Our Pal the Horse

     We’ve discussed this before.  Our ancestors, those of the era when sending postcards was far more common, were also more likely to encounter animals on a daily basis.  I am not making some pitch to consider them as more harmonious in our relation to nature than our degenerate generation.  They had mice gnawing through the floorboards on a regular basis, spiders in the outhouse, and bedbugs under the mattress in every hotel.  The next door neighbors might keep a pig or goat in the back yard—frowned upon in most urban areas today, except where you can get ‘em classified as pets (companion animals)—and if not, they almost certainly had a cat that yowled on the fence, a rooster who crowed at 4 A.M., or a dog that was chained to a guardhouse in the yard and took out its frustration on passersby.

     Of course, of all the animals the urban inhabitant was likely to meet, the horse leads the list.  The golden age of postcards was the same ag when people were thinking about making the change from four-legged drive to four-wheel drive.  So everyone was aware of the hard-working horse.  (Horses could not form unions to improve working conditions; we had to do that for them.  Black Beauty, a classic of horse literature for kids, was written originally to show people how the horses they took for granted could suffer.)

     Horses could be seen on every side: they hauled freight.

     Sometimes they hauled freight AND passengers.

     They hauled people intent on business and people riding for pleasure, and frequently people whose pleasure was monkey business.

     The passengers thus hauled remembered this service fondly for generations.

     And, as many a postcard cartoonist pointed out, they could haul the new-fangled undependable forms of transportation.

     Just like humans, though, there were some horses who turned to a life of sports.  The race horse was a breed apart, and people who would not have looked twice at a horse with a rider up in the middle of town flocked to see the same sort of thing on a competitive basis at the track.  (This led to an argument which goes on to this day: did you bet on a reliable horse or a reliable jockey?  One side of the question preferred to give the credit to our own species, while the other side pointed out the jockey couldn’t get down and carry a horse across the finish line.  The debate continues to this day.)

     And, of course, racing goes on to this day, becoming a major tourist industry.

     And leading to its own peculiar lingo.  Yes, the horse was a mighty worker and athlete, and an all-around friend to humankind. 

If you bought the right postcards, of course.  (Next time: the other postcards)

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