Reprinted from September 1991
I’ll bet all you jewelers out there bite your tongue when a customer consults his barber, manicurist, masseur or aunt Tussie before purchasing a diamond. I’ve heard RB do his share of complaining on the subject, too. In fact, to hear RB tell it, everyone except a reliable jeweler is automatically a diamond expert.
If one consults a jeweler when purchasing a diamond, whom does one consult when purchasing a horse? An air conditioning expert, of course!
At one time, RB decided to go into the horse business. Until then, the nearest thing to a horse RB had ever ridden was a pony at the state fair in 1929. I don’t know what prompted his sudden interest in horseflesh, it just happened. One morning he woke up and instead of discussing his golf game, he boldly declared, “Martha, I think we should own a couple of horses. They say horseback riding is very good exercise!”
“For the horse, maybe,” I chided.
“I’m serious, I’m going to look into the prospects of horse ownership.”
Wives of harmless jewelers learn to overlook many wild whims knowing they will pass with time, so I really didn’t pay too much attention. A few days later, RB showed up with a fellow who claimed to be an expert on horses.
“What do you do for a living, sir?” I asked politely.
“I service air conditioners.”
“He’s been around horses all his life, Martha. He’s an expert,” RB explained.
Who could argue?
“Jack here is going with me to look over a horse we understand is for sale in Mexico. Do you want to come along?”
“I’d better, just to be on the safe side,” I agreed.
We found the horse being shown at the bull ring. He was brought out on a halter and paraded around to show off his confirmation.
“Is good horse,” our Mexican arbitrator volunteered. “Only one thing wrong with ‘im…he not look so good. “
Right away I was skeptical because he looked beautiful to me. A buckskin with four perfectly black stocking feet and a black mane and tail.
RB’s expert examined him closely, feeling his muscles, peering into his mouth and examining the bottom of his hooves.
“Sure is a good buy, RB,” he proclaimed. “Not over nine years old and sound as a dollar. You really should buy him.”
“Si, Senor!” the arbitrator spoke up, “only one thing wrong with ‘im, he not look so good.”
Saddle Him Up
“Put a saddle on him and let’s see him work out.” I couldn’t believe RB was giving orders, like he’d been buying horses since Custer’s last stand.
A Mexican boy tossed a saddle on Ol’ Buck and put him through his paces. ‘Ol Buck really performed too. His keen ears pointed forward, he pranced around showing off, walking sideways, backwards and ending his performance with a spectacular bow.
I was still skeptical. “RB, I haven’t been around horse traders for some time now, but my grand pappy always said there were plenty of ways to fool a gullible buyer. Anyway, the asking price of $375 seems low for a horse of this caliber.”
He tossed aside the objection. “Don’t’ be suspicious, Martha. Jack here says he’s in fine shape and you saw him work out yourself.”
So in spite of my protests, the deal was quickly negotiated and RB was the new owner of Ol’ Buck.
“How,” I asked, “are you going to get him back into the United States? One can hardly ride a horse across an international bridge.”
RB looked stunned. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.”
So another deal was negotiated and a fellow was employed to wade the animal across the Rio Grande in the middle of the night.
Then RB had to arrange for someone with a horse trailer to pick ‘Ol Buck up at the appointed time. All this cost him another hundred dollars. Nevertheless, our expert, Jack, assured RB he was getting a fine buy and RB was feeling so good about the whole thing he gave Jack $25 for his professional advice.”
They got the horse across and to the stable without issue. The next morning, we went to take a look at him. He didn’t seem as chipper as he’d been the previous day. He kept bumping into things and it suddenly dawned on me what the arbitrator had meant when he said, “He don’t look so good.” What he should have said was, “He don’t see so good.”
He was limping noticeably and RB decided he must have sprained an ankle crossing the river. He called a local vet to check him over. The prognosis? The vet informed RB that Ol’ Buck was at least 26 years old. Someone had done a little dental work to make him appear younger. They had also injected him with Novocaine so he could perform.
“Well, he is pretty,” I tried to comfort him. “What are we going to do with him?”
RB looked sheepish. “I guess we’re stuck. I can’t take him back and I can’t ride him.” He patted Ol’ Buck affectionately. “And I’m too soft to turn him into Alpo. I guess we’ll have to find a place to pasture him out.”
“Alright, RB, you get going and see if you can located someplace with reasonable rates.”
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m going to consult our tax expert and see if there’s anyway we can deduct $375 for a lame horse, $100 in transportation fees and the permanent pasture bill… and, oh, yes, RB, your $25 for a horse expert.”