Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Traveling Man

"It was a dark and stormy night...". That classic opening line suits this little tale.
At dusk on Saturday evening, with angry clouds boiling down from the mountains, the wind moaning, my son-in-law phoned from next door. "Look out your front door, there's a sheep wagon headed toward town."
I headed outside with my camera and tried to focus through the swirling grey-green dusk on a slowly moving conveyance which did, indeed, appear to be a horse-drawn sheep wagon. A yellow warning light blinked dully from atop the lurching wagon while a pickup truck with 4 way flashers on alert, crawled behind. We voiced the concern that surely this little entourage must stop soon for the night rather than risk travel in dark and storm.
On Monday when I mentioned this sighting to my friend at work, she told me that the fellow and his horses had set up camp in the parking lot of a discount store on the north edge of town. Curious, I drove there on Tuesday and a bit diffidently approached, camera in hand.
Two men sat on folding chairs in the shade provided by the wagon and an attached trailer. This close I could see that while the wagon had the classic shape of those still used here by sheepherders, it was one of a kind.
"May I take photos of your horses?" I asked. "We watched you passing on the highway below our house when you came into town." The younger man gave gracious permission while the older, a slender gentleman with white hair and beard, watched, eyes bright in his tanned and leathery face.
We had a few moments of pleasant conversation, about places we both have traveled. I inquired if the horses were Belgians and was told that they are Suffolks, "An English draft breed that dates back to the Magna Carta. The animal control people have been here to make sure my horses are not being abused. " A wry smile accompanied this statement, as though it was a situation encountered before. The big horses, hides clean and shining, were tethered to the back of the supply cart, munching their hay. Drums of water stood nearby. No sign of manure, no flies anywhere around them.
I wished the man a safe journey and as I turned to leave, he added, "I don't talk much about myself, but if you'd like to know more, be sure you have a photo of my sign. You can visit the website which a friend has made."
This afternoon as my daughter and I drove home from grocery shopping, we met the traveling man headed out on the next phase of his journey. Having read his story I had hoped he would still be here this evening. I missed the opportunity to offer anything to help him on his chosen way.
If you would like to read more about Lee the horse logger, here is the link to his website.


  1. What a brilliant encounter! Suffolk Horses are indeed rare, and it's good to hear he has a stallion to breed with/from. I was absolutely amazed to hear that they were coping barefoot with all that work - only needing boots now and again. I was fascinated by this, and looked up the Suffolk Horse website over here:

    Hope you find it of interest.

  2. BB, Thanks so much for dropping by--you are an encouragement. I will be looking up the website for the Suffolk Horses. I wonder if they were a presence in upstate NY when my grandfather was a teamster for the lumber company.
    Lee's horses were more elegant and sleek than my photos could capture.