Some of you have asked for more of the story of Cassie, Barney and my childhood farrier, Bud, after my previous post on Cassie. Indeed, that post spurred lots of memories for me, and my brother and sister have chimed in their own, bringing up that long unplowed memory ground. If you haven’t read it, that previous post would give you a back story to this one.
It came to me as I was writing this that “Bud’s” real name was “Jesse James ‘S.’” I had forgotten that, having become so accustomed to calling him “Bud.” I doubt that many knew his real name. My brother was surprised when I mentioned that to him, saying, “You’ve got to be kidding!” I worked for our father some, and we did some legal paperwork for Bud, so his real name was required.
I can’t tell you how fittin’ it was that Bud was also “Jesse James!” Why he had a buckboard, wore cowboy boots everywhere he went (which wasn’t far, mind you) and he lived a very “Old West” lifestyle. All he lacked for a complete costume was a six-gun…I think if he had worn one, it would have been a scary thing. Not that I ever considered Bud dangerous. It’s just that neither was he considered the most responsible person in the community.
As clean and sprightly as Cassie was, slow Bud was dirty—always. I’m searching my brain now for a time when I can remember Bud “cleaned up.” Truth be known, I’m not so sure we’d have been able to tell “clean.” Remember, Bud spent a lot of his time over the fire of the forge and at the hot, dirty work of shoeing horses. There was a “darkness” to Bud, like the soot of the forge had been absorbed by his skin. In any event, “dark” was a word that came to my mind in thinking of his physical appearance.
They say that smell is the sense which connects us to the past more than any other sense. It is certainly the sense that is evoked when I think of Bud, even these nearly 50 years later. Bud always smelled of ash and sweat mixed with an ever-present odor of alcohol. Even as a child I realized that, in addition to his other infirmities, Bud was an alcoholic.
If there was a “fear factor” about Bud, it was the alcohol that caused it in us kids. Our own father was an alcoholic, and he appeared to be a different person when he would come home drunk; challenging and sometimes violent in a way he never would have been sober. We kids knew that alcohol made people do things that they might not otherwise do, so our familiarity with Bud was tinged with a skittishness.
I’m not sure why, but Bud seemed to drink mostly alone, away from home. We knew this because we would often come upon him in the woods drinking straight from a whiskey bottle. Sometimes my brother would “spy” and discover where Bud’s stash of booze was in the woods.
My good friend, “Debbie,” had her own horse, and we rode almost every day. There were acres—square miles, really—of unfenced woods for horseback riding. We had broad, shaded trails much like shown in this picture. These were old logging roads, just perfect for cantering and practicing our horsemanship. Then there were what we called “paths” which we followed when we felt like exploring, pushing our horses through the briars and thick branches along what I believe probably were game trails. Or, if there was no trail at all, we would just allow our horses to pick their own way between trees, seeing where we would end up and knowing there was no danger of becoming lost.
Our horses had a keen sense of where the barn was and would always get us home. Debbie and I often used their homing sense, and we were totally relaxed on the issue of getting lost—I can’t remember ever feeling lost in the woods. And they were extensive enough that a person afoot certainly could have become disoriented. Not so with our horses!
Sometimes these explorations were rewarded by the discovery of a cool, mossy creek bank on which to rest our mounts and to have our lunch while our horses munched the grass nearby. Some days Debbie’s beagle, “Gertrude,” and my mongrel, “Buck,” would trail along with us, sniffing and working the sides of the trails, checking out the underbrush.
We knew these woods well, and we knew “Bud’s territory.” These areas were in the woods, okay, but not so far in. I assume that Bud, almost always afoot, stashed his whiskey conveniently near the road. I don’t recall ever coming upon him in the deep woods.
Now, I know what you must be thinking. Two young girls in the woods alone. And with a weirdo commonly out and about…But, you know, I don’t think we were ever in danger. As I said, we were “skittish” of Bud. Although we dealt with him when he tended to our horses and would politely exchange “hellos” when we passed him on the road, we never went near him when we would find him in the woods.
And we always knew when he was there. We were very aware of our horses’ body language, so experienced were we with them. They or the dogs told us of people in the woods long before we could otherwise have known. It would have been hard to sneak up on us and, I guarantee it, anyone on foot would have had a hard time snatching us. I think our biggest danger was of being thrown by a spooked horse.
