Articles

GOOD-BY, BARNEY

Being a touching tribute and a fond farewell to the horse that hauls your bread and milk. Sure, he costs more to run than a truck, but whoever heard of a truck remembering to stop at the Browns’ house?

MCKENZIE PORTER March 1 1951
Articles

GOOD-BY, BARNEY

Being a touching tribute and a fond farewell to the horse that hauls your bread and milk. Sure, he costs more to run than a truck, but whoever heard of a truck remembering to stop at the Browns’ house?

MCKENZIE PORTER March 1 1951

GOOD-BY, BARNEY

Being a touching tribute and a fond farewell to the horse that hauls your bread and milk. Sure, he costs more to run than a truck, but whoever heard of a truck remembering to stop at the Browns’ house?

MCKENZIE PORTER

WHEN the first-grade school children of today grow up the only place they’ll he able to see a horse earning its own living will be on the race course, a sward jealously restricted to descendants of the Anglo-Arabian thoroughbred.

By then specimens of the Percheron, Suffolk Punch, Clydesdale, Cleveland Bay, Justin Morgan and other purebred draft animals, perfected by man during a thousand years of equine eugenics, will doubtless be on show in zoos alongside their only known relatives, the zebra, the quagga and the ass.

Humble halfbreeds like Barney, who hauls a milk wagon for Borden’s Dairy in midtown Toronto, will all have vanished to those green pastures which, if there is any justice, are reserved for the noblest of animals in heaven.

Barney has been jogging his jingling load around the streets for five years now hut has done nothing to excite any unusual admiration in his owners’ breasts. They treat him well hut whether he dreams of better days nobody knows and nobody cares.

It is true Barney can distinguish between red and green traffic lights, judge distances accurately when cutting around parked cars, pick out from several thousand houses those of 268 customers and during his master’s holidays show strange milkmen around the route with never a mistake.

But, like any other dairyman, Borden’s expects these qualities in a milk horse. Barney would have to sell the tickets, collect the money and keef) the books himself to ensure his ultimate survival against the ruthless encroachments of the machine.

The tractor is fast ousting the horse from the farm and the truck is chasing him from the city. In the past 10 years Canada’s horse population has nose-dived from nearly three to fewer than two millions. The RCMP has forsaken the horse for cars, motorbikes and aircraft. Even the cowboys are turning speculative eyes on the ubiquitous Jeep. Thousands of unemployed Canadian horses will he shipped this year to Belgium where they are relished as steaks and roasts.

It is getting harder every day to find men who can handle horses. Old-fashioned blacksmiths are almost as rare as centaurs. City veterinarians know the horse only in theory and make most of their money of! dogs and cats. Stables used to pay carters to take horse manure away. Now market gardeners, especially mushroom growers, pay high prices to collect it. Bucket-and-shovel races in suburban streets between home horticulturists are getting more belligerent. Soon the object of such contests will be hut a mirage.

Ever since man learned to make fire, and suddenly discovered he could enslave stronger animals, the horse has humped and heaved his loads. The horse’s contribution to civilization has been matched by no other quadruped. The era of the horse in bondage, which archaeologists believe has lasted a million years, is coming to an end, right now, with the speed of a thunderbolt. It is a poignant moment in history.

That’s why we present Barney today. A year from now it might be too late.

Barney has kept his job to date because it is one at which the superiority of the internal combustion engine still remains in faint doubt. Although it costs Borden’s $2 a week more to work Barney than it does to run a truck on the same route Barney’s advantage lies in his brain.

It is a small brain, smaller in proportion to his size than a dog’s, a pig’s or a cat’s. But still big enough to give him a slight edge on the truck.

Nobody has yet invented a truck which will follow a milkman up the street to save him walking

back and forth, drive itself while the milkman sorts his tickets and cash, haul itself clear of deep snowdrifts, or make any better time than Barney does on his particular circuit.

Barney has another card up his feathers (those long hairs on his fetlocks). He enables Borden’s, a benevolent firm, to keep in employment many old and faithful milkmen who are just as nervous of steering wheel, clutch and brakes as up-andcoming bottle jockeys are of Barney’s hoofs, teeth and psychological quirks.

