Steeds 9

14 03 2017

“Good morning, miss.”

“Are you the sheriff?”

“I am Sheriff Leall, yes.”

A girl in her early teens wearing a straw hat, chemise, and smock frock closed the door of the office and walked to the front of the desk. “My father has sent me to say that our horse appears to have been stolen.”

Lee shifted a piece of paper to the center of the desk’s blotter and took up a pencil. “Tell me your name, please.”

“My name is Lucille Chesney.”

“And your father’s name?”

“My father’s name is William Chesney.”

“And where do you live?”

“We live on a farm about three miles east of town.”

“Can you point to it on a map?”

“Oh, yes. I like geography.”

“Well, now. You may step through that gate in the fence and come to the map of the county I have on the wall here.”

Lucille did so.

“And your farm is?”

“Here,” Lucille pointed.

“Ah. You may take a seat in the chair next to the desk.”

“Thank you.”

“Where is your father?”

“My father is home. He is at work.”

“So you came to town with your mother?”

“No. She is at home and at work, as well.”

“You came by yourself?”


Lee looked through the windows of the office. “I see Freyja, my horse. No buggy, no other horse out front.”

“We have no other horse.”

“So what? You walked to town?”

“I did.”

Lee nodded. “What is your mother’s name, by the way?”

“My mother’s name is Mildred Chesney.”

“And tell me about your horse.”

“His name is Thaddaeus. He is our work horse.”

“He does the plowing.”

“Thaddaeus pulls the plow, and the disk, and the harrow, and the roller, and the hoe. He also pulls the wagon and the sleigh and the sledge.”

“Sounds like he earns his oats. What kind of horse is he?”

“Are you asking whether he can be identified by breed?”


“Thaddaeus is a grade horse. If he is of one or more breeds, they are unknown.”

“Tell me about color and conformation. Markings.”

“Thaddaeus is fleabitten.”

“You refer to color, not affliction.”

“I refer to color.”

“Gray flecked with brown specks,” Lee said as he wrote notes. “Gelding?”



“Has the horse been branded, you ask?”




Lucille hesitated. “Please explain, sir.”

“Is there anything distinctive in his sculpture, shall we say? In his looks? In the way he carries himself?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t believe I can provide good information.”

“Calf knees? Cow hocks? Roach back? Ewe neck? Pigeon toes? Any such characteristics?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I cannot say. Perhaps I should be better educated.”

“Why do I get the impression you are quite well educated? You employ no barbarisms, no vulgarisms. You always speak in complete sentences. Diction, syntax, grammar … all quite correct. Your elocution is elegant.”

“Thank you, sir. I have a good teacher.”

“It’s good of you to notice.”

Philip walked into the office.

Lee introduced him. “This is Deputy Redman.”

“Good morning, sir.”

“Deputy, this is Miss Lucille Chesney. She is here to report a missing farm horse.”

“Really?” Philip came through the gate and took a stance nearby.

Lee continued his conversation with Lucille. “But you’re missing school today in order to report the loss of your horse.”

“All of us are missing school today, my brothers and sisters. We will continue to miss school because of the loss of our horse.”


“In the absence of Thaddaeus, we children must help our father pull the implements.”

“Whoa! You pull a plow?”

“The plowing for the season has been completed, thank heaven. Disking, harrowing, and rolling have not been completed. Hoeing is yet to come.”

“I understand. What about your mother?”

“My mother usually stands behind the implements to control their operation. When she must attend to duties within the house, then I work the implements.”

“But not this morning.”

“Father decided I would be the best one to run this errand. My younger sister is too young for the job. My other siblings are too strong to miss a day’s labor.”

“And have you actually run here?”

“I ran part of the way. I will run as much of the way back as I can.”

“Now tell me about the horse’s disappearance.”

“At first we thought he had simply gotten out of his stall and out of the barn. All of us searched for him. We walked our acreage in its entirety, and then we visited our neighbors’ farms. Thaddaeus was nowhere to be seen. Surely he will return when it gets dark, we thought. He did not. Surely he will return when he gets too thirsty. He did not. Surely we will find his carcass if something awful has befallen him. We have not.”

“So the last time anyone in your family saw Thaddaeus, he was in his box in the barn.”


“And was the box locked?”

“So Father remembers, yes.”

“And the barn was locked.”

“Father remembers having closed the doors. We don’t, however, put locks on them. We must be able to get in quickly to save the livestock in the event of fire, you see.”

“Quite,” Lee said. “So how long has it been since your horse disappeared?”

“This is the third day without him.”

Lee nodded.

Lee stood. “Have you ridden a horse before, Lucille?”

“I have been on the bare back of Thaddaeus. I was there just for the ride, though; my father led the horse.”

“I have noticed not all farm kids like horses,” Lee said. “Some are afraid of them. What about you?”

“I respect their size and strength.”

“Tell you what. I’m in my spring riding habit today.” Lee referred to the clothing he wore: a cambric shirt within linen duck trousers, vest, and jacket. “I think I’ll go out to your place and look around some. I can remove the gear I have rigged behind my saddle. Maybe, instead of walking and running home, you’d like to ride back with me on Freyja. Doing so will require assuming a less than lady-like pose, of course.”

Lucille looked out the window. “That certainly is a beautiful animal.”

“What about mine?” Philip asked. As usual, he had hitched his horse next to Lee’s.

“If I had to pick a replacement for Thaddaeus, I would pick yours.”

“You do know something about conformation,” said Lee.

“I do?”

“Mine can go farther and longer, but his is stronger.”


“Why don’t you step outside and have a closer look? Keep your distance, though. I’m going to talk to Mrs. Oakley about putting together some kind of lunch for us, and then I’ll come out and introduce you properly.”

“All right.” Lucille left her chair. Philip opened the fence gate. Going through, Lucille said, “Thank you.” She handled the front door of the office herself.

“The telegram went out to Mascoutin?” Lee asked Philip.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I expect Chief Kaatz will respond quickly.”

“Did I hear that farmer now has his kids working as draft animals?” Philip asked.

“You did.”

“That’s one way of learning to appreciate what horses do for people.”





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