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Emjay is a slightly troublesome Vox neighbour of mine.

In a nice way.  She regularly publishes gorgeous photographically illustrated accounts of life in her town which occupy far too much of my time and limited solar power in viewing admiration, and occasionally they also send me scurrying back on nostalgic journeys into my past.
Such was the case when she included the picture of a draught horse in a photo documentary.

When we first moved to GOF's Paradise, I desperately wanted the first farm animal resident to be a draught horse.  Unfortunately it was going to cost several thousand dollars at a time when we were earning considerably less than $100 per week, so the dream did not come true.  

Until the late 1960's, suburban Melbourne still had the "Milko"; 
Vendors with draught horses pulling drays, home delivering milk in glass bottles with silver foil lids which would regularly occasion fingerly harm when us kids attempted to open them incorrectly.

The Agricultural College I attended was built on 6000 acres, at least 20 miles away from any town.  It had, in effect, its own self sufficient little township of Currawa housing all the 100 staff necessary to operate such an esteemed institution, along with their families.

Occasionally our student work roster would have us out of bed before 5 am to prepare Pip the draught horse, reverse her into the 4 wheeled milk cart harness, load bottled milk from the farm dairy, and home deliver it according to the written list of recipients we were given.

It mattered not if, in the dark, we could not identify which house belonged to whom.  Pip knew from all her years of experience on the job, and she would only stop at the houses which needed milk delivered.

Whilst clopping along between houses she would perform an equine rectal extravaganza;
Farts (and sometimes more) of such depth and richness, magnitude and frequency, that they provided top shelf comedic entertainment for teenage boys.

Most of us loved Pip.
Draught horses are the Dalai Lama's of the animal world.
They are gentle in deed and thought.
They are, quite simply, beautiful animals.

Pip died in 1967.
Her death brought a sorrowfull pall of gloom over the whole campus and community.
A sadness that I can still recall after all this time with almost as much clarity as that which followed the assassination of JFK in the same decade.

Pip was one of the greatest ambassadors for animals I ever knew.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

17 responses »

  1. LOL – there you go drawing attention to me at a time I do a shallow post on a shoe and dress drama! My grandmother, who lived in town, had a milko – when I was very young he did his rounds with a horse and then moved up to a funky little van. I loved staying with her – it was a special treat to peel those tops off. On the other hand town kids loved to come and stay with me where we got the milk straight from a teat!

  2. None of your posts are shallow… provide us with a unique insight into life in your part of the world.I think even the motorised milk vendors have gone now… Cairns at least.There is an interesting trend back towards "boutique" dairies producing cheeses and yoghurts, and the Govt is even considering relaxing the strict pasteurisation regulations which previously prevented dairy farmers from selling milk products direct to the public.

  3. We have a photo of my Dad ploughing a paddock, just after WWII and he is using two clydesdale horses to pull the plough. He was ploughing the field and a professional photographer stopped by the side of the road and asked if he could take Dad's photo and he then sent Dad a copy. It so caught Dad's essence that we used it on the front of the mass booklet at his funeral. We all have copies now and I have mine framed and in a spot were I see it everyday.

  4. That's a wonderful recollection GOF, your (and Emjay's) stories never fail to amuse or enthrall me. Pip sounded like a wonderful companion, and as a horserider in days of yore myself, I can completely understand the temptation to guffaw incessantly at the veritable anal gunfire from the rear ends of these beasts.
    Incidentally, the milk bottles with foil tops – we had those here when I was a lad too, albeit perhaps a smidgen shorter in time than when you were a lad – and to avoid 'foil-finger' we used to attack said bottle with elbow. If you can find one of these foil top bottles anywhere I suggest you give it a try. With arm straight, lay elbow so bone is within the confines of the bottle top. Clench fist and bend arm as if performing a forearm curl. You will find bottle top fully compressed and able to be deftly flipped off with a thumb as if tossing a coin. Oh, I must add. Make sure you've paid for the milk before opening it…

  5. My great grandfather was the coal merchant who supplied and delivered to the Rochdale and Littleborough (Lancashire mill towns) areas back at the beginning of the 20th century and we've got some fantastic pics of him with the coal carts and the beautiful shires and clydesdales that pulled them. It's part of my 'when I win millions on the Euromillions lottery' plan – buy a house with a lot of land and breed shires. Not for profit, not for riding, for no other reason than to admire their strength and beauty and appreciate their gentle temperament.