A few months ago, however, delegates to the Ontario Milk Distributors’ Association Convention in Toronto deplored the continued existence of Barney and his brethren in city streets as anachronisms and traffic snarlers. Borden’s is fast coming around to this view. Since the end of the war it has cut down its string of horses from 350 to 100—now divided between its midtown dairy on Spadina Crescent, where Barney works, and an uptown dairy in the north.

Borden’s has found, like many other dairies, that

gasoline pays better than horse sense on hilly routes which used to require a pair of horses, or on routes far from the stable. Even one-horse beats like Barney’s, however, are now facing extinction. English truck designers are putting out a handy, rugged little vehicle which, a year or so from now, will sound Barney’s death knell.

In the meantime, Barney faces the Götterdämmerung of his breed with quiet dignity.

Barney, a big brown horse with three white feet and one black, works eight hours a day, five days a week. He’s off every Sunday, since Sabbath deliveries have been stopped, and one other day, according to his own condition and the availability of six spare horses among his 30 stablemates.

On his working days Barney draws a ton of milk around 18 miles of backwaters in a district of old-fashioned students’ rooming houses just north of the University of Toronto on Bloor Street West.

He wears out a set of rubber shoes each week in summer and a set of steel shoes each month in winter. Continued on page 43

Good-by, Barney

Continued from page 13

His pay is 20 pounds of hay and three gallons of oats a day, supplemented by carrots to keep his blood in good order, occasional potatoes to fatten him, linseed oil and molasses for energy and a hot bran mash as a combined treat and laxative on Saturday nights.

Barney hasn’t had a frolic in the fields since he was a colt because it’s been found the annual holiday in pasture, once the privilege of most city horses, does more harm than good because of flies. Barney has only once had a change of route because the older, more experienced spare horses “stand in” for all days off. When he was transferred temporarily to relieve a sick horse in North Toronto Barney got homesick and wouldn’t eat for three days. So he was returned to his own No. 16 route.

Not even sex appeal lightens his monotonous routine—he was gelded as a youngster. Stallions are apt to get ideas about mares in city streets, with spectacular consequences.

Jack Mumford, Borden’s “vet,” says sadly: “The milk horse’s life is very humdrum.”

But Barney makes the best of it. He has learned to unlatch the door of a baker’s van and steal himself the odd loaf of bread. He once drank half a bottle of whisky proffered by two festive soldiers on Christmas Eve and never so much as showed the whites of his eyes. His driver was once horrified to learn from a crowd of bighearted high-school girls outside Loretto College that Barney had consumed six ice-cream cones, foui bags of candy and two big chocolate bars. Although horses are supposed to loathe the taste of flesh Barney has accepted hot dogs, hamburgers and steak pies. He once ate a whole onion, probably in mistake for an apple, but he rejects dill pickles.

lie’s Got a Roman Nose

Barney has also provided the usual thrilling chase of a runaway. It must have been something unusual like clothes fluttering on a line, a child on roller skates, or a piece of air-borne paper which set him off, for he’s usually indifferent to city phenomena. He galloped three miles back through busy streets to his stable and never cracked a bottle or scratched a car.

Yet according to Ernie Prudames, the stable foreman, Barney is a “very ornery horse indeed.”

Like all other horses he’s covered entirely in hair and walks on the single toe of each foot. His ancestors had five toes but through lack of use two withered up the leg to become Barney’s splint bones and two vanished. In common with his species Barney’s fundamental characteristic is still excitability to motion. The wolf had fangs, the bull horns, the boar tusks and the lion had claws for protection. But Barney’s family had nothing and became fleet. There are some who believe, although it has never been proved, that a horse’s eyes magnify every image to about eight times its actual size. If this is true Barney’s readiness to “get on his horse” is understandable. When you think of some of the sights around Toronto he must live in a fearsome world.

Barney came into that world under bleak and uninspiring circumstances. His father and mother knew none of true wooing’s lingering sweetness. They were united in an Ontario farmyard with cold mathematical consideration for their proportions and the utility and cash value of their projected progeny.

