good with the horses. We have two Percheron mares that alternate with a mother-daughter team of half draft horse, half ordinary horse. Algie can talk to those horses like people and they seem to understand him.”
The wise old man said he believed animals could follow the drift of human language on an intuitive level. He put it like this, “Dan, a horse feels what the hippies used to call vibrations from people. If you are nervous or upset, horses sense it. If you are calm and friendly, they ordinarily respond in kind. That is the secret of so-called horse whispering.”
“Are you a horseman, sir?”
“Fooled with them when I was young back before those internal combustion engines fouled everything up. When I was young the horse, the mule and even the donkey and ox were mainstays in the city as well as the country. I had a stocky little horse named Tony that did it all—plowed, pulled, rode and helped train other horses. Tony could read my mind. I have had relationships with humans that were less communicative. When he was about 20, that pony caught some kind of lung disease and after a hot day breaking new ground he told me about it without a sound. It was something about his eyes and the way he held his head. I lifted his lip and saw a thin line of blood clinging to his gums. When he saw that I saw, he nodded and went to his knees.”
“Did you get help for him?”
“There was a Parnell fellow, not a vet, that doctored animals, was good at it, lived about a mile away. I hollered what was wrong and my neighbor responded with that holler, conveying it you know, and about an hour later, Parnell’s teenage boy showed up with some kind of foul liquid. We used up a gallon rubbing it on his breast, but it did no good. Tony lasted another week. I stayed up with him that last night and told him how much I appreciated his help all those years and how much I loved him. That fuzzy eyeball of his looked real relaxed when he quit breathing.”