Intercalary Chapter

December 1, 2010
The year is 1852. The warmth of the midday summer sun pours down over the slouching farmer as he rides slowly along, and his tawny, straw sunhat is the only element keeping the heat from becoming any worse than it is. Streams of perspiration cascade down his slightly reddened face like tiny waterfalls, leaving streaks in the dirt on his cheeks, and each drop lands with a quiet, almost silent “tsss” on the saddle he perches on. Smaller, unmoving droplets collect the dust on his forehead and their clear appearance turns to a muddy brown. His blue plaid shirt is equally as wet, under his arms and in the folds of his stomach where air is most restricted and on his chest and back where the heat is worst. His blue denim jeans have been rumpled by the pockets, and sweat gathers there too, moistening his legs and pants. A drop or two of the once-clear liquid that runs down his face touch his unmoving eyes, but they do not change their position.
He is hardly a skinny creature, but his weight does not surpass a couple hundred pounds. The animal working for him is unaffected by any weight he has to offer. His feet, enclosed in dusty cowboy boots, hang out of the stirrups of the saddle, and he shows no intention of placing them into the openings where they belong. He is covered with random patches of dust and dried mud, showing all the signs of having worked since early in the morning. The unplowed dirt ground stretches out before his lifeless, dark, drooping eyes, and the land seems to be endless. Behind him, neat lines of unearthed dirt that have been strewn about wait patiently for wind to blow them away. They are barely visible through the piles of dark bags underneath them and even less so in the shade of his hat. The sounds around him fall on deaf ears. He tries not to listen to the sound of the earth’s destruction. He shows no signs of smelling the freshly plowed dirt, as the scent has become one that he is accustomed to. The enormous animal he rests on trudges along, sweating just as profusely.
The horse’s rider is non-existent to the beast, as the sun’s rays keep his mind focused on other factors around him. He is focused on the tightly fastened saddle and the blanket underneath the heavy leather seat where the sweating is worst, the bit in his slowly foaming mouth, his jaws moving around it slowly, and his teeth grinding at the metal. The layers of black fat and the dark brown of the horse’s coat make the heat even more intense. He shakes his head every once in awhile, and as the black mane flips about, beads of sweat fly off. The leather of the reins runs up the animal’s face, around his ears, and down his neck, where the loose, limp, gloved hands of the farmer barely clutch them. Each strap of leather that rests on his head sits on moistened hair, where the heat and tightness causes him to perspire.
His breathing is slow, heavy, and forced, and his chest works almost as hard as he does simply to keep his heart beating and his legs moving and air circulating. His almost black eyes, hidden under protective flaps, close and re-open every now and again, and his ears twitch and his tail flicks to keep flies away. The horse’s giant black hooves sink slowly into the soft ground and his enormous muscles force his legs to move forward, although they are tired and desire nothing more than to stop working. The heavy plow is being dragged behind him, and the steel that usually shines and glints in the sunlight is now obstructed by the heaps of dirt that fly up and onto it. Both horse and rider are silent, and the only noises heard are the occasional buzzing of flies and the tearing of the earth by the plow.
Small animals dart out of the way as the horse goes by. Mice, rabbits, and birds move quickly to escape before the plow destroys their home. Their hearts beat rapidly as they watch the giant steel monster roll by in terror. Big black crows and ravens fly overhead every so often, sometimes blocking out the intense sun for just a second. Other than the rare event of a bird, the sun is never distracted from its task of making the job difficult for both workers. No clouds hang about in the sky, and night is far from coming. Every year, the routine-scarred farmer and the over-worked horse follow this ritual. Man and beast work together, their tired eyes desperately searching the horizon for the tomorrow that will bring an end to the merciless, back-breaking, and methodical work.
Fast forward, nearly a century, to 1939. After the advancement that brings cars and other motorized machines to America, the ideals of a farmer using a horse to get his work done become a thing of the past. With the exception of the poor farmer who cannot afford to buy anything other than what he has, tractors become the new way to get everything done. The poor farmer still breaks his back and his horse plowing his fields every year, sweating like a dog in the heat of the boiling summer sun. He works for hours as his horse forces itself along. But the wealthy farmer is a revolutionary. Machines beat out animals the moment they are released to the world. The different colored monsters rumble about tirelessly, running for as long as their supply of gasoline will allow. Exhaust fumes out of a pipe on the front in the form of smoke and fills the dusty air with a familiar smell. The modern farmer is out when the sky is just beginning to show the first signs of dawn; rosy and violet clouds, rays from the sun peeking over mountains and trees, and in the west, the sky still showing signs of the night’s blackness. The air is warm, but not yet blistering hot. He starts up his machine and putts out to the field, and his work is finished in less than half the time of the poor farmer. The poor farmer works to take care of his horses and keep them in good health. The wealthy farmer worries only about gas and views his life with a certain sense of luxury.
Horses slowly become leisure animals. Children learn to ride them when they are not working and their fathers serve as their teachers. Older boys and girls go for long rides when they get a break from work. Some small towns with low populations use them for transportation, but for the most part, the idea of using a horse for work or transportation has all but diminished. Once cars and tractors make an entrance in America, using animals for labor and means of getting around has suddenly become an ancient tactic. Whether or not they are to make a reprisal remains forever to be determined.

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