I remember the phone call from Sianna, her voice coming straight for my heart from across the Atlantic. “Dad, can you take Bud? He’s being retired and will end up at auction.”

My first response was “no,” or it might have been “Hell no” after reflecting on what Bud actually is, and what he would require of me as a farmer. Bud is an aging, all black Percheron draft horse whose ancestors were bred in France to carry knights into battle. They were war horses before the age of gunpowder.

Bud is two thousand pounds, a tractor with legs. He is eighteen and a half hands tall at the withers, or put another way, I am six foot four and can barely see over his back and can hardly reach his ears. His foot size is somewhere in the neighborhood of a medium pizza or pumpkin pie. He would need two hundred bales of hay per year, another burden on my old haying equipment and tired back. Saying “yes” just felt too hard.

Bud spent most of his twenty two years on asphalt, pulling carriages for my brother’s business, St. Louis Carriage Company. When Sianna went off to college in Missouri, she would spend many weekend nights driving Bud on the streets of St. Louis, giving rides along the Mississippi and historic riverfront buildings. Bud and Sianna were a team for nearly five years, and they made a lot of money, more than any other team on the streets. I attribute that to matching fingernail and hoof polish, and the French braids in both of their manes.

Sianna graduated and left Missouri, my brother sold the business, and Bud remained to pound the pavement under new ownership with many new drivers. The years kept circling, the work exacting its toll on his magnificent aging body. Finally the heat and humidity of St. Louis were too much for Bud, pulling those loads on hot city streets, labored breathing while soaked with sweat. He wanted to please, always willing.

Sianna kept in touch with the new owners across the years, and called me when she learned they were easing him out of service, his future unclear. That’s when I said “no” the first time, and again a few months later when he was moved to a crowded farm just outside the city. Saying “yes” still felt overwhelming, a new package of chores on a farm with no shortage of chores. At 63, my body was hoping for a little less physical work, not more. My plate was full, and Bud was something quite more than a side dish.

Several months went by, and during a visit with my brother, rather than leave well enough alone, I asked if he had any news about Bud. He said Bud had lost weight, perhaps due to difficult economic choices made by the new owner. Bud was also on poor pasture, and at one point he suffered a severe hoof infection that almost killed him. Understandably, the new owners wanted him gone, and I felt something start to shift. I started asking questions about caring for Bud. One question, as they tend to do, kept leading to another, and soon we were actually talking logistics for delivering Bud from St. Louis to Tamworth.

Finally, I said “yes,” maybe even “Hell yes.” We spend so much time saying “no” to our children when they’re young, it’s nice to start saying “yes” more often as we age. Saying “yes” meant a new connection with Sianna, an opportunity to share the love and care of an old friend. I wanted to give Bud a green grass retirement, far from the feel of asphalt and the smell of diesel. I thought maybe we could slow down together, just a little, two guys getting older on the same pasture. His needs are my needs; open space, good food, clean water, a gentle breeze delivering only silence. None of that is asking too much for an aging war horse or the farmer that brings him hay on winter mornings, hopeful and grateful for one more season together on this journey.

16 thoughts on “This Bud’s For You

  1. Holy Moly he IS HUGE, just as you stated!  I can just hear Sianna asking!

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  2. Bob.
    Yet another well written touching read offered by you. Read early am, a very good start to ones day!!! Thanks for sharing!
    Donna V


  3. Such a beautiful story! You blessed Bud with a wonderful place to grow older, and he has blessed you with this special connection in your golden years! Keep writing!


  4. Well, youve done it again Bob. You’ve managed to bring a tear-or several-to my eye.
    I have so much to say about this. I hope I don’t bore you.
    My dad was a draft horseman and his breed of choice was the long legged American style Percheron. At one time he had almost a dozen of these beautiful critters and took great pride in the breeding and training and working of them.
    I love the part about the connection between you and sienna, facilitated by retiring Bud to your care and property. My daughter Elli had the same experience with my dad and his horses when she was about 10. He would have her bring them in from pasture or tirn them out, depending on the time of day and season. And she would tack them up, even though the collars and hames weighed more than she did! She had no fear of these huge animals. It filled my heart to see, as I was quite afraid of them.
    And my younger sister, she spent her older childhood showing them at the Topsfield, Common Ground and Fryeburg fairs. At 18, she went on to work for Coors, driving many-at a time-of their Belgian teams for parades, displays, etc., in the Midwest for a summer before heading off to Vet Tech school.
    Unfortunately, at age 65 my dad was diagnosed with ALS and had to liquidate his livestock which also included beef critters. The tears that were shed over his beloveds… There was one older mare whom he could not bear to put into anyone else’s care. So he had her put down. Heartbreaking.
    All this to say when I saw Bud in your field for the first time, such a joy came over me. Such a beautiful old man. And to hear the sleigh bells that Grant Prillaman brought to town for May, his gray mare…
    My gratitude practice this morning was for all the farmers who care so deeply for the four-leggeds…thank you thank you thank you🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼


  5. Love the picture of Bud and his driver (benefactor), in regalia. Great
    story, as usual, from the “pencil”.  Assume he wintered well.


  6. My eyes are tearing up reading this. Such a beautiful story and happy retirement for Bud. I’m assuming the Tamworth of which you speak is New Hampshire? We’re neighbors… in Maine… but know that area. Bud will love it.


  7. What a touching story. Accolades to you, and Bud, for letting the love win out. I’m so glad you two are sharing the wonders of growing older together.. a true joy and comfort for you both. I love the photos. Please give him a hug from me, Pat Peltier in Pennsylvania. My cousin, Patti Peltier from Spring Green sent this to me


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