Hay and Straw for the Animals

By Seumas

This picture is my Grandfather holding the Clydesdale horse; next to the horse is the oldest brother Uncle Tommy. In front of my Grandfather is Uncle Nicol; he is the third child as you can see he always wore a tie every day of his life, and last but not least, my Father James the fourth child.  There were three others: Auntie Annie the second oldest Uncle Adam, who was named after Grandfather and the youngest Auntie Mary.

Here's another story from my father.  When he was a young man, he worked on a farm in Midlothian on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I wont mention the name, as it's still there.  I don’t know the exact date, but it must have been round about 1935.  One day the farmer said to my father, "You and the lad there load up the big cart with half straw and the rest hay and deliver it to Corstorphine Zoo in the town". 

They loaded up the merchandise and of they drove with two horses in hand.  It was Armistice Day and they set off early in the morning.  It took several hours to travel all that way. They reached Hay Market around about eleven o’clock, when the police constable stopped the traffic.  My father realised it was the two-minute silence.  He told the boy lets get off the cart, remove your hat and keep quiet for the two-minute silence.  After that the policeman waved them on and nodded as they passed, acknowledging their effort of respect.  They reached the Zoo in good time but the lions were making a terrible racket and roaring.  "What’s wrong?" said the boy.  

"I don’t know," said my father, "but I think the horses are frightened and restless, and they can smell and hear the lions."  

"Take off you jacket," said my father.

"Why?" said the boy.

"Just do it".  My father removed his as well.  He told the boy keep a tight rain, hold firm and I will take care of the horses.  My father jumped down from the cart.  He put his jacket over the head of one horse and tied the sleeves around its neck then tied the other jacket onto the other horse the same way.  He took both horses by the halters, grasped the reins, pulling their heads down and whispered in their ears  and walked the team up to the Zoo’s dispatch yard.  When they arrived the Zookeepers said thank goodness someone’s made it the rest turned back.  My father said what’s going on such a commotion.  One of the Zookeepers said the female lions are in season and we have separated the male lion into another enclosure and he is not pleased at all.  The young boy pipes up "why?"

The keeper said we have enough lions, it's alright when the cubs are with their mothers, and they feed them milk. But when they grow up a bit they need meat and that’s expensive.  Plus when they are fully-grown we need to find new homes for the young males. 

"Why?" said the lad.  

"Because the old male lion will kill them, or they will challenge him for pride of place."

My father said time to go.  When they arrived back at the farm my grandfather was laughing.  My father asked what’s so funny?  You will see, son, and laughed again. Just then the farmer appeared.  Just the fellow I have purchased a new horse for my daughter’s birthday Saturday.  Bring out the new horse.  My father gasped it’s a stallion and it must be at least sixteen hands anyway.  

The farmer said, "what do you think of that beast?"  

"It's big its very tall indeed, your daughter’s only ever ridden a small pony or a donkey."  

This is true; I want you to try him first.  So up I got and mounted the horse.  The farmer said, "try him round the field".  We cantered around the outside perimeter; it felt good, not so bad I thought.  "Work him up and down," said the farmer. 

My father said he a fine horse and he handles like a dream.  The farmer then decided run him down to the bottom off the field, turn him around and gallop back up I want to see how he performs.  "Off I went," said my father, down the bottom, turned round and got into a gallop.  Halfway up I saw the horse's ears prick up.  He started towards the five bar gate at the top off the field.  I pulled on the rains and tried to steady him, "easy boy," I said, but he had other intentions. 

It was then I realised this horse is a jumper.  He took off, cleared the five bar gate with ease.  But I went flying over his head and landed on the ground. I still held onto the rains though, just as well or he might have galloped away and gotten hurt.  The others ran up to see if I was all right.  The farmer said this animal is far too high spirited for my wee girl and I can see why I bought him so cheaply.  He goes back tomorrow.  The boy was told by the farmer rub the horse down with liniment and I think maybe Jim as well.  Everyone laughed at my expense.