by F. Thomas Breningstall
|Published in the January 2001 Issue of Anvil Magazine
I'm sitting here drinking wine from a paper cup and thinking, "Oh, the sadness of it all! I think I feel lower than I have in a long time."
The thoughts come of other low times in my life: the death of my parents, the loss of a job (when I used to work for a living prior to shoeing horses), and going broke a couple of times. But the sadness this time has nothing to do with the Manischewitz wine I'm drinking out of a paper cup (a paper cup because I'm just too lazy to dirty a glass and then have to wash it.) Besides, for what little bit of wine I drink, it all tastes the same, even out of the bottle. I still have enough pride not to drink wine from the bottle-most of the time, anyway.
You want to know what's on my mind? It's retirement-hanging up my chaps for the last time. Although this retirement thing isn't going to happen for four or five years, give or take a year or so, I'm still thinking about it a lot. Someone asks me almost every week when I am going to retire. Most customers express regrets about my retiring; others could care less.
But the day will come, and if the next five years go by as fast as the last five did, then the time to retire will be here before I know it.
There are some things I will miss, things that have been a major part of my working life. And they're sad to contemplate. Mostly, the money will be missed. I know most farriers plead poverty, but in fact we are well paid for what we do. If you're not making ends meet, take a business course or raise your prices.
I'll miss the respect most people have for a dedicated farrier. Will that be lost? Will I be a `has-been?'
I've known some customers for 10, 15, 20 years or more. I see them every six weeks or so and you can't help making friends with some very nice people.
Then there are the horses. Many of these horses I work on are now in their late teens or twenties and I have been their farrier since their birth. Some of these horses have never taken a lame step. But when lameness happens and I can help a lame horse feel and move better, it makes me feel good. I'll miss those warm, fuzzy moments.
I'll miss the camaraderie with other farriers. I can honestly say I have never disliked any farrier I have met. And many of them have become loyal friends.
The driving is another thing. I just like driving around out in the country, seeing how things have changed-some good, some bad. I have just purchased a new Dodge pickup truck and have told my customers that this will be my last shoeing rig. I get a new rig every four or five years, so retirement is getting close? On the other hand, there will be some positive points about retirement. It will be nice not to have to get up so early every morning. I won't miss paying all those taxes and buying all those supplies. My hands won't be all cut up, I won't have burns and callouses on them, and my muscles, bones and joints won't be nearly as sore. It will be a relief not to have to buy so much gasoline and to keep such a rigid schedule on the upkeep of my truck. And all those old horses that lean? They're not mean-they just hurt as much as I do, so I often have had to work down quite low to keep them comfortable. Getting that low is like working on a mini-horse with a 500-lb. weight on my back. Then there are all those baby horses in the spring and a few other horses I just plain don't like working on. There are the missed appointments and last-minute cancellations which will, hopefully, become faded events in my memory bank. The damned flies, the profuse sweating (me and the horses), the cold hands, all the dirty clothes my wife has to wash, and the purple toenail that I always seem to have one of- deleting these from my life will be a blessing.
There are also the phone calls on my days off about the lost shoe I put on eight weeks ago, and can I fix it today? And of course I won't miss the paid holidays, vacations or sick days that I never had.
You know what? This retirement thing doesn't sound so bad after all! I think I will definitely look forward to the mysteries and new adventures of retirement. In fact, in celebration of my future new life, I'll now fill up my paper cup once more-this time with something milder, just like my coming years will hopefully be-got milk?