THE PEGASUS CARRIAGE HORSE COMPANY

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Two friends, with the aid of another friend, open a new and unique business in a small Virginia town.


 

THE PEGASUS CARRIAGE HORSE COMPANY

 

Charles V. Walker, Jr.

 

 

 Pete Horton was sitting with Wallace Logan and Preston Lewis at a table in Ross Diner in Creston, Virginia eating breakfast on an April Saturday morning. They'd offered to buy him breakfast, because they wanted to talk with him about the two horses they were planning to buy. One of Wallace's uncles had recently died and left him some money in his will.

 

 "What ch'all know 'bout horses?" asked Pete, as he scooped up a forkful of eggs and Scrapple, and put it into his mouth. The three men, all in their mid- thirties, had grown up together in Creston.

 

"We don't know de firs' thing 'bout 'em. Dat's why we need yo' help," said Wallace. "From when you was a stable boy an' from when you worked 'round de racetracks. You know like ‘at."

In his youth, like many other young black men in the born 1940s, Pete had worked as a stable boy. As he got older, he also worked as an assistant to several horse trainers at horseracing tracks along the east coast. He currently owned and operated a Texaco gasoline station on Creston's bypass highway and had one full-time employee; some of his nephews worked evenings and weekends.

"Is dis like de time y'all was gonna buy dat helicopta? An' den realized neever one uh you knew howta fly it." He bit a piece of toast and drank from his coffee cup.

Preston laughed. "C'mon, Pete. Dat's not fair. It was a good idea. We was gonna give tours an' provide service fo' people goin' to an' from de D.C. area."

"Well, maybe de horses cain fly a helicopta," said Pete.

Both men burst out laughing. "You are a nut," said Wallace, sipping his coffee.

"Anyway," Preston continued. "We buyin' 'em from George Clinton, an' want yo' advice. Gonna keep 'em downnat ma house."

"Whatchu gon do wif 'em?" asked Pete.

"Me an' Preston gon offer carriage horse rides ta folks fo' a fee."

Pete stared at him. "Whatchu mean carriage horse rides'? Does Sylvia know 'bout dis?" Sylvia Horton Logan was Wallace's wife and Pete's sister.

"Yeah. It was partly huh idea," replied Wallace. "She liked de carriage horse thangs me an' huh saw when we visited y'all's cousin, Edith, in New Yawk City las' spring. Dey use'lly carry people on rides 'roun'nat big ass park dey got uppair."

"Central Park?" said Pete.

"'At's de one," said Wallace. "Sylvia said Creston could use sumfin like ’at."

"Wair ya'll gittin' de carriages from?"

"Preston's gonna fix up dose old carriages left ova from de Christmas parade. It’s 'bout three uh four uvvem. Dey throwin' 'em out, cause dey buyin' new ones fo' de nex' parade in July."

"Man, dis is nineteen seventy-eight. Mos' folks 'round hair got cars an' trucks an' whatnot," said Pete. "Why dey wanna ride in a damn carriage pullt by a horse? Who's gonna drive 'em?"

"Dey'll be fo' special occassions, like weddin's, annivers'ries, birfdays, proms, people visitin' who might wanna take a tour 'round. Lotta historic sites 'round dis town," said Preston.

He continued, "Me an' Wallace been takin' lessons from 'at white guy who works wif us downnat Sterritt Hill." Sterritt Hill Farms Station was a United States Army and National Security Agency signals intelligence and electronic warfare facility. Wallace and Preston worked at its warehouse.

"Yep. His name's Henry Brewer," said Wallace. "Ah tole 'im 'bout ma trip ta New Yawk, an' come ta fine out, he useta drive carriage horses uppair fo' he movedta Creston." 

"An' y'all are serious 'bout doin' dis?" said Pete.

"Yessiree. We gon do it mainly on weeken's an' in de evenin' time," added Wallace. "Dat way it won't intafere wif me an' Preston's jobs."

 "Ah thank y'all boaf need yo' heads examined. But, it sounds like y'all might be onta sumfin," said Pete. "What kinda help you need from me?"

"You know. Stuff about feedin' 'em. Puttin' 'em in de stable. Groomin'. Diff'rent thangs. Need yo' help in findin' a good vet, too."

"Okay. Lemme see what Ah cain do," said Pete, as he stood up from the table. "Gotta run downta Culpeper."

"Thanks, Pete," said Wallace.

