Snow, the record breaker

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

Horrie decided to go into the possum trapping game, so he obtained a permit from the forestry for a block up in the mountains. Horrie liked home comforts, so he built a hut on his block, bringing in the materials by pack horse. This was not easy. The trail into that block was steep in the extreme; all the way from the valley bottom bush edge it was tough on man and horses.

When Horrie built a hut he built a beaut. It had a concrete floor, iron roof and sheet metal walls. But Horrie really DID like home comforts, he wanted to take in a double bed, so that Mum would cook for him and help keep him warm on those cold winter nights.

Horrie had an old double wire wove, but he couldn’t pull it down for transport so he had a problem. He figured that he could load it on to a quiet pack horse and the track was wide enough to allow its passing, but was there a horse available with the tolerance to accept this load?

Horrie wandered down to the township horse paddock to look over the mob. The only horse that would take the double wire wove was old Snow. Snow, originally pure white, but now gray with age, was ancient for a horse, well past twenty-five years.

He was famous for his packing exploits. He had been in retirement for the past few years but he had packed more venison, furs, tucker, timber, iron, tools, awkward loads, than any other horse in the valley, Snow was docile, quiet, friendly, co-operative, and slow.

Yes, Horrie figured, take Snow out. of retirement for one more load, the double bed. Horrie, loading Snow next day, had quite an audience. We all went down to watch. Horrie threw on the packsaddle and on each side lashed on a bale of hay high on the hooks to form a base for the load clear of Snow’s neck and rump.

Then he loaded the wire wove on top of the hay, horizontal, fore and aft, cinching it down tight with a cirsingle.- Snow walked out into the scrub, behind Horrie’s saddle horse looking like an aircraft carrier in a heavy sea, head down, ears flat back in humiliated disgust, at the indignity and ridicule being heaped upon him. Snow was not at all happy about coming out of retirement for this!

All went well for an hour and a half, when high on a razorback ridge, a precipitous part of the track, Snow was climbing manfully when, he struck a section that Horrie had not checked for clearance

Two tawa trees grew, one each side of the track and no way would the bed pass in between, nor could Snow maneuver off the track. The inevitable happened. As Snow lunged up ‘the grade the wire wove head board struck the trees, slid up the smooth, bark, and lifted his front feet off the ground toppling him straight over backwards. Snow landed on top of the load, breaking both head board and foot board neatly in the middle.

Snow got to his feet, the broken wire wove how hanging down each flank hinged only by its wire. Snow had had enough, he turned and headed back to retirement, nothing Horrie could do would stop him.

He came out of that bush track like a bullet and when he struck the open going towards home, with that flapping wire wove he looked like a butterfly. The townsfolk looked in wonder as Snow passed through at a flat gallop, Horrie, flogging the saddle horse half a mile behind.

Snow stopped at the horse paddock gate and never moved while they unloaded the bed, hay and pack saddle. Then he quietly went back to retirement.

And, he deserved it too; to everybody’s amazement, ancient and slow as he was, loaded and out of condition, long in retirement, Snow, that great and famous old horse, had just broken the record from bush edge to paddock gate, by two minutes I