The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

How Not To Bury A Dead Horse

By Ernest F. Reynolds © 1991

Issue: March, 1991

The powerful wagon teams hauling freight throughout mountainous terrain were passing into oblivion in the second quarter of this century. "Big E," my Uncle, drove, seated high above a matched span of Blue Percherons which he reluctantly replaced with a truck. No work and much oats made the horses frisky. Capering wildly, big Fred collided with an auto, breaking his leg. Leg breaking is a fatal kind of illness for a horse - its cure is a single bullet. Near a huge maple tree in a creek bottom, Fred was given last rites, right between the eyes.

To Crit Smith, his former groom, the bereaved owner let a two dollar contract for interment. A week later an Italian miner came complaining, "Ima tella you, if Mr. Crit donta bury dat hors, we gonna hafta move. Heesa fast rot, dat hors."

"Who's going to rot, you yammering Tally learn to speak or go back to Italy," my uncle told him.

"Ima happy to maka da trip. Crit no bury dat hors we all hafta go. Flyza so bad, can noa see da hors no Mr. Crit."

My flabbergasted uncle said, "Come Ernie, let's go stop this yapping." We found Crit highly demoralized. He had begun to dig hard by the base of the maple.

His blistered hands oozed water from inflamed blisters. "I'll bury Old Fred if I wear my arms off to their stinking pits," he blubbered.

Uncle turned to a group of rapidly assembling miners and said, "Let's get some tools and give Crit a hand with his horse." They bustled about, starting far away from the tree's roots, they hastily dug the grave. Chopping off his legs, he toppled in. Fred toppled, not my uncle or Crit.

With painfully sore hands, Crit withdrew the Two Spot from his bib, and passed it back to my uncle who had paid him in advance. Where do you find good help like Crit now-a-days? Uncle declined the offer; plying Crit generously from a stone demijohn, then salved the lad's hands with soothing black axle grease. Crit insisted on buying the diggers a short beer.

Brewed in Huntington, West Virginia, Rockwood beer was five cents per shorty. With his painfully sore hands Crit presented the two dollar bill. A roar went up! Sixteen brawny miners clamored and fought for that tab.

The Tally wasn't having difficulty being understood. With bare knuckles and elbows he cleared the way. Waving the tab on high, he took a low sweeping bow, danced a jaunty hornpipe and said, Treata Mia."

To paraphrase Kipling, "I'll meet them later on. In that land where they be gone. I'll have a frosty brew. With all that motley crew. And I hope I'll show real class..." Like Crit and Tally.