Over the course of the next week, Pete occasionally called to give Wallace and/or Sylvia advice about the care of horses. He covered such topics as the proper size and placement of the stable and stalls, proper bedding, the need for plenty of water, and the best feed to buy. He also spoke about the type of harnessing equipment they'd need, which would have to be custom fitted for both horses and have blinders. He told them he knew a place in Manassas that had the items at reasonable prices.

After the two horses arrived, Pete came by to see them. Wallace and Sylvia were standing next to the corral petting two, black horses on their heavily muscled necks. Their manes were shiny, thick and jet black. Preston was filling waterbuckets from the well pump..

 "Well, at leas' George soldja de right kine of horses fo' carriage pullin'. Dey Friesian horses," said Pete.

"Whosa what?" asked Wallace.

"Friesian horses. Been aroun' awhile," replied Pete. "Good fo' ridin', drivin' an' farm work. Dey good all 'round horses."

Wallace was excited. "Ah tole Preston it was a good deal. We workin' on gittin' de permits now. Preston's girlfren', Ernestine, works uppat de clerk's office."

"Didju name 'em yet?" asked Pete.

"De one wif de white patch on his fo'head is Champ an' de uvver one is Riggo. Named afta John Riggins." John Riggins was the star running back for the Washington Redskins professional football team. The nation's capital was approximately fifty miles from Creston.

After filling the horses’ water troughs, Preston walked to where the three of them were standing. “Hey, Pete. Glad ya stopped by.”

“Ah had ta make sho you crazy fools didn’t hurt yo’selfs,” Pete replied.

They all laughed.

"So, what y'all gon call dis thang?" asked Pete.

"Well, Ah tole Sylvia yo' joke 'bout our horses flyin' helicoptas,” said Wallace. “An' she said she 'membered sumfin from a book on Greek myfology she read in high school 'bout a flyin' horse named, Pegasus. So, we gon call it dat. De Pegasus Carriage Horse Company!"

Pete laughed. "Ah like ‘at. Yo' wife's a smart lady. Mus' run in our fam'ly."

Sylvia blushed and laughed.

"We really 'preciate yo' help, Pete." Preston said.

"Hell, wasn't no problem. Long as Ah ain't gotta shovel no horseshit."

The men laughed.

"Speakin' uh shove'lin shit, we hired Joe Tibbs ta help wif groomin' an' muckin' de stalls. Dat's how ya say dey call it, ain't it? 'Muckin'," asked Wallace.

Pete laughed. "Yeah. Glad ta see ya was lis’nin about dat part. Gotta be done twice uh day.”

“Hell, couldn’t forgit dat part, de way horse shit smells,” answered Wallace. They all laughed.

“Y’all know Joe likes ta hit de bottle more den a little bit," said Pete. The fifty-nine year old Tibbs had worked for a local moving company, until his alcoholism got the better of him. Currently, he performed assorted manual labor jobs around Creston.

"We had a long talk wif him about dat. Said it won't be a problem," said Preston.

"Joe usedta work at some horse stables when he lived up in Maryland," offered Wallace.

"Alright. Ah guess y'all know whatcha doin'. But, keepa close eye on ‘im.”

“Gotta git back out to de fillin’ station. Ah’ll see y’all later, said Pete as he began walking back towards his car.

Weeks later, Wallace and Preston obtained the required permits and licenses. Sylvia helped them write and place an ad in the The Lennix Democrat newspaper. In addition to Creston, The Democrat's circulation included several other towns in Lennix County. The ad listed the distances, durations, and rates for carriage horse rentals. They also hung flyers along Main Street, in the local public laundromat, in barbershops and beauty parlors. Sylvia volunteered to become the scheduler, as she really wanted her husband and Preston to succeed in this venture.

Initially, business was slow for the Pegasus Carriage Horse Company, but soon, people, both black and white, who liked the novelty of taking horse drawn carriage rides, began calling and business picked up. Word of mouth soon became Wallace and Preston's biggest asset. In the months that followed, they did several weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, and even a few funerals.

A few visitors to Creston, who had heard about the Pegasus Carriage Horse Company from their family and friends, also hired them for hour-long tours of the town and surrounding areas. Subsequently, Wallace and Preston hired and trained Maurice White, a twenty-five year old Creston native, to help them. Maurice did day and evening carriage horse rides during the week. He also worked some weekends, if the need arose and he had the time.

The following spring, Wallace and Preston decided to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Pegasus Carriage Horse Company by treating Sylvia, Ernestine, Pete and Cathy to an oldies music concert in Manassas on a Friday night. The scheduled performers were The Drifters, The Platters and Little Anthony and The Imperials.

