“The Hoss Died!”

Latte or capacucino, which would it be? I tried not to look at the pastries in the case.

The wind whipped through the little coffee shop as another customer came in from the brisk New England cold. Hats and mittens and scarves decorated the tiny tables. There’s hardly room for a cup of coffee once you get all your wrappings off. I knew that the steam on the windows would soon turn to frost.

“Hey, Hey! Didja heah?” the big voice boomed from the back of the shop. “The hoss just died!”

Everyone turned. The pastry chef looked up. Eyes were blank for a while, then they nodded. “Oh?no?you’re kidding!””

“I thought he was getting better!”


“Weren’t they going to send him to Kentucky or something?”

Everyone knew who “the hoss” was. No one had to explain. And everyone had a comment or a murmur in response to the announcement.

On our little island, there are few horses. These were fishermen, clamdiggers, ice-shovelers, boat builders, out-of-work actors, a landscape painter, a minister and (I think) a well-known playwright. Horses aren’t part of the lives of most of them, unless they’re down at the beach when some riders are out galloping.

Suddenly, they all turned and looked at me. “Hey, Francesca, you’re a writer. You oughta write about that hoss.”

Now it was my turn to murmur, nod, shrug.

“Because, you know,” the Sicilian pastry chef informed me quite authoritatively, “A lot of people know that hoss. And you know, they really cared about him. Geez, what a shame. What a shame!”

For the past 10 years or so, I have heard every subject discussed in that coffee shop, except perhaps horses. Finally, the subject came up. And the place went quiet.

But that was yesterday. Today they’re back arguing about politics again. The volume is turned way up. Everyone speaks at the same time. A lot of hands wave in the air. Coffee gets spilled. Gloves fall to the floor and get wet in the puddles that your boots made on the linoleum. The place is so small, it’s hard to push your chair back.

Yesterday, the announcement of the death of “the hoss”, 300 miles away in Pennsylvania, silenced the place. Maybe they didn’t know his name, and didn’t know what laminitis was, but they knew his struggle, and they were touched to silence.

I am sure that scene was repeated in a thousand general stores, pubs, coffee shops, and gas stations yesterday. Everyone had been pulling for that “hoss,” as we say in Gloucester. The world may be falling apart, sea level may be rising, politics may be bitter, everyone’s got the flu, and the real estate market is slipping but the hoss was getting better. His recovery was one miracle we dared to imagine.

Breaking through to people’s hearts at a time like this was a miracle in itself. Thanks, Barbaro.

? 2006-2007 The Jurga Report: Horse Health Headlines. All rights reserved.http://special.equisearch.com/blog/horsehealth/index.html

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