Today (June 6, 2009) is the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, the World War II invasion of France by an allied force of British, US, Australian, Canadian, and many other nations. They came by sea and they dropped from the sky by parachute. You've seen the movies, and you probably know the story. (If you don't, you need to find out more!)
Imagine my surprise when I found these two photos in the archives of the invasion. In the midst of all the fighter planes, tanks and artillery, we find some unidentified soldiers who appear to have stumbled on a smithy in the countryside in Cruelly, one the first towns inland from the beaches, and hence one of the first real places in France to be "liberated" by the invading allies.
|Here's an enlargement of the men's faces. This could be a Norman Rockwell painting.|
It's easy to imagine a scenario here--perhaps the American-looking soldier is a farm boy from Tennessee or even a farrier himself, who has never seen the European way of holding up the hind foot for the farrier. He'd be saying (with a helmet on, after just almost being killed on the beach at Omaha), "Geez, that's dangerous! you might get kicked, old man!"
Or perhaps he was an inner city boy from Chicago who had never seen a horse shod in his life, and after surviving the landing on the beach and marching inland, sees life with new eyes. He and his detail are supposed to check that all the buildings of this village are empty and secure and instead they find this old man and a farmer's son shoeing a plow horse. He's dismayed. They have to leave. But first, they insist on finishing the horse, the translator in the beret tells him: they're not going anywhere until the last nail on the last shoe is clinched.
Perhaps they needed the horse to be shod so they could use him for transportation to evacuate.
I think these photos illustrate one of the most magical things about shoeing horses, anywhere and everywhere it happens, but especially in a purpose-built shop or a real smithy. Time does seem to stop. No one can go anywhere until it's done. No matter how modern the materials, how buzzed up the hairstyle of the farrier or the number of body piercings and tattoos of the horse holder, the ritual is timeless.
Sixty-five years later, I was amazed to find these photos and couldn't wait until June 6 rolled around on the calendar to share them with you. I hope you will remember the importance of this day and all the people who died from all the many nations that day.
--by Fran Jurga
Photo credit: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA. Many thanks for the loan of these photographs.
P.S. Someone may be able to re-create this photo or check in to see if the forge is still there; Normandy has been chosen as the site of the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Bayeaux is also near CIRALE, the equine locomotion and lameness diagnostic and research center lead by Professor Jean-Marie Denoix.
© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.
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