The time for riding horses has been cut back drastically due to the rainy season arriving early and with great determination to thoroughly keep things wet and muddy, unfortunately for me. However the bugs that are part of the rainy season are still here in full force so it is necessary to continue to treat and manage pesky infestations on the horses and dogs. Keeping the horses in shoes is also another ‘chore’ that I must keep up on and it was getting past due for hoof treatments, so I made arrangements with our neighbor to seek out his services for the boys getting shoes replaced.
Our ‘regular’ horse shoer was not available right then, and I was wondering who we could ask when the neighbor that owns the horse that Mate is determined to buy was riding along the road, so we stopped to visit for a minute on a trip off of the mountain. He was quite happy to let Mate climb aboard and have a quick ride on his horse to try him out, and it was then that I noticed how good his hooves looked! He said that his brother does the shoes and trims the hooves of all of their horses, and so I made a mental note to ask his brother next time we saw him for his services. He was chopping along the road a few days later which gave me the opportunity to ask and we made the arrangements for the following Friday.
I had extra shoes, and usually we would reset shoes unless they are worn thin, and sometimes the horses will lose a shoe, especially if it is late for attention and/or muddy, the mud here can suck a loose shoe off pretty easily, it was time to take care of this. So on that Friday morning it really wanted to rain, I was watching the skies and speculating about ‘do I or don’t I’, as it would be a good half day’s work for both horses, and after consulting a deck of cards (face card we go, otherwise no) – I pulled a jack and off we went to get the horses. Mate had all of the gear in the truck so that he could accompany me down the hill and help out, and I rode Ono and towed Kinto. I also brought my rain poncho and hat, just in case. The brother was waiting for us and so far it was dry…we started with Kinto.
How they shoe horses here is way different than in the States, and considered to be abominable by most gringos, but it works for them and it has worked for a very long time, so who am I to question? Thus far it has also served me well, also. They depend on themselves to do their own work if they ride, and so they learn the skills. Remove the shoes, use a machete to trim off the long toes, put a shoe on and nail it, then trim the foot to fit the shoe, and finish it up with a file to smooth out the hoof’s rough edges. Voila! Good to go. Well I guess the brother was a bit nervous or something, as the first foot he was trimming his hand slipped and he sliced his middle finger to the bone on his left hand, blood was pouring out of it. We always carry a medical kit in the truck so immediately Mate doctored up the finger, wrapping it tightly to staunch the bleeding. The brother was pretty shaken, it was a good slice, but he continued on and finished Kinto – who had lost two of his shoes – and then took a look at Ono. We said we could come back another time, but he pointed out that his hind feet were in terrible condition and must be done that day, which he did do. The front two shoes could wait for another week, or two possibly, and he tightened up the nails and was quite happy to be done with the job for the day. His finger was starting to bleed again and his back was done – you have to have a very strong back to be a horseshoer/farrier.
While the brother was diligently absorbed in his work, and he was excruciatingly meticulous and careful with doing a good job (finger throbbing the entire time), Mate wandered around his house a little bit. These two brothers had inherited this family farm and it is of a considerable size, but mostly it is very steep and rugged ground, with the beautiful river Rio Perla (the one we have to drive through to get to our house) running through the middle of it. It is divided up into several separate pastures as they have several beef cows and bulls that they raise for their living, as well as a few horses. There are also some extremely steep areas that are always planted in either corn or beans that they harvest for their own use, and there are lots of bananas and yucca plants, as well. It is absolutely amazing how the campesinos will work any land that can be worked, regardless of where it is or how steep it is, for their corn and beans. These brothers live very simply, they have a house that is probably older than they are, an original farm house, that is all of about 400 sq. ft., if that, an outside kitchen with a single sink for all purposes, and two small bedrooms. They have no beds, they sleep upon thick blankets on the hard wood floors, and there are no screens or furniture as we know it – a bench, a stool, one homemade rocking chair. Off the side of the house is a lean-to where the extra milled lumber is stored, as well as their saddles and tools. As the intermittent rains came and left during the morning, this is where the horse stood while getting his feet done, and it is also where all of the chickens and the many hound dogs would come to get out of the rain. Bathroom? An outhouse somewhere, I suppose. The shower is probably a hose hanging in a tree.
Sometimes I complain because we don’t have hot water. And there are times, especially lately as we search for a new home, that I have ‘worried’ about not having furniture (beds), or refrigerator or cook stove. And some of the houses that we have looked at to possibly rent are not much different than this house the brothers live in, and we pass. But it is the greatest appreciation and respect that I have for these two men who live as they do, always working hard to maintain their place and earn enough to live for another year, or grow their beans and corn and yucca and bananas for themselves and their animals for survival, that they can do this year in and year out – could we? What if we had to?
Their land is for sale, the other brother has had open heart surgery and he is struggling to keep up with the hard work. But everything is for sale here in this country and not much is selling. They will continue to work the land until it sells, if it does, or until they die. It is the only life they know. We have wondered why they have not utilized the lumber under their lean-to to improve their living conditions, make life a little bit better – at least build a couple of beds! But they have not. Perhaps they are saving it for something they may need it for more importantly? I wonder. But day after day, year after year, they continue on.
It is not uncommon to see very old men that live out in the country working just as hard as the younger men chopping along the roads with their machetes, or carrying heavy posts to repair fence, or riding out to check on their cattle. Along the coasts in the fishing villages the old men repair the fishing nets, they cannot go out to sea as they did as younger men, but they must make a living. Making a living here has become almost impossible in the past couple of years with the world-wide economic situation, the campesinos eat rice and beans and whatever they grow or harvest from the jungle, but now the price of rice and beans has gone up and is virtually beyond their reach. Bus fares have increased, and this is their primary mode of transportation beyond the farms. They either walk to the bus or ride their horse, and I have seen horses tied up at the shed next to the bus stop for an entire day while their owner is in town. What else can they do? What will they do when they cannot afford anything at all? We ask ourselves this question, way too often, as we sit on the mountain until we can afford to come out again (a very important reason as to why we have horses, some day perhaps fuel will be completely out of reach).
Just as with the caterpillar, we are all here to find our way, whether we comprehend this or no. I have to mention that I find it interesting that a recent ‘Daily Prompt’ was about barter, which I eagerly responded to. Barter will be the saving grace for these rural folks, but everything will not be available. Mate and I have envisioned a system for the rural areas that could work, but they will have to be willing to become a part of it, give it a try…and that probably won’t happen until things get much worse. We have generously shared our abundance of various fruits and vegies with others here in this valley, especially the brothers, and the brothers have always reciprocated in kind with something that they had in abundance. This is the way, it can be successful if we give it a chance and work on the kinks. I believe that it will become a necessary way to live, sooner rather than later, especially in remote communities.
I will curb my complaining and be happy for the roof over my head. The horses are as done as they will be for this day and the rains have started in earnest. I pay the man an honest wage and arrange to return for the front feet to be done for Ono another time, don my rain poncho and head up the hill in the rain, grateful for my hat and poncho and horses once again in good shape to go. Heading back to my own home, the current home, for a nice cold shower on a cool rainy day and very happy to have it inside the house – at least for now, that is.