A milk wagon is lighter than a brewer’s dray and heavier than a baker’s van. Borden’s needs a horse midway between the powerful slow walker and the speedy trotter. Bai ne /’s dad, therefore, was a Clydesdale from Lanarkshire, Scotland, standing 17 hands and weighing nearly 2,000 lbs. (A hand is the vertical height of a man’s clenched fist: four inches.) His mother was a trim buggy mare standing

15 hands and weighing around 1,000 lbs. The result was Barney, standing

16 hands and weighing 1,500 lbs.

You can see he has little or no

thoroughbred blood by his convex Roman nose. A concave or dishpan nose shows descent from the Godolphin Arabian, the Darley Arabian and the Byerly Turk, desert stallions introduced to English mares in the 17th century to reinforce Arab blood imported effectively during the Crusades. Every modern race horse, all over the world, stems through the stud books from these three sires.

He Got Scared by Santa

Barney is known as “a coarse horse.” Walter Midgeley, his driver, who’s had a dozen horses in his 30 years with Borden’s, describes him as “an average horse but a little bit independent.”

When he was bought by Borden’s at a country sale and brought into the city he was blasé about the noise, traffic, lights and paved streets. It takes a month to break some horses to city streets. Barney was settled after four days. But he took a dislike to his first driver and went on strike. He refused to leave his stall for three days. Only Midgeley could get him out. The two have been together, with only one short break, ever since. Says Midgeley, “When you get used to a horse you stick to him. It saves a lot of time and trouble.”

Barney refuses to be put upon. Sent out as one of a pair to school a new horse to the city he found his pupil bone lazy. The novice jogged along in such slack traces that the whiffletree almost wore through scraping against the front wheel. Finally Barney, who had been taking all the load, gave his partner a good deep bite in the neck. The young horse began to pull his weight immediately.

Next, however, the new horse shied at a manhole cover while they were following the milkman up the street. (Inexperienced horses always mistake manhole covers for holes.) He dragged Barney and the wagon across the car tracks. Much ringing of streetcar bells and blowing of horns didn’t help any. When Barney recovered control the wagon was on the opposite side of the street facing in the other direction. Barney coaxed his pupil into a trot, made a U-turn at a convenient intersection after waiting for the lights, and brought the wagon back to its route.

On cruel winter mornings sympathetic housewives sometimes invite 65-year-old Midgeley in for a quick coffee. Barney resents these interruptions and starts nickering impatiently. Midgeley gulps his coffee for, as he says, “The milkman’s biggest nightmare is ‘Will my horse be there when I get back?’ ”

Once in summer when Midgeley was gone unusually long collecting money Barney pulled into the shade of a drive, lay down and went to sleep, and caused a housewife to run into the street calling: “Come quick! Your horse has died on me!”

Barney has only really disgraced himself twice. Accustomed to getting an apple every day from a minister, Barney was disappointed one morning Continued on page 45

Continued from page 43 when his benefactor failed to appear. He waited until Midgeley was up at a house then heaved his wagon across a lawn, over a flower bed, through a hedge, into a drive and started nuzzling the minister’s back door. That cost Borden’s money.

Last Chrii tmas Barney and Midgeley were held up at an intersection by Eaton’s Santa Claus parade. When Barney saw the grotesque effigies advancing upon him—probably magnified eight times—he reared, brought his feet down on a car fender, and spoiled Midgeley’s chances of his year’s •‘safe driving medal.”

One year in a horse’s life is equal to three in a human’s. By our standards Barney, who is actually nine, is really 27 and it’s only natural that he should be getting set in his habits. Unfortunately he got so set in one habit that every day he performed an essential function in the same place. This is common with horses. Borden’s was eventually telephoned by a furious householder who inferred in much stronger language that the atmosphere surrounding his front door suggested a stable.

Barney lives in a stable two floors above Borden’s modern garage on College Street, several hundred yards from the dairy. He ascends unassisted and unattended four long padded ramps to rows of clean, whitewashed, well-ventilated stalls. Leaving at 6 a.m. and returning at 3.30 p.m. Barney halts automatically outside the harness room door where Ernie Prudames, the stable foreman, and Walter Midgeley put on or take off his trappings.

Although Midgeley always releases him from the stall first thing in the morning and ties him up last thing at night to preserve mutual confidence Barney finds his way alone around several turns to the harness room and stops for a drink en route at the big white bathtub trough.

