When Queen and I were about 14, Dad found an old "one horse open sleigh". Ooooh boy! Now a sleigh, like a convertible, has a certain attraction to it for girls and I found if ya hang a kerosene lantern under the seat on a hook and put a horse blanket over Your knees, the only thing that gets cold is yer nose! Well, until Queen went blind she was the horse that "knows the way back home".
Sadly, about 16 Queen lost the sight of both eyes, not an unusual occurrence for Percherons but, none the less, sad. I don't know why she lost her sight and neither did the vets. You knew, that's just the way it is.
If you think Queen retired, your wrong. All she needed then was a word, a taut line or some indication of direction to go. She was never lost although she occasionally got momentarily confused.
I watched many times when she was in her teens and twenties when the horses would come in midday for a drink of water in the barn. The pasture was on the other side of a small stream over which there was an earthen bridge. Tiny, a Hackney filly I had, would come out of the pasture and stand on the bridge. Queen would come high stepping down the hill, snorting her way to Tiny. When Queen was immediately behind, Tiny would move across the bridge and to the watering trough in the barn and that poor blind beauty would heave a sigh of relief and walk directly to the barn and the water. Ya gotta live with them.
In 1959, she was 39 years old and the picture of health. Then she began to be unable to get up and we would lift her with block and tackle repeatedly. No one wanted to call the vet to "put her down"; she was an institution and a close member of our family. The vet finally came with his needle and the man came with his truck. They were alone, none of us could be there. Certainly the farm operations had changed by then but, somehow, Queens presence kept the spirit alive. When she left, an era passed never to be recaptured. May she rest in peace.
Then there was Old Dick. He was also black and was his own man. Oh sure, he worked, in the lead, on the off side and would even work alone. He had several intense dislikes. Strangely the two things he couldn't stand was sheepskin on him, anywhere, and Negroes. Well maybe. He had been worked in a coal mine by two colored men who, rumors had it, rather mistreated the animal. The mine entry was about six feet high, but lower in some places. Occasionally the horse would hit his withers against a low place, so to protect him the guys put a sheepskin on his withers.
We used sheepskins around the farm a lot; usually to cover the metal seats of the mowing machine, binder, hay rake or cultivator and when the machine was in the field, we used the sheepskin on the horses back, to and from the field and the barn.
Homer Greer was going to cultivate corn one day, the cultivator was in the field. He put the sheepskin on Old Dick, the lead horse, and right smartly he mounted. His immediate dismount wasn't nearly as athletically executed, however, he managed to stay in approximately the same position on the ground as he had been, a moment before, on the horse. Old Dick didn't open his mouth and laugh, but he giggled.