Several hours later, as they were returning to Creston, the three couples in the van were singing some of the songs they'd heard that evening. When they reached the house, Preston pulled into the driveway. They all got out of the van and began walking towards the house.

"Cain y'all see Joe downnair in his tent?" Wallace asked Pete and Preston, as the women went into the house.

"Naw," replied Preston. "Ah see his lantern on, but not him. Y'all wanna walk downnair?"

"Yeah, why not?" said Wallace. "Lemme get ma flashlight."

He went into the house and returned a few moments later carrying a flashlight. After turning it on, he and the other two men began walking in the direction of Joe's tent. As they approached, they heard loud snoring coming from inside the tent. The three men smiled and shook their heads.

Wallace switched direction and began walking towards the small horse stable. The other two men followed.

Wallace aimed the flashlight beam into the stable, but saw no movement and didn't hear a sound. "What de fuck?!"

When he got closer, he could see that the stalls inside the stable were empty. "Shit!"

"What?" Preston and Pete both asked.

"De damn horses are gone!" Wallace said excitedly.

"Whatchu mean 'gone'?" asked Preston.

"Whatchu think Ah mean, Pres?” said Wallace sarcastically. Gone. Dey ain't hair."

Pete and Preston walked over to where Wallace was standing holding the flashlight. They peered into the stalls. Wallace walked towards the stable and climbed through the corral fence. He aimed the flashlight's beam around the grounds and towards the back end of the corral. There was no sign of the two horses.

"Where in fuck are our horses?" Wallace asked the night air. He then climbed back through the corral and walked to where Pete and Preston were standing.

"Lemme wake up Joe. See if he saw or heard anythang," said Pete.

He walked over to Joe's tent and called his name. When there was no response, he called Joe's name louder and banged his hand against the front of the tent. Eventually, he heard movement from inside the tent. The zipper at the tent's entrance was raised and Joe emerged, crawling on his hands and knees. When his entire body was out of the tent, he stood up a bit wobbly.

"Whatchall doin' down hair?" asked Joe.

Pete could smell alcohol on his breath.

"De horses are missin'," said Preston. "Didju see anythang tanight?"

"What?!" Joe said, incredulously. "Ah ain't seen or heard shit. How in de fuck did dem horses git out?"

"Dat's what we trynta figga out," responded Wallace.

Joe began speaking. "Well, Ah came out hair soon afta y'all had lef' Ah guess. Checked in on de horses. Went up ta de house an' made some beans an' franks. Den sat on de back porch fo' a bit, fo' Ah came back down hair. Dat's when Ah fount dat bottle uh whiskey y'all lef' me."

"What bottle uh whiskey?" Wallace asked.

"De one y'all lef' inside ma tent," replied Joe.

"We didn't leave you no whiskey," said Preston.

Joe climbed back inside the tent and re-emerged holding an empty bottle of Early Times whiskey. "Ah thought y'all lef' dis bottle fo' me. Course, it had a bit mo’ in it a few hours ago," he said sheepishly.

"Damn! We didn't leave 'at bottle," said Wallace. "Somebody else did."

"Somebody who wanted ya ta git drunk an' pass out," said Pete.

"Did Maurice come by?" asked Wallace.

"Came by a coupla times. Had Johnny Boy Lynch's oldest daughta wif 'im," said Joe, smiling. "So who knows what dat boy was 'bout ta git inta."

"Okay. We gotta fine out what happened ta dem horses," said Wallace. He turned when he heard Sylvia's voice calling him from the back porch.

"Les go uppair an' tell 'em what happened," said Wallace. "Den we'll deal wif dis shit in de mornin'."

Preston asked, "Joe, you gon be alright down hair by yo'self?"

"Yeah. If dem sumsabitches who lef' dat whiskey an' took dem horses wanted ta do sumfin ta me, dey'da done it already." He went back to his tent and got in as the other men started walking towards the house.

"Guess Ah should notify de Sheriff, huh?" Wallace said to Pete and Preston.

"No," said Pete. "Les see what we fine in de mornin' firs'." He turned and walked towards the house.

The next morning, Pete, Preston, Wallace, Sylvia and Joe were walking the area surrounding the corral. They found two sets of footprints and horse hooveprints leading away from the stable towards a service road approximately two hundred yards from the back of the house.

As Pete, Preston and Wallace walked a few feet from Sylvia and Joe, Pete said, "Dis appears ta be where dey led de horses away."

Preston said, "Dey musta had a trailer waitin' on de road."

"Now do we call de Sheriff?" asked Wallace.

"Might as well," replied Pete. "Ah'll ask around, too. See if Ah cain fine out anythang."

