Jim Buchanan

Jim Buchanan

The stock market is going up and down like a yo-yo again – more down than up of late – and that brings up a tale of a leading economic indicator: horses.

At least one horse in particular.

Daddy was never much on horses. He recounted riding a mule from Tathams Creek to Sylva when he was young, and opined a time or two that a mule would be ideal for bear hunting. I think he came to that conclusion after seeing video of mules taking tourists down the Grand Canyon and reasoned that if a mule wouldn’t drop a tourist a mile down into a hole one wouldn’t drop him off a peak in the Nantahala Gorge.

It was a pipe dream he never acted on. I did share his preference for mules over horses. Yes, I know some people love their horses, but I’ve always been wary of them. My first memory of a horse was attempting to pet a pony a neighbor had purchased for a child.

It bit me.

For years, I had no idea the phrase “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” was folksy advice about good manners. I thought it was a warning. Could get your eyes bit off doing that.

But back to economics. In the old days, folks in these parts might have a draft horse for farm labor, but that has gone out of fashion. Today’s person who loves horses probably own horses, houses horses and feeds horses. It is not a cheap undertaking.

Back when the bottom absolutely fell out of the economy, in late 2008 and early 2009, the impact was felt in the equine community and a lot of people were suddenly facing the stark fact that they simply couldn’t afford their horses anymore.

A story related to me involves one such gent who came to the conclusion his beloved steed had to go, and maybe it was more of nag than a steed, now that he thought about it.

He hatched a plan to shed himself of his liability in a humane and forthright manner: He’d get someone else to steal it.

At a large horse show in Tennessee, the man pulled up with the loot in his horse trailer.

He left it conspicuously unlocked. The perfect crime.

The man went into the show and spent his sweet time roaming around, chatting up folk and basking in the glory of the event. A theme running throughout, it struck him, was that there were an awful lot of people there trying to unload their horses.

He got a little worried no one might steal his offering that evening.

Finally things wrapped up, and he trudged back to the parking lot. Nervously, he opened the door to his horse trailer and peered in.

Staring back at him was his horse.

And three others.

Gift horses, as it were.

Hope he didn’t look them in the mouth.

Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.