Category Archives: Reading List

Harvey Pekar’s book on the SDS

Nope, not a dang thing to do with horses and not much to do with barn culture as I have experienced it and I don’t hink horses have much to do with the SDS either unless there were some mounted police in Chicago in ’68. But I’m a Pekar fan. So don’t steal this book because stealing it won’t help the writer and the artists, but do read it and buy it (or the other way round).


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Shank’s Pony

Today I was reading, a well-written blog devoted to horses.  Ms. X, the author, suggested a hypthetical registery for “Shank’s pony.”

“Shank’s pony, Shank’s pony,” I thought, “I have heard that phrase in some other context.  Oh!  Yes!  A Richard Thompson song called “Walking the Long Miles Home.”  The line is “When you ride Shanks’s pony, you don’t have to pay.”

I had no idea what it meant, always assumed it was a kind of horse (really), even though the writing in the blog did not support the idea that this was a real horse.

Thanks be for the miracle of Google; it lead me right away to (for which I also give thanks especially since we now know it’s on par with the Encyclopedia Britannica) and found out that “to ride Shank’s pony” means to walk.

Ah. Now I get it.  The song is “Walking the Long Miles Home.” Shank’s pony is human bipedalness. 

Another version of the phrase also appears in The Vulgar Tongue:  Buckish Slang and Pickpocket Eloquence by Francis Grose, who wrote a whole bunch of stuff, much of it military, so I imagine there’s some horsemanship writing to be found in his works.  According to the introduction, Vulgar Tongue was “the first recognized dictionary of slang in Lonond in 1785.” Grose’s entry is as follows: “Shanks naggy: To ride shanks naggy; to travel on foot.  Scotch.”  My copy is a nice hand-size hardback published by Summersdale Publishers Ltd. of England, was purchased in San Francisco last year.  An 1811 version is available on if you want to look up other words.  Much modern slang has been around for some time and some of the more vulgar will be quite, quite familiar to us modern folk.


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Small Farmer’s Journal

If only for the geat pictures, both photo and old engravings, take a peek at Small Farmer’s Journal.  I bought a copy at our local Border’s because I was drawn to the oversize nature of the publication, the brown kraft paper cover, and the story on horse’s body language. There’s lots of cool stuff in the publication about issues I had no idea existed, like a government move to keep track of farm animal with chips. And have you ever heard of the foot plow? It’s like a bicycle on sterioids.   Ve pump you up!

What I also like about the publication is the intersection of people who went back to the land in the 70s, people going back to the land now, and Plain People. And there’s lots of pictures of draft horses, all the way from mega big guys down to fjords and haflingers.  Lots of stuff on haflingers. 

While I’m a suburban dweller, I am also a former country dweller and reader of The Mother Earth News, which I found annoying for the relentlessly peppy tone of the prose but enjoyed for the ideas.  As far as country living goes, I didn’t like it, wasn’t very good at it, and made $9 one summer from The Green Beans That Kept on Growing and Refused to die.

These days, my husband and I share a subscription to an organic vegetable farm with another couple and my riding stable is way out in the country (for now).  Yes, I like the country, the air, the challenges, the birds, the woods and water, and then like to come home to the AC and my computer and the big TV and the basement rec room and the gas grill and general cul de sac niftiness.  Suburbia and the sound of lawn mowers! I like it!

Besides, it is the way of my people.

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