The Slaughter House horses: Episode 1 The Knights Horse

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Bo, is big beautiful Shire gelding, who has found himself in tough situation... he's on a feed lot waiting to be sent to slaughter...but this is not the end of the road for the big shire for he is one of the lucky ones...but he has friends that need rescuing too.

Submitted: November 16, 2015

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Submitted: November 16, 2015

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Embedded image is "The Black Shire" by Susan Pecora and a print may be purchased at www.equiculture.org/the-black-shire-by-susan-pecora-product.aspx

The Slaughter House Horses:

Story One:

The Knights Horse

Bo lifted his head and a cold desolate wind lifted the heavy black mane off of his neck. A light snow swirled around his face and a few stray flakes wanted to cling to the Shire gelding’s thick eyelashes. The big horse shook his head in sorrowful discontent and trained his long gaze on the squat, unfriendly building on the other side of the barbed wire fence, holding him and a hundred or more other horses in containment. The stench of too many, large animals in too small a space hung heavy in his nostrils and Bo watched the building.

The handsome draft horse had spent much of his time since coming to this new place, nearly a week now, watching that building. He’d seen several different humans coming and going out of it, but no one he knew and certainly not the kind man with the thick bushy brown hair and the equally profuse moustache that had cared for him, trained him and ridden the joust on his broad back for the past few years of his life. He kept looking, though, and hoping. Here, he received nothing in the way of a kind word, a hearty pat or a handfed bit of carrot from the sour faced young man who kept the hay rings filled with hay and the managers brimming with food. None of the humans at this place were friendly at all.

Bo’s regal head rose higher and he drank in the icy cold air trying to clear the smell from his nasal passages. He pawed in annoyance at the thin layer of snow at this feet and for a moment his surroundings faded, the ugly sagging barbed wire fence with its leaning posts, the stark cold Canadian plains with their dusting of snow, the unpaved, muddy track to the plain square domicile and the pasture full of his cramped, dour equine companions. He remembered the feel of warm steel in his mouth, sweating under leather and plate steel armor, his rider’s heels against his sides and the man’s calm reassuring voice. He recalled, with aching clarity the crack of the battle standard and the cheers of the crowd. Once…he’d been the steed of Sir Robert Anthony Graves, Grand Champion Knight of the Tri-counties Renascence Fair, where the other Knights envied his might and sure strides, where the city people, oooed and aaahhed over his gaint white hair covered feet and his glossy mahogany-black coat. He was so large and impressive that only the bravest of the fair goers would dare to try and pet him. Here, he was no one and nothing, just like the rest of the horses stuck in this cold, gray, sunless place and the gelding was afraid he’d never see his kind Knight again.

Bo had known his master’s habits, and five days out of the week, Tony, as his family had called him, had left early in the morning in his bright silver car, and returned early in the evening. One day Tony had set out as he always did, before all the night time stars had even stopping shining and not come back that evening as he should have. This had happened before, but every other time Sir Anthony had not come back his family, the pretty lady and the two younger ones that had Tony’s wild curly hair had always been with him and the neighbor’s tall lanky son had taken care of him for a few days. Bo had heard the word “vacation” tossed around when that had happened.

Bo understood that his master had not gone on vacation. Tony’s elder son had been the one to feed him, clean out his stall and fill up his water bucket that evening. The boy had sniffed and cried a great deal while taking care of him, and he’d babbled quiet a bit. The gelding had understood very little of what had been said but one word had stood out glaringly because there’d been such an ugly twist to the way the boy had spat it out… “divorce.” Apparently, Sir Anthony hadn’t gone on vacation, he’d gone on “divorce” whatever that meant. The gelding recalled the final sad and sorrowful look Sir Anthony’s boy had given him before turning out the stable lights. That glance had left the gelding with an uneasy feeling all that night.