After hooking up in the garage at the bottom of the ramps Midgeley drives Barney each morning to the dairy where the horse waits in a long queue of wagons to take his turn at the loading platform. During this line-up Midgeley can get away for a cup of coffee if he wants because Barney usually follows the wagon in front until it’s his turn at the platform, where Midgeley meets him.

One subzero morning, however, Barney failed to keep the rendezvous. He was nowhere in the line-up. Midgeley ran back to the stables thinking Barney had gone on strike. The foreman dispatched another driver in a truck to Midgeley’s route to see if Barney had gone ahead alone. But Barney couldn’t be found. At last an agitated garage proprietor rushed up to the dairy with the report that a horse had manoeuvred his van around behind dozens of cars inside his establishment and was warming himself at the big radiator.

This was one of the few occasions when Midgeley gave Barney a cut of the whip. Normally Barney jogs around Midgeley’s calls without ever needing the reins. While on the move Midgeley prepares his orders, checks his cashbook and sorts his tickets, looking up only occasionally to see how far Barney has gone. He says, “You only need to use the reins at crossroads on the way back when Barney would break into a gallop if you’d let him. On the route, though, I never touch him—unless I want to pull his head around to show him something.” After the whip, however, Barney was truculent for a few days. Midgeley had to drive him continuously and lost time.

But Barney is usually co-operative.

Midgeley only uses two commands: “git up” and “whoa.” If he wants Barney to trot he merely knocks on the side of the van with his knuckles. Barney has brought Midgeley safe home through freezing rain and dense fog when the driver could barely see as far as the horse’s ears.

A baker used to feed Barney doughnuts but Midgeley had to discourage this because Barney would straddle the sidewalk to get them—and thus frighten old ladies. This was contrary to good public relations.

It was public relations, too, which changed the design of Barney’s nosebag. It used to have a wooden bottom so he could more easily lick up the last few oats. But when he tossed it Barney occasionally brought it down on the head of a passer-by and provoked some remarkable language. One peevish gentleman so stunned retaliated by giving Barney a clout over the snout with his cap. Now Barney’s nosebag is made entirely of soft canvas.

It was public relations which inspired pneumatic tires on the wagons and rubber shoes. According to Midgeley, “Some of the big shots couldn’t stand the clatter in the early hours.”

Barney has few outstanding qualit ies. He hasn’t got the aristocratic personality of Sir John, a stablemate who’s half thoroughbred and would have made a good hunter if his back hadn’t been broad enough to carry a circus artist. Nor is he such a favorite as Girl, a shaggy black mare whose daily theft of a mouthful of oats from the hayloft before going to her stall is tolerated by the stable staff. He hasn’t the same intelligence as Bob, a spar*1 horse who knows 20 different routes as well as Barney knows his one.

But at least Barney’s an orthodox eater which makes him easy to care for. He’s content with one meal at 5 a.m. before work, a nosebag in the street, and a supper at 5 p.m. Some horses are called “picky horses.” Most of them have an exceptionally long back.

In resting, Barney’s habits are also conventional. He can relax completely on his feet. Only once or twice each night does he lie down and close his eyes in sleep. Then it is only for an hour or so. Horses don’t sleep standing up. If they do “drop off” while on all fours they immediately fall down. Another of Barney’s stablemates, a gigantic dappled mongrel called Darby, is considered eccentric because he always falls asleep on his feet, collapses with a crash, and snores like a pig for the rest of the night.

Borden’s horses are so well kept that many go on working until their 20th year. Charlie, a big blue roan with a dash of Percheron, has, according to Ernie Prudames, “worked for 16 years and never been sick, lame or lazy.” Several 20-year-old mares retired by Borden’s have been sold to farmers and later thrown two or three good foals.

But, as he is only nine, it is doubtful whether Barney will live out his useful life in harness. He is not heavy enough to become one of a plow team, though he could serve as “third horse” for lighter work on a farm. The tractor, however, is damning his chances of this sort of retirement every day. There is just a glimmer of hope that when Borden’s becomes completely mechanized Barney will be sold to a less progressive dairy. Even then the possibilities of him reaching a ripe old age will be remote.

It seems a certainty that one of these days Barney will have to be humanely destroyed. If it is any consolation to the hundreds of city animal lovers who will miss him he will then turn up for the last time as meat for their pet dogs. ★