When I was very young my father had a brief, passionate, and ill-fated love affair with foreign cars. It was passionate for obvious reasons. It was brief because of a lack of financial wherewithal, and it was ill-fated because of an even greater lack of mechanical wherewithal. My father was easily the most wonderful and unique man I have ever known, but his skills were intellectual, not mechanical; books and people and ideas were the things he loved, and his genius lay in those arenas. Hammers and screwdrivers and saws were to him arcane and mystifying objects of foreign cults; they might not be illegal or immoral, but their functions were obscure at best and possibly dangerous. Certainly in his hands they would have been dangerous. Compared to him, I’m a mechanical Einstein.
So you can understand why his purchase of a 1959 Jaguar Mark I 3.4 liter sedan was ill-advised. When it ran, it was the sexiest, most exciting vehicle on four road-gripping wheels. When it ran. My father once opined that no one should own a Jaguar unless he could afford a full-time mechanic to ride in the passenger seat. On another occasion, as he and my mother and I all stood in the rain, I remember him looking at the car more in sorrow than in anger and saying wearily that the only way to own a Jaguar was to own three or four them so that one of them would always be capable of actually starting.
I thought of that when I went down to let the horses out the other morning. Snoopy had clearly gotten himself cast during the night. For those non-equine types out there, “cast” means that he lay down too close to the fence and got his legs under the bottom rail so that he couldn’t get up again. He had thrashed until he was free and able to stand, and his hind legs were both cut and stocked-up. “Stocked-up” means swollen. It also means only the gentlest of minimal exercise for as long as it takes for him to heal.
A horse is an accident looking for a place to happen. In fact, even when there is no place for an accident to happen, a horse—being a creative critter—can find a way to make one. Many years ago, when I lived in northern New England, I boarded my horse at stable run by two of the most professional and knowledgeable horse people I have ever known. One of them was Jane Savoie, U.S. Equestrian Team member, reserve rider for the Olympic Team, United States Dressage Federation gold, silver, and bronze medal winner, winner of nine… You get the idea. These ladies knew how to properly care for horses. The other owner and I happened to be the only people there one day. I was grooming my horse when she came in leading a stallion who had been in his own private pasture. He had a cut on his right hind leg so severe, that when I helped to clean it as we waited for the vet, I could put my entire hand, almost to the wrist, up into the wound between the hide and the muscle. Later, the owner of the property and I scoured that three-acre pasture, checking every single damned fence post and every rail, and we couldn’t find anything that could have cut that horse. Not a hair, not a drop of blood to indicate how he had done it. Short of a padded cell, you couldn’t create a safer environment for a horse, yet it took something like twenty stitches to close the cut.
So with all this in mind, I have decided to transfer my father’s advice to horses. Clearly I need more of them just to ensure one of them is always sound on any given day. Probably four or five—four or five more, I mean. That ought to do the trick. And of course that means I should add four or five more to Darleen’s roster. Now all I have to do is figure out how to sell this scheme to my distressingly level-headed and practical wife. And how to earn the money to be able to afford that many horses.