The next morning a strange man had taken him from his stall and loaded him into a strange trailer and he’d been taken to a noisy place with small, square pens stuffed full of other horse of all shapes and sizes. Bo had stood in a cramped pen with a half dozen other larger equines for several hours, then he’d been run down a series of shoots and herded into a little ring where a booming voice yodeled over a loud speaker for a half minute while a couple of humans in the small audience had yelled and flashed white cards with numbers on them. After a bit, one of the humans, a short man with slicked back hair and a very still face seemed to have won the card-waving contest. Bo had been shoved back to his pen where’d he’d waited another few hours.

Finally, a chubby man with a pleasant voice had fetched him. This man had put a tatty well-worn halter on his head and patted his neck kindly.

“Poor bugger,” he’d murmured in his unusual accent, shaking his head sadly.

Bo had ducked his head then and butted the man’s hand and whuffled softly in confusion.

“Times are bad indeed,” the man had continued speaking, as he’d started leading Bo down the packed dirt aisle way. “Yer to fine an animal to go where yer goin’,” the fellow had drawled slowly, cocking his head at Bo and giving him a sad appreciative smile.

The big Shire had walked politely beside the man and listened carefully.

“Can’t imagine how such a fine fellow as you landed in such a bad situation,” the man had babbled on, “I’m guessin’ ya cost a fair bit o’ copper to feed. I been seein’ more and more fine, healthy horses headin’ to the feed lots. Shame that,” the last was spoken softly and with great regret.

Bo had been loaded into a giant commercial trailer with a group of other horses. He had shivered uncomfortably as the door had clanged shut behind him. It been a long ride to the place with the falling down fences and the lone cold building. He’d been grateful to be unloaded from the trailer, it had been so packed he’d barely had room to move, until he’d seen his new “home”. The pastures were muddy and bare of grass and the very atmosphere was one hopelessness. He’d been added to a pen that already had too many horses of all kinds and genders, including several mares with young foals at their sides, and so he’d spent the next week just watching the ugly building hoping someone he knew and trusted would emerge from it and take him away from this awful place. The gelding had a vague notion that if someone didn’t, that something terrible was going to happen to him.

The gelding shook his head again and let his gaze wander a bit. Many of the horses he shared his space with were sad and broken down. There was the old appaloosa with the terrifically swayed back, and the beautiful copper sorrel thoroughbred with the permanent limp, a souvenir from his time on the racetrack. Candy, the gray welsh pony was missing an eye, a teenager with a BB gun had been responsible for that and there was Lydia the Belgium mare Bo had befriended. She was ten months pregnant and the tendon’s supporting her swollen stomach had given out. Her bulging belly, full of a nearly full term foal, nearly hung to the ground.

Not all of the horses were broken down, though. Many like Bo, himself were sound and sane and perfectly rideable. Duke could rope calves. Marietta, the brown and white paint, had been a trail mount, and the big gray Gulliver could jump tall fences. Milton was a fancy palomino and he’d been ridden in parades. An icy gust of wind sent a sudden shiver running through Bo’s heavy frame and the Shire gelding took a moment to make certain Lydia was close by. The mare was only a few feet to his right, staring out over the fence like he was. He nickered softly at her and she moved closer, her steps slow and sluggish. Bo sighed heftily on her account, he could sense her discomfort and weariness.

Bo turned his head and the pair of them touched noses and then Bo heard the sound of wheels coming down the dirt drive. Both horses looked to see a heavy duty truck pulling an extra tall horse trailer pull up in front of the white building. Lydia and Bo watched curiously as two people emerged from the truck. The shire was surprised to recognize both the smell and the form of the chubby man, with the nice voice from the auction barn. A much younger fellow walked around the front of the truck. He was tall and thin with shoulder length dark hair.

The older man turned and scanned the group of horses in the crowded paddock, He spotted Bo and pointed. The Shire horse jerked as if the man had poked him in the side. Bo lifted his proud head high and bugled a piercing greeting. The man’s face broke into a huge smile and the younger man was looking at him now. Someone emerged from the building and approached the younger man, who went to meet him. The round man started moving toward the enclosure and he had an extra-large halter in hand!