Back to Bud. I’m not sure why Bud found it necessary to hide his whiskey in the woods. It surely was not because his parents did not know he drank—everyone knew he drank, and those without previous knowledge of that would soon know by his odor. Perhaps it was Barney putting the quietus on his drinking, because after Barney’s death Bud was sometimes seen on the road in a state of obvious inebriation. My mother confirms that it seems to her, too, that the public evidence of Bud’s drinking escalated after Barney was gone.
I recall seeing Bud riding his tall mare down the road. My sister remembers that this particular horse was named “Flicker.” She is 12 years younger than me and recalls asking Bud the name of his horse (yes, she was on first-name basis with horses, too). “Flicker,” he replied. “Like in My Friend Flicker.” She remembers the shock she felt in later years when she picked up a copy of Mary O’Hara’s classic book to find that it was actually My Friend Flicka!
Often as he made his way down the road, Bud would weave and bob in the saddle, like he could barely stay on, clearly drunk as a skunk.
This scenario ended, though, when Bud and his horse were hit one night (yes, night!) on one of our country “highways.” Bud and Flicker were obviously at fault, I don’t believe Flicker had any tail lights on her. She was dark and probably impossible to see. A bad mix with Bud’s driving style. The police cited Bud with some sort of alcohol-related citation.
My father, the lawyer, defended Bud successfully! Had they charged Bud with public intoxication, they might have made it stick, but the charge had more to do with impeding traffic, etc. and my father found an existing statute giving horses and horse-drawn vehicles right-of-way over motorized vehicles on secondary roads, which technically made the poor car driver at fault.
Bud escaped the law’s consequences, but his leg was shattered. (I am happy to report that Flicker survived, seemingly okay). The injury limited Bud’s ambulation to hobbling. Apparently, it also ended his horseback riding days and he also ceased shoeing horses. I imagine the bending over to perform this job became impossible with his bum leg. We had to find one of those new-fangled farriers who came to your house in a truck.
You may recall that Bud and Cassie bought themselves a mobile home after Barney’s death. Over the next couple of years they purchased several more and rented them out so that they could have some income. My father drew up a little rental agreement for them to use.
Sometime after I had married at the ripe-old age of 18, I learned of Bud’s death by reason of a beating he had received at the hands of one of his tenants. Bud lingered in the hospital for a few days with a head injury and finally slipped away into the eternal Old West.
The man with whom he had fought never faced any charges, it being said of him by the investigators that he was defending himself. I believe both men were drunk. No one who had known Bud as we did ever believed Bud would attack anyone. We all felt that this was an injustice but, really, who knows the truth?
This left little Cassie pretty much alone. She had a sister, but Ethel lived 15 or so miles away and had her own strict husband, although nothing like what poor Cassie had to endure. As I write, I wonder: Was Cassie’s life sad from loneliness after the death of her son? Or was it a relief to have her life to herself at last, free from tyranny of her husband and of the responsibility from a clearly-damaged grown son. I wish I had thought to ask her sister Ethel when we talked, but I didn’t…
As we discussed this story, my mother recalled something I had never known. She said that Mrs. “Y,” a widow who lived across the road from my father’s office, was a long-time friend of Cassie’s. She said that after Barney was gone, Cassie would spend the night on occasion with Mrs. Y. I was amazed at this revelation!
Now, these women only lived maybe a quarter mile apart. Cassie could easily have gone home after a visit. It makes me smile to think that Cassie and Mrs. Y spent some nights together for their mutual company.
Mrs. Y lived in the same home she had occupied for decades with her husband, between the homes of her two grown daughters. It was a humble dwelling but Mrs. Y loved pretty things. Her yard was ablaze with flowers all summer, and she had little china cups and figurines sitting around, neat as a pin and dust-free. It makes me wonder what ladylike delights she could have treated Cassie to.
I can picture Mrs. Y and Cassie in the cool of summer evenings, hearing the night sounds through the window screens, perhaps sipping tea, and talking. It gives me something on which to hang my hope that Cassie’s life was better without either of the men in her life.
What do you think? C