Friday, May 23, 2008

Brass bands, Circus elephants, street savvy horses and the whole enchilada

(This Bud’s for you, Dusty.)

I was reminded yesterday of some of the eventful occurrences we occasionally have in the carriage trade. These things happen when you drive a vehicle who’s engine has it’s own agenda. Those of you who only drive an inanimate object (car/truck/motorcycle) can never know the joy of piloting your vehicle around town and having it suddenly decide, for reasons you simply cannot comprehend, that “It. Is. Done.” It lends a whole new meaning to “Having a breakdown.”

Our horses are not farm animals. They do not gaze upon a cow and shrug, thinking “Eh, it’s just a cow.” At this point in their career, if one of our equines saw a cow they would probably attempt to run away, screaming “I don’t know what the hell that is but I know IT’S GONNA EAT ME!”

This is a common theme with horses, and believe me, I understand. If my ancestors were used as food (and as far as I know none of my folk were in the Donner Party) I’d look at the world with a slightly skewed perspective also.

So while Busses, Harleys, the Trax train and bums trundling down the sidewalk pushing a shopping cart filled with all their worldly belongings that has a funny wheel which wobbles back and forth and makes that horrible squeaking noise are common place for them, some stuff puts them over the edge.

For example, Kid, who appears dead from the neck up, is a horse I would take to any weird or unusual event. I drove him onto the Football Field during West High’s Homecoming, in the rain, with a carriage full of The Royal Court, past a cheering crowd as we sank two inches into the water sodden grass. The condition of the field made it impossible for him to pull the carriage at a walk so he trotted, thus having us do the round at double speed. No problem, he’s a pro.

Yet Marky-Mark drove him a while back when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus was in town. They were down at the Gateway Mall, and Kid got his first look at a baby Elephant. Freaked the crap out of him. Why? Because IT WAS GONNA EAT HIM!

I drove our current mayor, Ralph Becker, in the Gay Pride Parade last summer in a borrowed wagonette pulled by the intrepid Max. The parade was rather boisterous. For the most part, nothing fazes Max. Yet several years ago on a windy evening a white plastic grocery sack was inflated like a balloon and kept hovering in front of him as we walked down West Temple. Not only did he stop dead, but he hit turbo reverse because he couldn’t recognize what it was and IT WAS GONNA EAT HIM!

Here’s a simple trick for you to use to experience how horses see. Our eyes are in the front of our face. Horses eyes are on the side of their face. Place the heel of your hand on your nose and your fingertips on your forehead. That blind spot? That’s their nose. Fun, huh? Now, walk around like that for the rest of your life. Double fun.

(A horse walks into a bar, the bartender says “Why the long face?” Ba-doop-boomp.)

I call Tony, one of my favorite horses (Shhhh, don’t tell Cletus) “Tony the Kittenhearted.” We already know he’s not a big fan of sparklers, but Brass Bands? Who knew.

Utah was one of the destinations for folks removed from the Katrina Disaster area. Two of the refugees fell in love and married. The reception started at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and ended up at Shaggy’s, a local bar. To get from point A to point B some brainiac decided that a horse drawn carriage, which they have in the French Quarter, would be appropriate. They also decided to incorporate a Dixieland Band and a Police Motorcycle escort. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in snake charmers, a 21 gun salute, and having the Salt Lake Symphony play the cannon part from “Wellington’s Victory.”

This cluster f*ck cacophony was more then poor Tony could handle, and his driver Mac, was watching her life flash before her eyes, ending in a smoldering heap of horse, carriage, driver, newlyweds and assorted brass instruments topped off by the slowly spinning wheel of an Electra Glide. I can’t remember who I was driving but they were not as tweaked by the mess, so I jerked my carriage in front of Mac, asked the cops to turn off their lights and give the parade more space. Mac was able to get far enough away from the marching band to get Tony to relax. A little. I think when she dropped them off they had to jump, tuck and roll.

I had a wedding once where the pickup was at Memorial House, in a quiet and beautiful park. It was July 24th, which here in Utah is “Pioneer Day”, a holiday bigger then Independence Day. While waiting for the bride and groom (late, as usual) two little girls in long white dresses accompanied by two yapping Schnauzers ran down the steps to see Charlie Horse. Apparently, Charlie thought that, yes, you guessed it, THEY WERE GONNA EAT HIM! So he started running in place, sparks flying off of his shoes, which was a thing I’d only seen in a cartoon. He jackknifed the carriage so bad that I stepped off of the left side onto the right shaft (for all you “straights", imagine the vehicle in a “V” formation, normally it would be in an “I”) I scampered up the shaft to his head and got him under control in time for someone to set off bottle rockets from the street above us. The Newlyweds had wanted a white carriage, which is what I drive. I was aware that just about the time we would be on Main street enroute to their hotel destination there was going to be a fireworks display at the Gallavan center, which we would be passing.

Holy crap.

I mentioned this to the couple, and the bride said “Oh, that’s so nice! It’s like they’re doing it just for us!”

Uh, yeah…

So, being that Charlie was now on the bubble, and not wanting their wedding day to turn into their date of death, when I got back downtown I swapped them out of my carriage into ~A~’s, which was white, and she finished off their ride. She had a brain dead horse who didn’t mind fireworks.

Potential disaster averted.

As a final note I will say that our horses do not all act like tweaking crack junkies from hell. During the Christmas Season traffic is usually awful. Being that we have a business to run, we have to look for holes in the mess and wind our way around Temple Square. Soon, you notice that the horses look for holes. On their own. They will cut someone off and squeeze into a spot, decide to take the sidewalk, or, in Tony’s case, get road rage and start slamming their bit into the trunk deck of the car in front of them to get them to move. It’s the horse equivalent of a horn. Car owners are usually not amused. But it’s okay with me. They know their job, and do it very well.

As long as you’re not in front of them, surrounded by a band, waving sparklers and grocery sacks, riding a baby elephant. With Schnauzers.

And now, I will turn the floor over to * B *.

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