Bo shoved his way to the gate. Several horses had to scatter in the wake of his enthusiasm.

“Yer a lucky lad!” the auction house man crowed as soon as he grabbed the latch on the gate. He worked the rickety contraption open and Bo lowered his gigantic head to receive the halter. The round man chuckled loudly and gave the big Shire a sound affectionate thump on the neck.

Bo followed him willingly through the gate.

“Yep,” the man said, “Met a lad the day after you sold that was looking desperately for just such as you,” the round man told him. Bo swiveled an ear toward the fellow, listening intently as he walked carefully beside him.

“You’ve the prettiest manners,” the round man with the nice voice said, “Don’t have to fight ya to keep from getting’ stepped on.”

If Bo could have spoken he would have told the man just how good his training had been. The fellow that had come out of the awful, square building went back inside of it, without so much as a glance at the giant black Shire horse. Bo spared him a contemptuous snort and then turned his attention to the dark haired young man. His business with the other concluded, he was looking at Bo now.

“Watcha think? Oliver? I said he was a fine big lad,” the auction house man enthused as he brought Bo to a stop in front of Oliver. The young man whistled softly in an appreciative manner and Bo gave him his attention.

“Absolutely stunning,” Oliver approved, clear reverence in his tone. Bo stood himself up a little straighter and Oliver approached him with quiet steps and laid a hand on his neck.

“I can’t believe no one but the meat man wanted him,” Oliver shook his head and his words were sad as he eyed the big horse with compassion.

“Lotta good horses end up in the same fine pickle as him. I don’t even wanna look at what else is out there,” and the man jerked his head back toward the over crowed paddocks.

Oliver clucked his tongue and shook his head again, “Well we saved this one. Let’s get him loaded.” The auction man nodded and Bo stepped forward when he was asked.

The double doors of the trailer stood open, and Bo was just about to step up and in when a sad desperate whinny caught his attention. Bo stopped and turned his head. His companion was staring over the fence at him. Her chestnut coat was dull and her liquid brown eyes were tired and lifeless. Bo called back, his neigh telling her how sorry he was to leave her behind.

“God, that’s a sorry sight,” the round man said, peering under his neck to follow the gelding’s line of attention.

“There’s naught we can do for her,” he said in a gentle tone. “She’ll not survive the foaling anyhow,” the man added in a saddened voice, “Poor girl.” He flicked Bo’s lead and the Shire took one last look at his friend, the Belgium mare and then stepped up into the trailer with the round man. His lead was tied to a ring and then the auction man stepped out of the trailer and closed the doors securely behind the lucky horse.

The round man, whose name was Henry, met Oliver by the driver’s side door of the pick-up. Oliver was looking out at the doomed horses and his gaze fell on the chestnut draft horse mare.

“Dear, merciful God,” he murmured, “Whatever owner cast that poor creature off in the condition ought to be shot.”

 “Aye,” Henry agreed, “Ought to be a crime. It’s cruelty for sure.”

Oliver sighed heavily, “Let’s get out of this place. It’s depressing.”

Lydia stared as the two men got into the truck, one on each side. The engine rumbled to life and the dually was carefully backed around and turned down the drive. She watched long after the truck and the trailer with her friend in it were gone. After a while she uttered a final forlorn whinny and turned away from the fence. Inside her swollen belly the foal kicked. The big mare had a half-formed inclination that her child would not get to be born and that she and the rest of her companions, in this desolate cold place were under a sentence of death and she was not sorry that Bo had left. The big Belgium mare wandered slowly over to the nearest round hay bail and snatched a mouth full, resigned to her fate, at least she thought, her feet and spine wouldn’t hurt for very much longer.  She was terribly sore and tired.

 


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