Oddly, I got to meet Bill & Bob, the pair of Percherons owned by Bernie & Sue Samson today.
Otherwise, my time here has been entirely caught up with IANASK, but I’d run out of BARGE contact adhesive and attempts by others to get me supplies had failed. However, my happy intern Ben managed to track down a (fairly) local supplier.
An hour later (following several u-turns on roads that were unseen by sat nav) we turn into Samson’s farmstead.
I’m in another era.
We conduct business… two tubes, $5 each.
But this is not a store in the regular sense of that, it’s a harness makers, an authentic draft horse harness makers.
Foot pedal tools are arranged in efficient rows… each one with a precise task.
Tables where specialist, time honoured procedures of cutting , forming, joining leather, takes place… each with wood handled cutting tools on slatted shelves in easy reach.
And the smell… tanned leather and saddle soap. Wonderful!
Bernie takes an interest in why I want BARGE… on explaining what I do, he tells me of the movies which he’s provided the correct horse-wear for, and the ones – which he didn’t, that got it wrong.
He recognises in me, someone with a little knowledge, but a large interest, which he rewards with a trip to the other barn… in which, is his collection of fully restored draft vehicles, that include a dump truck.
Every purposed road & off-road vehicle that exists now, had a specialised horse drawn equivalent… right down to the type of springing… a prairie wagon would not work on cobbled streets, a landau would disintegrate trying to cross a plain,
a stagecoach’s harness loosely held the fours or sixes, so that if one stumbled, it could recover and not pull down the others, while a carriage from old Europe’s capitols would have the horses harnessed tight in for aesthetic reasons as much as anything else.
I am happy to drink in this freely given knowledge and see at close quarters that which he’s devoted himself too since 1975.
He has one final treat… we leave the barn and go to the fence. Bernie whistles and from out of the copse at the top of the hill, two black shapes canter… his heavy horse. A gorgeous matched pair of Percherons.
16.2, beasts send up powder snow clouds, as they obey the call… their blackness like voids in the white landscape.
In moments, though etched in my mind as if years, they are at the fence… and soft mouths nibble my outstretched hand.
They are huge and the last remnants of this mornings snowfall sits atop coarse winter coats from wither to croup.
“Don’t they feel the cold?”
“No” Bernie answers, “These animals originated on the Mongolian Steppes, it’s the heat which affects them. It was minus thirty last night… they were fine.”
I could stay here a long time… maybe learn harness making, eventually carriage driving.
But no, that’s another life… in this one I need to return to the odd world of making movies.
We thank him and his gracious wife and make to leave. He puts into my hand a pair of brass, stamped bridle insignias, I look at them… finally, I’m in the US cavalry.
“Man’s best friend is the dog, but man’s best work animal is the horse, not a human”. Bernie Samson