  6. Thanks for this, GOF. My old Dad would have loved it. He had a horse team that he used to clean out dams on farms, and then later to grade roads. In his later years he once said to me that he'd love to have a horse team again. Sadly, I don't have any photos of him with his team.

  7. Draught horses are the Dalai Lama's of the animal world.While we just used mules for beasts of burden on our farm, my dad grew up using Percherons and Clydesdales, amongst some others…those were the family's favorite breeds for work horses, though. šŸ™‚

  8. Thank you for bringing forth fond memories.And thank you FD for sharing such a wonderful cherished memory of yours.I recently acquired from my cousin a collection of slides taken by my dad who was a keen photographer during and after the war, so I understand how important the photograph must be to you.

  9. Thank you PG for sharing your recollections and some "new" technology for attacking silver foil lids…..maybe I'll try it out in the supermarket first just to make sure I have perfected the art :-)The behaviour of the draught horses at college contrasted with that of the stock mustering horses that we had to ride. The latter hated students. They would amble out to the back blocks in the morning, then in the afternoon they would turn around and go like bats outta hell to come back home scaring the shit out of us by galloping with our dangling legs within a gnats whisker of all the barbed wire fences.

  10. Thank you Vicola….I hope your dream comes true.It is really heartening to find others who share my respect for these wonderful animals, and I am sure a lot of the UK's industrial strength which developed over the last couple of centuries was achieved with a big contribution from horse power.

  11. Thank you Snowy. Writing the story brought back so many memories for me, and, doing a search for a suitable picture I found some fabulous photos of Clydesdales hooked up to little carts, ploughs, sleds and all manner of implements.Thank goodness some people choose to keep these old skills alive.

  12. I can see you have happy memories of these animals too m-t.Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Amazing tribute to Pip. Draft horses are the best. Agricultural College is a noble endeavor. I think every child should learn how their food is grown – how else can one say they are truly independent?
    Lovely post!!

  14. It certainly was. During the industrial revolution these amazing, beautiful animals worked in the fields to feed the growing population, delivered the coal to heat homes and stoves, delivered milk to keep the workers strong and healthy, pulled the canal barges that took coal to the factories and mills to power the new machinery and took the finished goods to port for export or town for sale. Without them none of it would have been possible and we owe them a great deal.What amazes me is that we are letting some of the old breeds, like the Suffolk Punch, die out because now their sheer strength isn't required, people want smaller, lighter riding horses. Not me. Actually, if you're ever in the Lake District, look up 'Cumbrian Heavy Horses'. They are a farm that do rides out across the scenic lakes and beaches on shires.

  15. I mentioned briefly to Snowy that we are indebted to the many individuals and groups all around Australia who devote their time to preserving the old breeds as well as the skills required to use them as working horses. No doubt you have like-minded folk in the UK too. I love the idea of horse adventures around the Lake District.There are some tour operators in rural Australia who hire out draught horses with covered- wagon type caravans attached for people to travel the back roads and have a "slow" holiday……I quite like that idea, and maybe that will be the key to retaining the old horse breeds into the future.Thanks also for adding to my knowledge of the history of horses in the UK.

  16. Thank you for your kind words Ellie.The 3 years at Ag college, for better or worse, shaped the adult I was to become.Farming, will always be to me the most honorable of professions, however I also recognise that it should not be immune to criticism.Many of the farming practices we were taught in the 1960's have proven to be unsustainable…..especially irrigation and the use of so many chemicals, but to the credit of everyone involved these errors are slowly being corrected.It also gives me a great deal of pleasure to see vegetable gardening being introduced into the curriculum of many schools in Australia.

  17. Your writing brought back those long-ago memories, thank YOU.


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