Sunday, August 9, 2009


Auburn, California, 1960s.

We've all seen race prejudice in humans before, but I have only seen one race prejudiced horse in my entire life. His name was Crow.

Crow, an appaloosa stallion, was a part of Betty Veal's horse business. People wanting to raise their own appaloosa foal would bring their candidate mare to Betty's ranch, pay their stud fee, and Crow would “cover the mare.”

There was only one thing wrong with this otherwise splendid scheme. Crow did not like grey mares, any of them. He liked bays, seal browns, sorrels, duns, buckskins, grullas, palominos. But he would not cover grey mares. He wouldn't even rouse himself to make the attempt.

What was Betty to do? Tell her customers to keep their money because their mares didn't meet with her stud's aesthetic standards? Refusing or returning someone's stud fee is a disagreeable prospect for anyone in the horse breeding business. But to have your stud become the laughing stock of the county is simply not acceptable.

Betty gave the matter considerable thought. She was a well-educated woman, a successful nurse. She figured that if she couldn't outwit her own stallion, she had better give up horses and take up needlepoint. It turned out to be no major feat to trick Crow.

Crow was particularly fond of one mare. When next Betty had a grey mare to breed, she hid the animal behind a building. Then she stood Crow's favorite lady, decked out in baubles and bangles with cornflowers woven into her mane, just around the corner from the grey. Crow rose to the occasion, as he thought, but before he realized what was happening, Betty had whisked him around the corner and he had covered the grey. Blecch!

I grew to really respect Betty's determination to accomplish a mission. If you have never assisted at a horse breeding, permit me to tell you that a stallion ready to “do the job” is an awesome sight. He rears up, three quarters of a ton of male animal ready for one thing and it isn't taking a walk.

But Betty accomplished the deed, and the grey mare got covered. The wonderful thing was, the trick worked several times. Crow never caught on. And every time it worked, Crow eyed Betty reproachfully. “Aw, ma, you did it again. Durn it.”

But I wouldn't try this trick witåh just any stallion. Crow was actually a pretty good guy.

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