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THE REAL VALUE OF HORSES

In our old road (Sladedale) we had the red CWS horse drawn vans. My mother had the bread and the milk delivered to the front door.
Every day the baker would come to our door with his large wicker basket full of goodies. My mum would select the oblong, unwrapped, 'tin' loaf and or the 'milk' loaf. Maybe, if us kids was lucky, some jam doughnuts for mid morning tea. I remember for a treat my mum would buy a 'Russian' cake, which was a marbled cake of different colours with walnuts in. He would write every purchase down in his delivery book in pencil, licking the pencil's lead tip occasionally, to make the pencil write clearer, then thrust the pencil behind his ear when he'd finished.

The milkman would deliver his pints of milk, rattling the bottles on the red porch tiles and in his metal carry crate. If my mother wanted any cream on the weekends, or a different coloured milk top that denoted a different type of milk, she would pop a note for the milkman in the neck of an empty bottle. He also sold eggs and cheese and butter.
His faithful old workhorse would plod up hill and down, remembering to stop at every customer's house, especially so when there was a regular treat offered to it, such as a sugar lump, when it would walk onto the path to get to the gate for its expected treat.
The driver would put a metal skid which hung on a chain, under the inside back wheel, when coming down the steep hill.

I remember when I gave the milkman a hand once. I had to get up very early. It was still dark and also very cold. I climbed up aboard and felt quite pleased and somewhat important sitting up so high in the seat next to the driver and watched him flick the reigns occasionally and his foot work the foot-brake pedal. He even let me hold the reins and actually drive and taught me how to make that tch! tch! sound that coaxed the horse on its way along the dark empty roads.

I was very enthusiastic, running here and there with the full and empty bottles.
I soon learnt how to carry a load of empty bottles, with a finger inserted into the neck of each empty bottle; and soon had a full hand of empties proudly hanging off of each wee hand. 

I remember wanting to have a pee one morning, and the need getting more and more desperate! I just had to go, and when you've got to go you've got to go!  Trouble for me was that there was nowhere to go, just a long row of terraced houses on both sides as far as the eye could see. This was going up the hill in Tormount Road. So I let the milk cart get ahead and nipped into someone's porch and, putting their milk quickly down I had a long, and very relieving pee. It began to run out of the porch and down towards the footpath! Finished at last I ran back to the float and carried on delivering.
Well, this old man shouted angrily up the road to the milkman and complained very indignantly to him about how someone had just 'pissed in his porch'. Man, was I embarrassed; I denied that I had done it, but it was pretty obvious that I had. The next day I didn't get to deliver the milk, or ever again with him.

I remember the horse drawn Co-op coal delivery wagon, and the rag-and-bone man's wee horse and cart. I can still hear his loud cry, 'Rag' 'n' 'Boneeeees' as he plodded around the roads, sitting with his legs dangling over one side.

Then there were the local brewery's delivery horse drawn wagons from Beasley's. Their huge loaded drays full of beer barrels and wooden beer crates, pulled by a team of big strong Clydesdale horses.

I had my homemade push barrow that I pushed everywhere. I'd used it to push the guy down to the bus stop at Guy Fawkes for "Penny for the guy please mister!" Sometimes, I'd push it on my rounds through the streets picking up the horse manure from off the roads. An elderly old neighbour, Mr Smith, would give me 2/6d for a full barrow load of manure. He would pile and spread it around his rhubarb and tomato plants. "Makes 'em grow good and juicy!" he would tell us kids. A whole half a crown (25p)! That was a very goodly sum indeed of dosh to a couple of Common lads, that would buy a serious amount of sweets and goodies! Well worth the indignity of  having to scrape up the horse manure, and so publicly, from around the streets. We would walk the busier streets pushing my barrow with keen eyes in search of this precious commodity.
When a fresh pile was spotted it was eagerly brushed on to the hearth-shovel with the hearth-brush and loaded into the barrow.
Fresh droppings would fill the barrow much quicker than the dry squashed run over piles; however, nothing was left, and every drop counted.

Those were the days when the horse was truly valued by us wee entrepreneurial Common kids.

Colin Weightman



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