Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Three Hundred Thirty

In the early days of Those Who Came’s settlement of the Quarter, after the banishment of Those Who Went Away from these parts, everyone kept dozens of horses to pull the various implements they used to plow the fields, seed and harvest. These were workhorses – Percherons, Clydesdales, and Belgians – massive things that once knights had rode into battle and now they were tied to yokes and made to pull with all their strength. As the threshing machines and the like grew larger and larger, it became necessary to have more and more horses to pull them. Tractors were available, but they were prohibitively expensive, especially compared to the horses. Just getting them to these parts would have cost a fortune.

When winter came there was no feeding that many horses. Any grain they had was sold, milled for flour or kept for seed. The little hay people cut was reserved for the milk cow and the couple of horses needed to pull the sledge into town or over to the neighbours, the one thread that connected the settlers to each other. The rest would be let loose for the winter to make their way through it as best they could.

The horses would gather into herds wandering the countryside. Much of the land was still unbroken in those days so there was grass beneath the snow that they could dig down to. There were trees and bushes in sloughs and other low lying areas where water gathered that they could huddle in for shelter. It was hard living, especially if the winter was cold and the snow deep. Not all of them saw the spring come, when they would be rounded up to plant the fields.

This was before electricity came, before telephone wires and transformers, when the roads were for wagons and buggies and not vehicles. In those days you could step out on winter’s day and hear the cold moving in the air. The frost cracking, they would call it. You can’t hear it now, no matter how hard you try, there is too much ambient noise, except in the most remote places far from any habitation. Then you would scurry to the outhouse, not wanting to linger, and you could hear the frost crack and the stamping of horses hooves as they galloped far away through the snow.

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