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This month, I must dispense with the usual ridicule that is the stock-in-trade here. Spring is coming and we are enjoying a warm spell in the upper Hudson Valley. Today, a yellow colts foot was blooming by the side of the country road I hike up most days — a hopeful sign, and don’t try to annoy me with your climate change bullshit.  Sometimes there are warm spells at the end of winter. These days, our country, the USA, languishes in miasma of anxiety and despair. It’s a sad time and this is a sad photograph. The house, a glorified shack, is about seventy years old, a wreck. Two years ago the people who owned the property started to renovate the house. They got a new roof on, but I’m informed that they ran out of money and haven’t been back to work on it since 2022. Our country, and many of the people in it, are running out of money. They’ve also run out of faith in the people who are in charge of every institution: the government and its labyrinth of agencies, the health care system, the courts, the schools, the banks, the arts, their church, you name it. Many can’t find the faith to believe that we will ever again fix these things, which form the scaffold of our lives.

The red arrow points to the horse that lives on the property. Her name is Angie. She is 29, which is quite old for a horse. Angie has easy access to about five acres of pasture that slopes down to a small pond about 100 feet across. Some days she hangs out in the barn and watches the action on the road. She used to have a companion horse, but the companion died two years ago and now Angie is alone. A lady comes over here regularly and brings Angie hay and grain, and brushes the cockleburs out of her mane.  I used to bring Angie carrots, but she has lost some teeth, and I can tell it hurts her mouth to chomp them. Lately, if she’s anywhere near the road, I just go down to the battered fence and give her a few strokes along her cheek muscle. She seems to appreciate that more than the carrots.

Horses are social animals. The herd is their society and Angie is without her society. I suspect a lot of people in this land are isolated and alone these days, cast outside a society that is falling apart like the house in the picture. It’s not a good thing. Personally, I believe we’ll pass through this hard time to a new disposition of things and this project of being human will continue. I’m even inclined to think there will be more horses in our lives when that comes around. In the meantime, I admire Angie’s lonely fortitude. We cheer each other up. I keep moving and she keeps browsing in the grass that has begun stirring back to life. Next month, we’ll get back to comedy.

Angie, close up

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

15 Responses to “March 2024”

  1. tom clark March 4, 2024 at 8:01 pm #

    The homeowner needs to stop lining the pockets of Cult 45 and put some $$ into the ol’ homestead.

  2. twomartinilunch March 5, 2024 at 9:46 am #

    At least the horse has shelter. I like animals.

  3. Barnone1 March 5, 2024 at 8:38 pm #

    Around horses my whole life.
    Sounds lije the horse was abandoned as well as the old house. She will be unable to chew and break down food as her teeth continue to wear down and she will slowly starve .
    Needs to be reported to animal welfare. She will collapse and be unable to get up she will be so weak. Better have vet on standby for the old girl

    • pranah March 15, 2024 at 12:53 pm #

      Barnone1, absolutely Angie should be reported to an animal rescue group. She’s apparently okay now, but for how long? It’d be nice if she could be relocated to a nice place for retired horses, meet other horses again, have vets on hand–that kind of thing. Don’t know what the area has to offer, but it’d be nice. Wishing the best for Angie.

  4. tucsonspur March 6, 2024 at 4:56 am #

    Some of the bitter, some of the sweet. Old age and loneliness, but spring is on the way with a yellow flower. Poor Angie. Nicely done, Jim.

    I’m reminded of the Stones’ song which seems to have some sad relevance with a changed word:

    Angie, Angie
    When will those clouds all disappear?
    Angie, Angie
    Where will it lead us from here?
    With no lovin’ in our souls
    And no money in our coats
    You can’t say we’re satisfied
    Angie, Angie
    You can’t say we never tried

    Angie, you’re beautiful, yeah
    But ain’t it time we said goodbye?
    Angie, I still love you
    Remember all those nights we cried?
    All the dreams were held so close
    Seemed to all go up in smoke
    Let me whisper in your ear
    Angie, Angie
    Where will it lead us from here