Later that evening, Pete called Wallace and Sylvia. "Did de Sheriff evva git out dere?"

"Yeah, he did. But, he wasn't no big help," replied Wallace. “Said he'd file a report fo' us an' all dat. Kinda got de impression dat two missin' horses wasn't high on his list uh crimes ta solve."

"Kinda figgered dat," said Pete.

Four days later, on a warm, dark night Pete was driving his car along a dirt road on the outskirts of Creston. The car turned down onto another unlit, dirt road that was barely accessible through the weeds and bushes. It came to a stop in a small clearing.

Pete got out of the car, walked to its trunk and opened it. The smell of feces and urine escaped into the night air.

“Ooh wee!,” said Pete. “Issa good thang Ah put dat damn plastic in de trunk befo’ Ah put yo’ sorry asses back’air.”

He got muffled replies from the two men who were bound and gagged inside the trunk.

Pete sat on the edge of the open trunk and lit a cigarette. 

As he openly displayed the pistol in his right hand, he began speaking.

"Anyways, a few days ago, a white guy Ah didn't know came by de gas station wif a horse traila hitched ta his car. Said he needed directions. Was lookin' fo' de house uh some black guy he was gonna buy two horses from."

He cleared his throat and continued talking. "Ah asked the name an' he said, 'Keith Perkins'. Ah tole 'im. Den Ah followed 'im ta yo house, Perkins. Dat's when Ah saw my fam’ly’s two stolen horses in yo' barn."

He paused and stared into the trunk. "Now, Ah knew you two sorry ass sonsabitches was always pallin' 'round tagever, so Ah knew you would turn up soona or later, Ken. You always was a kiss ass follower."

Pete leaned into the trunk to remove Ken's eyeglasses. "You prob'ly won't be needin' deese wair you goin'." He put the eyeglasses in his shirt pocket.

"Afta dat, Ah followed de white guy home, so Ah could see wair he lived. Dat way Ah cain go git de horses afta Ah git done hair. Turnt out ta be Bristol." Bristol was a small town located approximately twenty miles from Creston. He patted Perkins on one of his legs.

"But dat ain't de most import'nt part of what Ah wanna tell you boys." Pete dropped his cigarette on the ground, crushed it with the heel of his boot, picked it up and put it into the same pocket that held Ken's eyeglasses.

"You fellas are horse thieves. It's as plain an' simple as dat. Bad boys." Pete looked into the trunk and waved his right index finger back and forth at the two men.

"Lemme tell you horse thieves a little bit of de his'tree Ah learnt durin' de days Ah worked wif horses.

"De term 'horse thief' became pop'lar in de United States during the nineteenf century. During dat time a lot of states didn't have many people an' dere was little or no law enforcement at all.

"As farmas tilled de land and migrants headed west through de Great Plains, dere horses were sometimes stolen. An' since deese farmas and migrants depended on dere horses, horse thieves, like y'all, gained a partic'ly nasty ass reputation, cause dey lef' people helpless by de loss of dere horses.

Sweat was streaming profusely down both men’s foreheads.

"But, it was also a matta of principle. Dat's why ta call somebody a 'horse thief' as an insult, means de person ain't got any shred of moral decency.”

The two bound men gave muffled replies.

"So, ta finish up," Pete continued. "Sumfin calt de Anti-Horse Thief Society was formed. Dey was a group of men who would hunt down uvver men suspected of bein' horse thieves an' den hang 'em wifout a trial. An’, it just so happens dat Virginia is wunnuver han’ful o’ states where hangin’ horse thieves is still legal."

A bullfrog croaked in the darkness.

Pete removed his hat. "Ah thought 'bout callin' de Sheriff on you boys, but, den Ah kep' thankin' ' bout de words, 'moral decency'. An' Ah said ta maself, 'Deese two men ain't got no moral decency'."

Pete paused and looked off into the night sky. "Ah thought 'bout what de Anti-Horse Thief Society would do wif two low-life bastards like you if dey fount 'em."

He reached in to the side of the car's trunk and withdrew two nooses.

 "You see, it's de principle of de thang. Ah knew dem two people who stole de horses didn't care 'bout anybody but demselves. Ah also thought how dey got Joe ta drainkin' so's dey could steal de horses. What in de fuck was dat all about? S'pose he didn't pass out? Ah said ta maself, dey mighta hurt 'im."

Pete reached into the trunk, grabbed twenty-three-year old Keith under his bound arms and tossed him to the ground. His legs were also tied. He then did the same to twenty-one-year old Kenneth, who was tied in similar fashion to Keith. They struggled against the ropes that held them.

