Looking Back

The days of cows and horses

LookingBack_R_CMYKBy Mary Ellen Shaw

When you have lived long enough in the City of Rutland to remember the days of cows and horses then you know that you have been around for awhile!

Back in the 50s there was still some farmland in the city. One piece of property that had that designation was about a mile from my family home on Howard Avenue. I remember happily playing outside in my sandbox, when I was scooped up and taken inside. When I asked my mother why we were going indoors she told me that some cows were coming up Sargent Avenue and would soon be at our house.

I guess my mother didn’t want me to be trampled by the cute cows that were soon in our back yard.

I have no idea how they got back home but they must have made an interesting sight as they traveled from Howard Avenue back to the Stratton Road area near Jackson Avenue and Allen Street.

Cows once again had a connection to Howard Avenue as they stood in the back of a cattle truck in the driveway of the Myers’ home. They were in the process of being transported from one location to another and Sol Myers must have stopped at his house along the way. Since I was friends with the Myers’ son and daughter, I was at their house quite often. As I walked to their door I often heard the cows mooing in the back of the truck. Even at a young age I knew it wasn’t a sight or sound that one expected to find on a city street.

Horses also had a place in our city. You could find quite a few of them in the stalls of a barn on the Hendee property located on North Street Extension. Back in the 50s it was nothing for kids to use their bicycles to get from one end of the city to the other. From my house it was about a 4-mile round trip to the stables. My cousin, Betty, was much more of a horse lover than I was. But I never wanted to be left behind, so I would ride up there with her. We always had carrots or sugar cubes in our bike bags for the horses.

I remember a beautiful palomino horse that belonged to Mary Ellen Ryan. She was there about every day grooming her horse and riding it. Many of the “regulars” who frequented the stables liked to curry the horses, and Mr. Hendee welcomed the help. But yours truly stayed away from that chore. I think I was more fascinated by the plethora of kittens that seemed to keep coming and coming. They were always in the hay area, and playing with them seemed a lot safer than getting kicked by a horse that didn’t like my grooming methods.

Horses were available to ride, and Mr. Hendee matched the horses to the experience of the riders. There was a work horse named Susie, who was slow and steady. When I finally got brave enough to give horseback riding a try she was the horse I was given. There was a cement trough that we climbed onto so we could mount the horse. I got basic instructions and off I went into the paddocks. The horse must have sensed my nervousness and she found a way out of the enclosure and headed back to the barn with me still on her! I remember ducking as we went through the door and down into her stall.

The more experienced riders were allowed to ride off into the fields and wooded area right near the barn. Obviously, I was not one of them. In fact, after ending up in the horse’s stall, I hung out with the kittens on all future visits!

My friend Betty Ann, who lived on Howard Avenue, kept her horse at the O’Rourke stables in Castleton. One day the horse was at her house for a short period of time, so we took him down to Moon Brook in the area of Piedmont Pond. There were lots of apple trees in a field by the brook, so we had one happy horse with apples to eat and water to drink. Seeing two young girls walking a horse down to Moon Brook must have been an unexpected city sight even in that era.

I haven’t seen a horse or cow on Howard Avenue since the 50s. As I look back I see that period of time as an opportunity for a “city girl” to have a taste of the “country”. However, the experiences I had must have curtailed my desire to get “up close and personal” with these animals. Since the 50s I have only seen cows grazing in the meadows through my car windows. Ditto for horses!

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