APHA

The Bottom of the Hill

By Billy Smith

Weddings that feature horses have a certain nostalgic allure—they make the whole affair grander and harken to something simpler. That’s true even for me, a non-wedding kind of guy. I have this rule that I keep religiously: I attend no more than one wedding a year. I’m happy for all those involved, and I believe in marriage—I’ve been happily in that state for 30 years—yet I have always had to work at the ceremony part. Perhaps it’s residual from the fact that I was one of those “fidgety” kids—sitting for more than 30 seconds was a bit of a chore.

As a child, it seemed to me that sitting was a giant waste of time. There was lots to do outside; all that time I spent at weddings was time never again to return to me.

Or maybe it’s just the whole aura of ceremony. Just the thought of a miscue in front of a crowd makes me—and most people—a little queasy. I’d rather be fidgety watching a ceremony than duly embarrassed in front of a crowd. But my friend who pens the blog “Mom on the Rocks” is fearless and not afraid of public appearance. She’s the arbiter of self-confidence.

That’s why hiring a pair of Belgians to make multiple deliveries of wedding participants seemed like a simple enough activity when it came to her wedding. As a city girl, though, horse behavior was not in her cerebral cortex. Fortunately for her, it was my one wedding of the year. It was in Houston. In the summer. Outdoors. Got the picture? It was hot.

With the assembly of well-wishers seated in the grassy staging area, the carriage meandered down the wooded path. Driven two-in-hand, the Belgians were well behaved, and the scene pastoral and beautiful.

The guests’ location listed slightly to the southwest. The carriage made its delivery of the bride’s sister, the tiny ring-bearer and the equally diminutive flower girls at the northeast corner of the assembly. It was beautiful and went off without a hitch. Silence filled the air as we waited for the two lumbering animals to retrieve the bride.

The first Belgian, as politely as a 1,800-pound animal can be, decided that he had waited much too long and took care of a lingering urge that had probably been with him from the time he delivered the first small ones. Here’s where things begin to shift to the surreal. My dear friend made two tactical errors that probably wouldn’t have befallen someone with greater husbandry skills, which was understandable given that she was within minutes of acquiring her own husband. The delivery was made on the upside of the slope. Just as Belgian One delivered his payload, the notion of attending to the same natural urges befell Belgian Two. The leakage began its rapid descent downward, dispersing like small, odorous tributaries throughout the crowd. Talk about a river runs through it. Remember, it was in Houston, summer, outdoors. Got the picture?

For me and a few others who necessarily had rural upbringings, dealing with this distraction was little more than lifting one’s feet as the deluge made its way through wedding guests’ footwear. To the others, who undeniably were subdivision dwellers, reaction ranged from rank horror to whispers that the streaming toxin might carry with it typhus or something worse. As one lady politely whispered with a grave sense of urgency, “Do horses carry the plague?”

I reassured her that she was most likely out of the plague’s clutches. “That is,” I said, “unless one of the Yersinia pestis that inhabits the fleas that normally carry the plague had been in some of the grasses of Kurdistan where Belgians are commonly located and from which this pair probably were exported. Then we might be in trouble.” But I assured her it was highly unlikely.

She seemed relieved, which was an appropriate emotion for this particular wedding comedy that left the olfactory in ammonia overload.

Finally, the Belgians completed their appointed natural urgings and returned to deliver the most gorgeous of tall brides to her equally tall life companion (she’s 6’3” and he’s 6’10”). Technically, the wedding went off with a hitch—two, actually—but otherwise undaunted and none were worse the wear; that is, until one of the bridal court began reading her prescribed biblical scriptures from the book of Philippians. Not terribly familiar with this, one of the tiniest of Biblical books, her pronunciation of the scripture location seemed to indicate that it might have had its origin in the South China Sea rather than the Middle East, which was perfectly timed to take everyone’s mind away from the contribution of the two Belgians.

Which leaves me to the only contribution that I can make for those considering adding the regal allure of horses to their wedding parties: park at the bottom of the hill.

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