Pete looked down at them and said, "Ain't no use in doin' 'at boys, Ah useta tie cafs an' hogs."

The men ceased their efforts, as they breathed in and out heavily.

Pete said, "Y’all funky, good fo’ nuffin’, low-life, bastards. Shittin’ an’, pissin’ on yo’selves like fuckin’ babies or sumfin."

Pete walked to where Perkins was laying and said, “You was always full uh shit anyways even when ya worked fo' me at de fillin' station."

He stood, went over to a nearby tree and threw the untied end of the noose over a branch. He pulled it down and tied it to the bumper of his car. He did the same with the other noose. He dragged a kicking and crying Keith to the tree and put a noose around his neck; he then did the same to Kenneth.

"Dis is de right punishment fo' bein' disrespectful an' havin' no moral decency," said Pete.

Pete walked back to the car, got in and started the engine and began revving it.

A few minutes later, Wallace, Preston and Joe Tibbs emerged from the bushes and walked to where the two men were on the ground; Pete turned off the car's ignition.

"Ah hope y'all learnt an important lesson from dis," said Wallace, as he leaned over towards the men, who were still sobbing.

Pete walked over, put the pistol in his waistband, lifted the nooses from their necks, withdrew a knife, cut the ropes that bound them and removed the masking tape and gags from their mouths. The men stood shakily, as they kept their heads bowed. Pete threw Kenneth's eyeglasses on the ground in front of him; Kenneth bent unsteadily to retrieve them.

Pete then said, “If Ah see y’all anywair near ma sista’s house agin, den Ah’ll make a call ta de Sher’iff’s Department ‘bout all de shit y’all doin’ ‘round town, especially dat marijuana sellin’ nonsense an’ shopliftin’ shit. On top uh dat, y’all will git de shit kicked outcha. Really make y’all wish you’d stayed in yo’ daddies’ nutsacks.”

Perkins and Wright looked at each other and then back to Pete.

"Y'all muvvafuckas needta git on home take a baf an' wash yo shitty, pissy asses," said Pete. "Now, git de fuck outta hair!" he shouted.

The two men quickly began walking away, occasionally stopping to rub their sore wrists and ankles, and stretch their arms and legs.

After Perkins and Wright had left, the four remaining men stood under the tree and began talking.

"Damn, Pete," said Preston. "You scared de shit outta dose boys in mo’ ways den one." He laughed.

Wallace pulled the nooses from the tree branch and said, "Pete fo' a minute dere, Ah thoughtchu was really gonna hang 'em."

“Me, too,” said Joe.

"Naw," said Pete. "Ah wouldn't do dat hair. Too many witnesses." He smiled and winked.

Wallace, Preston and Joe silently stared at him for a moment and then looked at each other.

"Well, me, Preston an’ Joe gonna head on backta town," said Wallace, as he handed Pete the rope. "Sylvia's prob'ly wondrin' where in de hell Ah am."

“Jus’ tell huh you was helpin’ some boys learn an important lesson’” said Pete.

Wallace and Joe began walking to where their car was hidden.

Preston said, "We'll go downta dat guy's house in Bristol tomorra wif de Sheriff an’ git our horses back. Let ‘im an’ dat white S.O.B. deal wif dem two thievin’ ass bastards.”

"Good 'nough," said Pete. "Stop by de station afta ya git settled back in an' lemme know how ya made out."

Preston then turned and walked in the direction of the other two men.

The three men disappeared into the darkness.

After putting the nooses back into the trunk of his car and closing the lid, Pete got into the driver's seat. He put the pistol under the seat.

"Dere was too many witnesses," he thought to himself. He patted the Anti-Horse Thief Society tattoo on his right arm; it was now over thirty years old. He'd gotten it during his last year as a stable boy. Some of the men had it, and he sincerely liked and believed in the values for which the society stood.

He started the car and guided it through the overgrown weeds and shrubs. "De Sheriff an’ dat white fella ain’t gon do nuffin ta dem boys, especially afta he gits his money back from ‘em. Probably jus’ a slap on de wrist.”

Pete quickly turned his steering wheel to avoid hitting a raccoon that had run out of the weeds.

“Ah'll haveta wait til Ah cain git Perkins an' Wright by theyselves, so Ah cain finish what Ah started tanight," he thought. "Ah could tell by de look in dere eyes dat dem sumsabitches still gon be trouble down de line. If not fo' me an' mine, fo' somebody else. Cause when it's all said an' done, dey ain't got no moral decency."

 

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Submitted: April 20, 2018

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