    Oh, Angie, don’t you weep
    Oh, your kisses still taste sweet
    I hate that sadness in your eyes
    But Angie, Angie
    Ain’t it time we said goodbye? Yeah
    With no lovin’ in our souls
    And no money in our coats
    You can’t say we’re satisfied

    Angie, I still love you, baby
    Everywhere I look, I see your eyes
    There ain’t a horse that comes close to you
    Come on, baby, dry your eyes
    Angie, Angie
    Ain’t it good to be alive?
    Angie, Angie
    They can’t say we never tried

  5. Bill of Rights March 8, 2024 at 12:28 pm #

    That was a beautiful story Jim. It really painted a vivid picture in my mind of what it is looks like and feels like in your neck of the woods. Thanks.

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  6. RobRhodes March 9, 2024 at 12:59 am #

    That sounds like a nice property. I’m glad the owners got a roof on the house. There’s land, fuel, a big barn! a pond! a still useable/repairable small house that likely just needs eaves troughs and a rocket mass heater to be livable. There’s even enough lumber for simple furniture, immediate dry fuel, repairs…. I think as expectations change radically this place will regain its true value as arable land with clean(?) water.

    By the way, do you know if that barn is timber or truss framed?

    • Dr. Coyote March 18, 2024 at 8:47 am #

      Yes, RR, once there’s a good roof on a place, nearly any house can be brought back from the brink. I have good hopes for this homestead, if the owners can get their own issues sorted.

  7. JackStraw March 12, 2024 at 8:56 am #

    That was a lovely story, Jim, and I appreciate your endless optimism, although I can’t say I share it. Maybe something good will happen and spur a reversal of my lack of faith in humanity.

  8. Mostly Disagreeable March 14, 2024 at 9:40 pm #

    Names of Horses,
    Donald Hall

    All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
    and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
    sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
    for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

    In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
    dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
    All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
    clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

    and after noon’s heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
    gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
    and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
    three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

    Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
    a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
    Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
    of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

    When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
    one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
    led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
    and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

    and lay the shotgun’s muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
    and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
    shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
    where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

    For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
    roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
    yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
    frost heaved your bones in the ground – old toilers, soil makers:

    O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.

  9. looking4good March 15, 2024 at 11:41 am #

    I never comment online anymore, but I am making an exception to tell you that this article touched me very deeply. It reminded me that inside all beings is a primal need to connect and help one another – to prop each other up. We must continue to find ways to do so, no matter how small, despite the overwhelming pressures that divide us. To not do so is to deny our humanity. After all, what is the definition of humanity but a “compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition.” Thank you, HJK!

  10. VeldesX March 18, 2024 at 9:56 pm #

    The old place is definitely an eyesore, Jim. But its an eyesore on the up-and-up. As someone who likes to spruce up eyesores due to wear-n-tear, I can appreciate this one.

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  11. docmartin March 19, 2024 at 2:29 pm #

    Never did I ever think a song about Angie Bowie would apply to a sad old horse. How dare you tucsonspur align that poor old horse with that POS!

    • BackRowHeckler March 30, 2024 at 10:44 pm #

      That property definitely has possibilities altho I wouldn’t let it go too much longer. We used to have many places like that in rural Connecticut, not so much any more. Around here now that house would be demolished and replaced by a Mac Mansion or a low income housing project.

      There are youtubers out there who drive around the South & midwest, documenting distressed & half abandoned towns. What strikes me about many of the properties outside of these towns is how dilapidated the homesteads are, no gardens, no livestock, yards full of rusting junk (abandoned cars, tractors with flat tires, trailers, construction equipment.) How much does it cost to plant a garden? The county most likely gives seeds away for free. The rusting junk in the yard can be scrapped for money. Fix your place up, clear the land, plant a garden, raise some chickens, buy a few gallons of paint for the dwelling.That’s my 2c anyway.

      Does anybody come by and tend the horse. Horses need daily care. If not, I’d call the SFPCA.

  12. kristiyn April 1, 2024 at 11:06 am #

    So awesome Jim. Thank you. I love animals too. Will you keep an eye on her? Someone may need to help her if she enters into suffering. Horses are so big. When They suffer. They suffer.