In 1929, Bessie Smith sang this song:
In the year Ms. Smith recorded that song, one out of four American families bought a car. When the Great Depression hit, some of those cars ended up being towed by horses. They called them “Hoover wagons.”
People who couldn’t afford a car could afford a horse if they were lucky.
And then, when things kept getting worse, most of them couldn’t. There wasn’t a penny in their pockets. Options had run out and hope wasn’t far behind.
What happened to all those horses when there wasn’t a penny to feed them?
In southern Missouri (and everywhere else), many simply set their horses free, to fend for themselves or to die. Better, perhaps, than to watch them die at home or on the road. Or kill them. Or eat them.
Today, the descendants of those horses abandoned by their impoverished owners during the Great Depression form a wild herd. And today’s impoverished owners are once again abandoning their horses in southern Missouri (and all over the country).
These horses are in for just as tough a time. It’s hard to scrounge for food. There are predators. And the domesticated horses don’t mix so well with the wild ones. Pity the old horses, or the horses who were already sick and starving when their owners finally said, “Goodbye, good luck.”
The Wild Horse League can still find homes for the wild horses. People still want them. The dumped horses are free for the taking. But there are no takers. Only broken hearts.