William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

THE HORSES OF WINTER

IWVPA Club Recognition of Outstanding Non-War Related Writing: December 30, 2010
Awarded: December 30, 2010
My Dad worked for a couple of winters up on the Kingsmere.
He cut logs off of the ski trails midst herds of white tailed deer
With his new double sleighs and new heavy harnesses too.
He used Swede saw and axe; he was a one-man falling crew.

Skidding the limbed logs up and out, to the cut sleigh trail shelf.
He cant-hooked the logs onto the double sleighs all by himself.
Along the trailside he hauled the logs up to the small lake.
Cant-hooking them off on the ice long before the spring break.

With shovel and wheelbarrow I cleaned out each horse stall.
I put down fresh bedding of clean yellow threshed straw.
Pushing forks filled with alfalfa from mow to the stable hall.
Then I filled all the mangers in front of each skidding horse’s stall.

Our three Skidding horses were heavy and they worked hard each day.
They had to be watered, given oat bags, and bundles of clean sweet hay.
Before school in the morning I chopped the ice hole open on the creek.
And I watered the skidding horses twice daily, seven days a week.

When I backed up each horse then in the cow byre yard I’d let him go.
He would gallop around the byre yard and then roll in the snow
After a visit to the open ice hole to let each horse drink his fill.
I curried them in each stall; oh I remember the neighs of pleasure still.

Ran the currycomb through each mane and along each tail too.
More quiet whinnies of pleasure before that chore was through.
Talk quietly to the ear, squeezing warble flies on each horse shank.
I stood on an orange crate and curry combed each horse’s flank.

I removed each skidding horse’s bridle and hung up each Gee and Haw bit.
Wheeling manure outside the stable, where onto a huge pile I’d dump it.
I woke up this morning: the news said the Gatineau Hills are filled with snow.
And I thought of our faithful skidding horses of more than sixty years ago.

Author’s Note: Horses like humans love a good back scratch and the curry comb brought great pleasure to these hard working beasts who helped us to earn our daily bread.

The days are short in winter so dad and the horses of winter went up the mountain while it was still dark and they came down when the light waned –-I threw down hay, filled the mangers and I cleaned out the stalls prior to Dad’s coming home for supper, Dad removed the collars and harnesses and I would then water the horses before going to the stable and using the curry comb by lantern light.

Sunday was a day of rest when Dad, after mass in our village, would oil the leathers on his harnesses, leather collars, lines, traces, belly bands, bridles – Grey One and Grey Two and Blackie, and my dog pal, and my pet pig porky are all just memories now, but they remain part of my childhood living in those beautiful Gatineau Hills of Canada’s Laurentian Mountains, after WW2.