He was as broken-down an old horseshoer as I had ever met, but by God could he shoe a horse. How he did it seemed to be some mystery acquired over a lifetime of bending over beneath a million horses and mules. And yet maybe there wasnt any
mystery at all. Maybe it was simply that over the course of those million or so animals hed lost the hesitation and doubt and fear the rest of us struggled with from time to time,and just got shoes on the damn thingsthough with as much beauty and skill as a guy could have ever hoped for.
I bring this up because the last time I saw the old man he crawled out from under a horse, pulled the pipe from his mouth, pointed its stem at my face, and said: Son, youre more dangerous to a horse at this point in your career than you are any good. If you take my advice, youll get your ass up to some pack station as far into the mountains as you can go. Get a hold of some guy that has sixty or seventy head of stock that needs
shoeing; some guy dont give a goddamn whether a shoe comes off now and then so long as youre there to nail it back on. You do that for two or three seasons, then maybe you can come down outa the hills and tackle some kids backyard pony without crippling it.
Well, of course I was hurt. Who ever likes to hear the truth, plainspoken and direct as it was, coming from the mouth of some lonely old fart who couldnt even stand up straight or take a healthy breath without coughing. Right then I did the only pride-saving thing that any young man would have done who had the sand to do what was right under the circumstances.
I took his advice.
Advisor:Phil Condon; Deirdre McNamer; Judy Blunt
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:03/02/2007