On A Rainy Day

Ellie S. Thomas


© Copyright 2011 by  Ellie S. Thomas

Photo of a blacksmith shoeing a horse.

     Day followed sunny day in the countryside where adults truly worked from sunrise to sunset. Then suddenly it all changed, ushered in by a violent thunderstorm in the early evening. Weatherwise old timers were not surprised; they had observed the 'thunderheads' piling up over the mountaintops to the south. Lightning crackled and thunder rumbled. The old dog whined piteously and tried to crawl under the day bed. Whenever the outdoors was lighted momentarily the horses could be seen with their backs to the lashing rain.
    "This is good for the garden," Hermie announced with satisfaction.
     "Better now than when you're haying," Bernie agreed doubtfully, thinking of the day ahead with the kids all indoors. She was right, too, because daylight showed the rain continuing, the rooms a ghostly grey.  'Oh, well, life goes on,' she thought as she prepared her 'sponge.' Today would be a good day for baking bread. A bit on the cool side, the heat would  feel good and the fragrant odor would be cheery.
    Hermie had retired to the barn shortly after breakfast.  Today he would mend the harnasses and gear.  The children busily made a train out of the chairs, pursing their lips and making chuffing noises for the engine. Wesley was conductor with Gramp's old cap crowning his tow head, Mary was a passenger; Mike, the oldest, was always engineer because he was the only one yet who could whistle. They played at this for the better part of the morning unil it began to pall. Mary retired to the upstairs and her dolls while the  boys joined their father in the barn.
     Lunch time came and the family gathered around the circular oak table now laden with steaming victuals.  Mary banged on the partition wall for Granpa to come and heard his muffled response on the other side.  Impatiently Hermie seated himself and the others followed suit. Scarcely had the food been swallowed when there were the sounds of a vehicle entering the yard.  Hermie sat his cup down with a splash and went out onto the porch.
     "Hello, Paul," he was heard to say. "Aren't you lost up here today?"
     Their eyes asking permission of their mother, the children rushed outside also.  It was the farrier!  Eagerly they crowded around the jitney with its cunningly contrived smithy on the back end.  The travelling farrier might only come once in a summer unless he'd been specially summoned, so his visits were always a welcome break in the monotony.  Eyes not missing a detail,  the youngsters weaved in and out between the conversing men trying to avoid being stepped on and keeping out of the way as they'd been warned to countless times before.  Grandpa wandered outside, picking his teeth.
     "Hello, Paul."
     Paul answered politely, pausing to inquire of the old man regarding health, garden, etc.  Soon all the men were on their way to the barn, children stringing along like a gaggle of geese.  The farrier backed his truck right up to the barn door. Grandpa guided him along with vague and useless hand gestures which Paul observed gravely.  Paul thanked the old man kindly and then stepped into the barn to assess the work to be done on the horse's feet. Calmy he rapped the great beast on the knees to make him 'pick up.'
     The children held their breath. What daring!  He was a brave man to approach a strange animal so casually; didn't everyone know a horse was lethal from either end?    The man acted unconcerned as he pumped up his fire with a pair of bellows.  The children gazed at the glowing embers and watched the iron shoes turn red-hot and then take on a white glow.  The children jumped when he seized the shoe with a pair of great tongs, pounded it into the desired shape, then threw the shoe into a pail of cooling water where it settled to the bottom with a loud hiss. He heated and cooled repeatedly, fitting shoes now and again against a hoof. When he was satisfied, he began nailing them on  with funny, square-sided nails. The nails came out through the top side of the hoof!  The children waited for the horse to make agonized protest but Prince merely reached into the manager for another mouthful of hay.
     Paul closely inspected the soles of the feet.  He now bent his back towards the horse's head, holding one hind foot between his knees as he pounded on it.  The hoof had to be pared down.
     Paul selected an instrument from the pile of rasps and pliers which lay strewn beneath his feet. He nipped a big crescent chunk from the horse's hoof.  Next, using the rasp, he filed all the edges smoothly and turned over the ends of any nails that were poking through.
     The day wore on and the animal was eventually shod.  The rain had ceased and the sun had come out unheralded until the job was finished. Paul picked up his tools and straightened his back.  Pushing his hat back on his head, he emerged from the stall.
    "Well, the sun's come out,"  he observed.  "Guess its going to be a nice day afer all."

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