Baxter Black: Roasting chestnuts
There is a new book out on Horse Lameness. The author is my good friend and a fine equine veterinarian, meaning:
1) He can tell a $50 horse from a $5,000 horse via the the phone
2) Has never picked up a shoeing hammer
3) And drives a silver Porsche Boxter!
I complimented him on the thoroughness of his coverage, then I noticed that there was only one mention of the chestnut. I had expected a full chapter! He politely explained that you couldn’t write a page on the chestnut, much less a chapter.
I took that personally. I have an attachment to vestigial appendages; the pelvis in a blue whale, the wishbone in a turkey, the appendix in a human, the heart in a banker. The chestnut is the remnant of the medial phalanx. Which is equivalent to the human thumb, the inside toenail of an elephant and the truffle in a salad!
There is a Chestnut Society. They meet once a year at the jockey club at Ruidoso Downs and ponder the chestnut’s contribution to civilization. For instance, on the ark Noah had a chestnut attack, an egregious craving for chestnuts. “I can’t steer without my chestnut!” he cried.
“But Noah,” said his wife, “The ark doesn’t have a rudder!”
Nonetheless, he was inconsolable until his nephew Jim Bob went down into the hold, trimmed some shavings off Roany’s chestnut, and presented it to Noah on a bagel. Who knows where he might have landed if he’d lost his way? Maybe Australia, Lapland or Kentucky. Just think, all those coal miners would have been speaking Yiddish if it weren’t for the chestnut!
I have always suspected Napoleon really lost at Waterloo because his horse suffered a chestnut injury instead of losing a horseshoe. I mean, a horseshoe! It is common knowledge that obscure lamenesses often are blamed on the shoer. So that’s what I think Napoleon did, even though he knew it was really the innocuous chestnut.
The most famous line about chestnuts is from that song, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire:” which is wrong. The lines were mistranslated down through the millinea. It really is derived from an old chant of the Senior Pro Rodeo Association: “Stressed nuts roping ’cause they can’t retire:”
I have my own lucky chestnut. I take it with me every time I go riding. My horse carries it for me, plus a spare. I think it has protected me from many things; I’ve never been trampled by a herd of wildebeests, never been in a 100-year flood and never been tempted to eat an ergot. Which, of course would be blasphemous, so far as a chestnut nut is concerned!
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