1
January
2009

My Father Was A Farrier

 

My father was a Farrier.  He traveled to farms as far as a hundred miles away from our humble, Washington home to shoe horses. It wasn’t uncommon for dad to leave early in the morning before the sun was up. I can remember as a small boy I always wanted to go along on the weekends. Finally when I was big enough to help out, dad would wake me on those frosty, cold, dark mornings with a cup of black coffee and a breakfast that a lumberjack would have had trouble eating.

 

“You have to fill your tank if you’re going to come with me” he would say and though my appetite had not woke up yet I would sleepily eat as much as I could until dad said it was enough. Then we would make our way out of the dimly lit farm house to his 56 ford truck loaded with his anvil, leather chaps and tools and hit the road.  Those drives were quiet and reflective moments looking back; I often tried to imagine what I would be when I grew up. Would I be a Farrier like my father? As I recall I would always imagine myself in much more daring jobs, like fireman, football player or maybe the president.

 

Today we were going to the city of Redmond which was hosting a week long rodeo; a much awaited event for folks in the area. Dad said that when the rodeo came to town every horse owner within a hundred miles wanted their horses shod. Dad was always there, he never turned anyone down. His gentle hand, kind voice and steady manner made him a natural with the horses and a favorite of their owners. This particular day dad was to shod 25 horses.

 

 Steadily and surely dad started the day, as the sun started to peak over the horizon, only straightening his bent body to move from one quarter of the horse to the other or to adjust the shoe with a few loud whacks from his hammer.

 

 When he would finish one horse the ranch hand was there with the next, and all day long this steady pace continued. Dad never looked away from his work, and my job was to keep him in nails and to hold the horses still and talk to them while dad quickly and efficiently shod them.

 

 The horses seemed to know that what dad was doing was important; for the most part they stood patiently letting his gentle touch reassure them that they were in good hands.

 

The only problem we ever ran into was when we would get a horse that had never been shod before. They were always a little shy of having their legs pulled up off the ground for long periods of time. Dad would speak softly to these young horses, telling them words I couldn’t quite hear but their effect was calming to the horses. The young horses stood wide eyed and listened to my dads’ voice as he quietly reassured them from each quarter and with each nail in their brand new set of shoes.

 How funny it was to watch the newly shod young horses take their first steps in their new shoes. They would lift their feet up high; almost over their own backs trying to figure out what had happened.  After a few minutes they got used to the new feeling and settled down. The horse would be taken by the ranch hand and turned out into a wide corral where the other newly shod horses were. As each horse was turned loose the other horses would meet it and sniff their new shoes and whinny and snicker as if saying welcome to the club and then together they would trot around the corral with their heads high and their tales flagging in the air. It was a beautiful sight.  Finally dad reached the end of his work. The sun had been down for hours and I knew that dad was exhausted. He hadn’t stopped for lunch all day, and even with his pocket full of cash we didn’t stop to eat all the way home. When we did finally get home mom had a delicious hot meal waiting, with great gallons of iced tea with which dad could refresh himself. That’s the way my dad made a living all my childhood, never complaining about back aches I know must have plagued him, never complaining about the long drive, always thankful for Sunday- his only day off.  In his calm, conservative way he instilled in me the wish to do my work completely, without complaint and without fail.

 

Today is his birthday and I wanted to say:

Thanks Dad. 

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