Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hot Walkin' Momma, That's Me

I love animals. I know a lot of people say that, but if you doubt it for even a moment, let me tell you about my most disgusting summer job-- one I did for 3 years in middle school and my freshman year of high school.

Marshfield Fair-- a yearly wonder that is one of the oldest town fairs in the country (there are debates about which one wins that honor). It's hundreds of years old, in any event, and at one time featured horse racing. I got a job one summer, being horse crazy and obsessed, as a hot-walker and scraper.

How gross is it? Hot-walking is just walking the horses in slow, calming circles while they cool off. Scraping... well, when the horses come off the track, covered in lather and sweat, a scraper uses a long plastic square to actually scrape the sweat and scuz from the animal's body. The foam and sweat get all over you.

Yep. THAT is how much I love animals. And I went back two more summers to do it, even though I'd been bitten, stomped, shoved, and bruised up day after day. A lot of the horses running Marshfield Fair were either making a little money before they died, or being worked to death after an injury. Most were in rough shape. Some-- a lucky few-- were recovering from injury or learning the ropes before going on to decent lives. But those horses were rare.

So I let them stomp on me, bite me, slam me up against stalls that left splinters all over me. And I whispered or sang to them when I could. Poor babies needed somebody to care at least once.

Most other kids got jobs selling concession stand stuff, running rides, or parking cars. Most other girls were smart enough to be showing off their tans and being all cute for the guys. I was in the barns getting covered in filth and stinking pretty bad.

Real heart-breaker, me.

In the end, though, I came to meet some incredible old horse-people. I hung out with jockeys and trainers, learned some neat tricks I took home to my own horse, was taught to spot bad feet, lots of ailments, and how to fix something fast. I had a boyfriend in that last year who was nice enough not to complain about the smell.
I still love horses. The smell of manure and hay, liniment and tack oil still makes me feel more welcome than grossed out. I can, I will admit, do without the sweat and scum all over me and my button-fly Levis. But then, I've grown quite a bit... I hope.

6 comments:

  1. Umm, as much as I love animals, that is disgusting. My jobs were not bad, a cashier at Wal-mart and a gas station.

    But, I grew up on a farm so, I grew up covered in manure and scraps from barbwire.

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  2. Those poor horses. They were lucky to have you and your big animal loving heart.

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  3. You really do love animals. I don't know if I could have done that...but I actually have never really been around horses.

    The horses were very lucky to have you there to take care of them.

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  4. Awwww I totally would have done it too Mel!

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  5. I've never spent much time around horses either.

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  6. I haven't been around horses a lot, either...but then again, I'm not too fond of the animal smell. ROFL!

    But bless your heart for caring for them. I know they realized somewhere inside of themselves how meaningful that was. ((hugs))

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