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  • KDW Ferrell

Putty Peeps Diaries - A Horse in Manhattan?

New York City, the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the home of Broadway and the Yankees, the city on an island surrounded by Burroughs, yes folks this little Peep took a trip to NYC.

There are so many people in this tiny area. Rolling along the streets, my tin in hand, I was struck by how people move together like schools of fish. Like Krill swimming in the ocean, the crowd surges forward at the corners of streets, dodging in between cars as if they were avoiding hungry sharks. Each block the crowd rolls forward en masse leaving stragglers to be cut off from the group by yellow cabs darting like mackerel diving in and out of the swarm. I rolled along the streets allowing the crowd to carry me to my destination.

My destination was is a living landmark in New York. A tree may grow in Brooklyn but horses live in Manhattan. Yes, horses with swishing tails, and feather plumes in their bridles pulling carriages. At the edge of Central Park an institution neighing and swishing, clipping and clopping around the lane providing a spot of romance apart from the crowds awaits anyone with cash in hand.

Julie and Dimples were our guides through the park, past the fountains, and ponds, through the lanes and over the woods on a tour of the greenery in NYC. Julie had long dark hair flowing in the wind and a gait that could put any dancer to shame. Dimples, a nickname because no one could pronounce her name, did the driving and Julie did the walking. The rhythm of Julie’s feet on the pavement was calming, much like the sound of the waves on rocks. It is magic.

As I watched Julie and Dimples drive away I wondered what Julie does after work. Where does she go to unwind? Is there a paddock that serves her favorite blend of grain? Where does she stretch her legs? Where does she sleep? I kept watching Julie and Dimples, marking their progress down the street until they neared the corner, turned around, crossed the street and made their way to the end of the line. Cueing up waiting to take someone else through the magic that is the park at night.

I felt myself roll forward. I wanted to rush over and say “take me again.” I wanted to whisper “take me and once inside I will set you free.” I wanted to release Julie from her bondage. Then I thought what would Julie do? Where would she sleep? Would sleeping in the park be better than where she sleeps now?

Dimples would say no, because by law Julie must have a stall large enough to turn around and lie down in. Dimples would say Julie gets five weeks of vacation each year at a stable with a paddock or a pasture turnout. “I don’t get that much vacation,” Dimples would lament. Dimples would assure anyone that “Julie seems comfortable with her lot.”

But Julie is flesh and blood, heart and lungs and working in a city that runs on an under current of frustration seems a dangerous place for a horse pulling a carriage. The weather for our ride this evening was a cool 68 degrees, a beautiful fall evening. Julie did seem content. Yet, I wondered would her black mane hold in the heat during the dog days of summer?

I remember looking at the park over Julie’s head and I wondered what the world looks like from Julie’s point of view. Pulling a carriage full of camera ladened humans in all weather extremes, dodging traffic, pounding pavement and breathing exhaust fumes seems intolerable. I wondered if Julie has developed respiratory ailments from sucking down exhaust fumes all day, every day for 47 weeks a year. I wondered if her walk was a result of leg problems from walking on pavement and other hard surfaces. I remembered her stopping to drink water at the start of our ride and I wondered if Julie had ever been so thirsty she thought she might faint in the heat and humidity.

I wondered if Julie had ever been startled on her rides or worse had she been injured or hurt, had she ever wanted to run away because she was so scared. I wondered if Julie had ever seen one of her friends killed by an impatient driver who just could not wait for one more damn minute. I felt some solidarity with Julie, more so than with Dimples. I am not sure why but I understand Julie‘s plight, her daily struggle, the monotony of her existence and the powerlessness of her being a strong work horse. Dimples, I assume has a family to support and that is why she uses Julie, owns Julie, and I hope, cares for Julie. As I sit in my tin I wonder if Julie would be better off somewhere other than Manhattan.

There are rumors that horse drawn carriages are on their way out, too many incidents (a sanitized way of saying horses have died) and too many people complaining about the traffic congestion the carriages cause during busy times. The proposal is for electric open air cars. See the Tavern on the Green while going green. Not a very catchy slogan. With eco cars there is far less to worry about, no need to hide from the media horses dying of heat stroke.

I am not sure how I feel about the proposal. I am attached to Julie and her friends. My very first carriage ride in NYC a few years ago I experienced fire flies for the first time. It was a magical site, one I thought was just a construct of TV or movie magic. I had no idea the creatures were real. Each time my tin rolls back into town I want to recapture that magic and catch another glimpse of the tiny creatures. Tonight was the first time I thought about the mode of transport as anything that could have feelings, or deserve a vacation. Looking at the whole thing from Julie‘s eyes I think the next time I come back I will see the park from a different vantage and will support the retirement of Julie and her friends. Perhaps they can return to the Amish countryside where so many of them hail and live out their days in peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle breathing in flowers and hay and chasing fire flies all day.

Sleep well Julie, dream of green pastures, sacks of grain, cool ponds, trees, and a land without cars.

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