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Friday, January 18, 2008

A Hardwick Horse and a Stone Wall

This shot of a friendly draft horse and a bit of stone wall was taken in Hardwick, Massachusetts, and the scene probably could have been found there in any of the last four centuries.

In the “History of Hardwick, Massachusetts” by Lucius R. Paige, published in 1883, the author remarks on the town’s “somewhat plentiful supply of rocks.” You could say as much possibly about most New England towns. There are a lot of ragged, but still stubbornly present, stone walls along the Greenwich Road in Hardwick, which used to lead to the former town of Greenwich and now leads to the Quabbin Reservoir.

As for the horse, Hardwick knows something of horses, having hosted the coincidently named Over the Walls equestrian competition. A draft horse such as this placid creature would not have a place with among hunters and jumpers, but would perhaps feel more at home in the town fair held annually in Hardwick, which first began in 1762, and is reported to be the oldest such fair in the US.

Robert Frost, who spoke of “North of Boston” and not Hardwick in his poem “Mending Wall” wrote,

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell-under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gapes even two can pass abreast."

Perhaps, but they never cease to stay on the job and mark their boundaries, even, as in the case of Greenwich, their boundaries no longer exist. It is also the poem that extends to us the age-old truth, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Perhaps the horse does not know that. New Englanders are supposed to be standoffish and aloof, but if you lean on the wall, this one will walk over to you, slowly, with curiosity.

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