Old Prince
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 by Frank Shortt
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        There are mighty animals that stand out among their kind. Some of these are renowned for their deeds and deserve to be memorialized. Such was Grandpa Addison’s horse, Prince.
        Prince stood about fifteen hands tall, and must have weighed about a thousand pounds. He was sturdy, dependable, gentle with children, and could pull well over his weight. He was probably a quarter-horse, bred for strength and endurance. He pulled his load alongside much stronger mules and horses of all kith and kin.
        Sled loads of new mown hay or dried oats were no heavy load for Prince, even with Grandchildren helping to hold down the load. He would pull us into the center of the log barn atop Shack Ridge, where Grandpa and Curtis, the strong one, would unload the hay. We were careful not to get punctured by the pitchforks stuck into the sides of the hay to have handy at the unloading. On steep hillsides Prince would stretch out to tow the load showing his wonderful muscles hardened by years of labor of this kind. We loved to see the ripple of Curtis’ muscles. He could pick up enough of a load on an oak-handled pitchfork to snap it in two. He kept Grandpa busy replacing handles on the forks.
         Prince’s back was worn smooth by harnesses and an old crude saddle that always hung in Grandpa’s workshop. He would allow Grandpa’s kids and grandkids to climb upon his back, even after a hard day’s work, and we would ride him, sometimes four in a row, upon his back to the spring to ‘water’ him. He was led to a hand-hewn oak trough where he would drink his fill then allowed to wallow in the dust ridding himself of caked-on sweat and any vermin that pestered him. What a sight!
        While going back up the hill to Grandpa’s house along the winding cow path, Prince would invariably defecate, passing pungent gases, causing the unlucky ones behind him to scatter like rabbits. We would have to dodge the large ‘road apples’ rolling down the hill, but Prince got his clean-out, showing that he was indeed a healthy horse.
         On two occasions, Prince went above and beyond the call of duty by showing up as a ‘guardian angel’. One of my uncles used to like to overindulge in alcohol. He would work all week, never touching a drop of ‘drink’ but on weekends he spent all that he had earned in a close-quartered truck mine at the local beer joints. All the cabbies knew this uncle and would deliver him to the top of the hill where he would stagger his way down to Grandpa’s house. He would arrive home broke, drunk, and obnoxious if anyone happened to be up at that hour. The two times, aforementioned, it happened to be snowing and there was enough wind to make the snow drift into piles sometimes higher than one’s head. This uncle was let out at the usual spot and began to make his way down the hill. He became overcome with the snow and his overindulgence, and laid down on a snowdrift to let come what may. All of a sudden old Prince showed up allowing uncle to hold onto his mane all the way to the front yard. This happened one other time that I can remember, but my uncle said that it had happened on several occasions. No one ever knew how Prince got through the gates to get to my uncle.
        Prince was allowed to run freely about the farm after he was deemed too old to work. He would just graze along and sometimes the grandchildren would take him an apple or a lump of sugar. He never turned down these offerings and never nipped a kid as far as I know.
        The faithful equine died at the age of thirty-six, which is considered to be a long life for a horse. The average is about twenty-five years or so. He died alone, as we all must, and went back to the dust from whence he came. I am sure that there are indeed horses in heaven, this being so, I know that Prince earned a very good spot there. The book of the Apocalypse speaks of more than four of them.
        Grandpa buried him down along the timberline, just above the cave where Grandma Shortt used to take the kids when Grandpa would come home with a snoot full. I am sure that Grandpa Addison missed him for a very long time even though I can still hear him yelling, “Haw, Prince”!
        Prince was not mine, nor did he belong to anyone else, except Grandpa, but us kids claimed ownership of him and I am sure that not one of Grandpa’s kids or grandkids, who ever came in contact with Prince, will ever forget him as a remarkable example of enduring strength and faithfulness.

Some animals are mighty
The way they are created,
Born to be helping greatly,
An Appalachian clan.

Such was Old Prince, the workhorse,
Who worked alongside stout mules,
Horses of all kith and kin,
Never shirking his duty.

Allowing grandpa’s grandkids
To climb upon his smooth back
(Worn smooth by rough harnesses),
Sometimes a crude saddle, too,

Pulling sleds of new mown hay
From the fields to the log barn
Stretching out to tow the load
Which was often cumbersome.

At ending of day we’d lead
Old Prince to the hollow spring
Where an oak trough had been hewn
Allowing him a long drink.

Going back up the hill was
A different matter when
All at once he’d defecate
After passing pungent gas.

You can bet we’d scramble hard
Avoiding big road apples
Rolling down the steep hillside,
Thoroughly cleaning Prince out.

Living past thirty-six years
Grandpa turned him out at last
Finishing his chosen path
To run free around the farm.

He died alone, as must we
Went back to the dust from whence
His mortal being was made
Becoming part once again.

This tribute is to a great
And honorable equine,
Who served his purpose freely,
And he was not even mine.