We watched the middle weight horse pull today at the Wisconsin State Fair. Two-horse teams pull a truck loaded with heavy weights. When we left, the weight was 3,250 pounds aiming for 4,000 before the event was over. The horses strain and pull, sometimes it looks like they might buckle. But it’s what they do. They’ve been practicing all year.
Behind us and to the right was an older guy with one leg of his jeans rolled up to his knee. He wore a sleeveless white t-shirt and had tattoos down the length of the arm I could see. He had blond hair, arranged almost in a page boy, and he was thin and tanned through and through. He looked like a guy I might have seen thirty years ago at a Willie Nelson concert. He held a pack of Newports in his hands like a Bible.
I wondered about him and what brought him to watch the horse pull. He was with a woman holding a single cigarette in her hand like she was waiting for someone to blow the break whistle. She was blond, too, but her other details are lost to me. I figured he was there because of her. But no, maybe he was a horse person. Who could know?
Then I saw the rest of his leg, the steel and hinges of it.
Don’t look at his leg, I said to myself. And then I thought, well, people are looking at my cochlear implant, the receiver over my ear and the magnet on my head. Oh no, I thought, they’re not equivalent. What I lost was tiny and not heroic. He probably was in the war or he was hit by a car or shot by someone in the leg. What he has or doesn’t have, it’s worse. So don’t look. Stop looking.
So then I watched the horses and the teams of men who would bring them around to hitch to the truck that had to be pulled. Sometimes, the horses would bolt before they were hooked to the truck and the men would scramble to stay on their feet as the horses pulled across the arena. Spooked.
Other times the hitch would latch and the horses would pull – 15 feet, 20 feet, 26 feet and 7 inches. When they came around in front of where we were sitting, the horses would have sweat running down their front legs and tiny bubbles of spit in the corners of their mouths. It wasn’t easy pulling such a heavy load. That was the message. It wasn’t easy.