Aye, I see you looking at my poor old gelding. His hindquarters still quiver. He'll need a good rest, a warm mash, and warm blankets. While my nephew William attends to him, let me tell you the story.
A delegation from our church to lend moral support to Thomas Goold's church in Boston departed a week ago. We knew the trek to be dangerous for we feared the unrest among the Wampanoag Confederacy. However, 'twas not the Indians we need to have feared but the weather.
We set out, five of us with ten horses, three pack horses and seven mounts. As is our custom, we altered walking and riding so as to give the horses rest, yet cover ground quickly. We would make the seventy-five mile trip in two days, the most time lost being the crossing of Sakonnet River at Blue Bill Cove. Much happened along the way, including a foul storm that besought us from Porstmouth to Lynn, and another on the return from Quincy to Freetown.
'Twas that storm that flooded the narrow trail at many places, and while on our ride home the sun shone at times, the paths turned into soup. Three of the other men rode ahead of me, navigating through a particularly deep and wide quagmire. I saw that they made it through and thought to follow after.
My gelding lowered his nostrils and tilted his head to look at it. As you well know, a horse can only see close up with one eye at a time. He jigged a bit, but he's a goodly type, and with some urging leapt into the bog. I lurched forward and felt the panic in his stride as his neck came up to rear his front legs from the mud.
Fearing his struggle would only worsen the situation, I leapt from his back onto the edge of the mire. By this time I could see the coupling of his back straining and sinking as he fought to get his feet under him. At first I hauled on the bridle thinking to pull him from the mud then realized he needed his head free to act as a pendulum.
I was at a loss how to help him until Rev. Myles (a visiting minister from Wales who had joined our delegation) rode up. He had the good fortune to have a sturdy rope. Dismounting quickly, he tossed me an end while he took the other around the back and to the side of my gelding. Together we worked the rope under the buttocks of my gelding and then heaved the horse out of the bog.
The poor beast lay on his side, his lungs gasping for air and every muscle in his body quivering. The good reverend and I stripped off our cloaks and threw them over the horse's body. Knowing the cold would cause great harm, we could not let the gelding rest long. We'd need to get him to a warm, dry place. With much urging, and using the reverend's horse to help pull mine along, we managed to find a widening in the trail where we could build a fire.
As you can see, the gelding, though weak, has made it home. He'll recover in about a week's time with good care. 'Twas an unfortunate happening, and I would not wish it on any man or animal. If you don't mind, I shall bid you all adieu and help William fix the warm mash and blankets.
The storm in Northern California (where I live) at the first of this month, drew up many memories. Pulling horses out of mires and canals were some of them.When my husband and I sat before the fire in the comfort of our living room and watched the rain come down (some say at the rate of an inch an hour), I had the urge to put on my Stetson, my slicker, my boots, and my chaps, and head out to do something. What I don't know. In the past it would have been something to help in the comfort and care of our animals.
Between fifteen and twenty years ago, I lived and worked on a ranch in an area that flooded several months of the year. There were times when horses found themselves in the unfortunate position of sliding down a steep embankment into waters below or foolishly being ridden through a boggy spot on a trail, which the rider did not perceive to be deep. In our modern times, we could use a tractor with a front end loader and a sling to lift the horse to safety, but there were times when we had nothing but a lariat and muscles to drag a horse from a bog.
One such time happened when we were several miles from any camp or road, and the trail was either up the mountain or down the mountain. The poor horse was an older gelding, and we feared the incident would do him in, but God is merciful. We managed to get him to a corral at the top of the trail where a truck and trailer could take him back home. Lots of tender-loving care brought him back to full health.
The story Nathaniel told came to mind when reading Mr. Potter's Journal from Virginia to New England. His July 20, 1690 entry says:
I went from Onions to Eliza Town, there having been very much rain, in sight of Collonel Townlies my horse fell with me, and by Gods mercy I escaped drowning having been twice under water wet all my linnen and papers. (Travels in the American Colonies, by Newton D. Mereness p.5)I imagine the gentleman was quite uncomfortable, but I must admit I wondered what happened to the horse. :)