Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Horseshoe Pile Transformed to a Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree outside the shoeing shop on the Kriz family farm in Bethany, Connecticut is decorated for the season. Notice the chain that encircles it leaves some room for expansion. (photo courtesy of Joe Kriz Jr.)

What happens to old horseshoes when they're pulled off horses? Some farriers leave them behind for clients to dispose, some have a place to drop them off for recycling but quite a few still pursue the traditional art of building a shoe pile outside the home forge. When they return at night, the day's pulled shoes go on the pile.
Do you think these guys were thirsty?

Some people are fastidious about interlocking the shoes into columns, some throw them into a pit, and some use the most freeform method of all: throwing the shoes onto a pile.

And some people look at them and see a Christmas tree. This would make a great Christmas card!

The photo at right shows the most fastidious shoe pile I've ever seen. It was featured in Popular Science Magazine in 1925. Notice that it appears to be completely freestanding. The article said that it was made completely of horseshoes; it stood in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Maybe there was a pub next door. Or maybe they were just thirsty when they threw the shoes on the pile.

Cornell vet school's farrier shop pile in 1920.

There's something about putting a final cap on the day as you pull up and throw the old shoes on your pile. There's a clink, a clunk, a slide as the stuck nails get a grip somewhere on the pile.

Aluminum sounds different than steel. Plastic shoes make little sound at all and stand out--some farriers have asked if urethane shoes can be recycled in their household bins.

The shoeing world is changing and not all farriers have the real estate at home to start and build a shoe pile. It's probably not in the condo rules. And when you move, you have to figure out what will happen to the shoe pile.

But what happens to a pile is that it takes a shape, and that shape naturally gets a peak.

And this time of year, the triangular peak starts to look an awful lot like a Christmas tree. It's a good thing, because (as you can see in the photo) the grass is green in New England this Christmas.