Beautiful Joe
Chapter 17


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


The morning after we arrived in Riverdale I was up very early and walking around the house. I slept in the woodshed, and could run outdoors whenever I liked.

The woodshed was at the back of the house, and near it was the tool shed. Then there was a carriage house, and a plank walk leading to the barnyard.

I ran up this walk, and looked into the first building I came to. It was the horse stable. A door stood open, and the morning sun was glancing in. There were several horses there, some with their heads toward me, and some with their tails. I saw that instead of being tied up, there were gates outside their stalls, and they could stand in any way they liked.

There was a man moving about at the other end of the stable, and long before he saw me, I knew that it was Mr. Wood. What a nice, clean stable he had! There was always a foul smell coming out of Jenkins's stable, but here the air seemed as pure inside as outside. There was a number of little gratings in the wall to let in the fresh air, and they were so placed that drafts would not blow on the horses. Mr. Wood was going from one horse to another, giving them hay, and talking to them in a cheerful voice. At last he spied me, and cried out, "The top of the morning to you, Joe! You are up early. Don't come too near the horses, good dog," as I walked in beside him; "they might think you are another Bruno, and give you a sly bite or kick. I should have shot him long ago. 'Tis hard to make a good dog suffer for a bad one, but that's the way of the world. Well, old fellow, what do you think of my horse stable? Pretty fair, isn't it?" And Mr. Wood went on talking to me as he fed and groomed his horses, till I soon found out that his chief pride was in them.

I like to have human beings talk to me. Mr. Morris often reads his sermons to me, and Miss Laura tells me secrets that I don't think she would tell to any one else.

I watched Mr. Wood carefully, while he groomed a huge, gray cart-horse, that he called Dutchman. He took a brush in his right hand, and a curry-comb in his left, and he curried and brushed every part of the horse's skin, and afterward wiped him with a cloth. "A good grooming is equal to two quarts of oats, Joe," he said to me.

Then he stooped down and examined the horse's hoofs. "Your shoes are too heavy, Dutchman," he said; "but that pig-headed blacksmith thinks he knows more about horses than I do. 'Don't cut the sole nor the frog,' I say to him. 'Don't pare the hoof so much, and don't rasp it; and fit your shoe to the foot, and not the foot to the shoe,' and he looks as if he wanted to say, 'Mind your own business.' We'll not go to him again. ''Tis hard to teach an old dog new tricks.' I got you to work for me, not to wear out your strength in lifting about his weighty shoes."

Mr. Wood stopped talking for a few minutes, and whistled a tune. Then he began again. "I've made a study of horses, Joe. Over forty years I've studied them, and it's my opinion that the average horse knows more than the average man that drives him. When I think of the stupid fools that are goading patient horses about, beating them and misunderstanding them, and thinking they are only clods of earth with a little life in them, I'd like to take their horses out of the shafts and harness them in, and I'd trot them off at a pace, and slash them, and jerk them, till I guess they'd come out with a little less patience than the animal does.

"Look at this Dutchman — see the size of him. You'd think he hadn't any more nerves than a bit of granite. Yet he's got a skin as sensitive as a girl's. See how he quivers if I run the curry-comb too harshly over him. The idiot I got him from didn't know what was the matter with him. He'd bought him for a reliable horse, and there he was, kicking and stamping whenever the boy went near him. 'Your boy's got too heavy a hand, Deacon Jones,' said I, when he described the horse's actions to me. 'You may depend upon it, a four-legged creature, unlike a two-legged one, has a reason for everything he does.' 'But he's only a draught horse,' said Deacon Jones. 'Draught horse or no draught horse,' said I, 'you're describing a horse with a tender skin to me, and I don't care if he's as big as an elephant.' Well, the old man grumbled and said he didn't want any thoroughbred airs in his stable, so I bought you, didn't I, Dutchman?" and Mr. Wood stroked him kindly and went to the next stall.

In each stall was a small tank of water with a sliding cover, and I found out afterward that these covers were put on when a horse came in too heated to have a drink. At any other time, he could drink all he liked. Mr. Wood believed in having plenty of pure water for all his animals and they all had their own place to get a drink.

Even I had a little bowl of water in the woodshed, though I could easily have run up to the barnyard when I wanted a drink. As soon as I came, Mrs. Wood asked Adele to keep it there for me and when I looked up gratefully at her, she said: "Every animal should have its own feeding place and its own sleeping place, Joe; that is only fair."