Days Gone By - stories from the past

Maude, the horse – humorous story from Lowndes County, Alabama


The Story of a Horse That Had a False Mane and Tail1

(Transcribed, unedited story from 1939 – some language used may not be appropriate today)

written April 4, 1939



Lowndesboro, Alabama

Maude was a beautiful animal and as she was speeding along the country roads she was the admiration of all who saw her. She had a black satiny coat and her mane and tail was unusually thick and luxuriant. Her appearance was so attractive and appealing that it would open the purse of any prospective buyer. To those who are fond of our four footed friends, to see her was to want her.

Horses by Carolyn Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)

Wanted for buggy driving

She was bought and carried to a large plantation near the County seat to be used by the owner in fancy driving when “buggy driving” was in vogue. It was during the uncertain days of the World War when the flower of our young manhood was called to the front and when those left behind were called upon to raise food to sustain the fighting forces.

Lewis was the son of a large family where farming was the predominant occupation and where Maude was brought to make her home. The aged mother wanted to do her “patriotic bit” in the nation wide conflict, but was glad her boy was not eligible for oversea duty as she had just stood by the grave of her other son and too, she remembered the horrors of 61-65. The call and urge was made for the planting of more food, and she with her son, responded by enlarging their agricultural operations. The planting possibilities were extensive and every idle acre was tilled. To increase activities, more stock had to be purchased and that meant signing on the dotted line in a big way.

Mules were needed

Mules were expensive and whenever the planter had to replenish his livestock it was a lucky break for someone in the mule and horse business in the city markets nearby. Anywhere from a span to a score were purchased with prices ranging from $200.00 to $350.00 a head and that spelled a neat sum of money. The prosperous planter gave a fat check while those who were operating farms “on time” made a fat mortgage on his incoming crop. And the dealer scored. Lewis went into town to buy a pair of mules and a horse for his personal use. He was of the “stepping out” age and wanted a knock out.

He made arrangements for the trip which was 35 or 40 miles from the capitol city. Several negroes on the farm was (sic) selected to made the trip to bring the stock back and ones chosen were in high glee as it was an event. – As the blacks expressed it they were going and coming “by dirt”, and about three days were required in transit.

Delighted to go with Little Boss

They were delighted to go with Little Boss – because he would give them money – and good eats – plenty of “red eye” (whiskey) and carousing was on their program. Old historical Tallawassee Creek was usually the camping-out place. On the return trip a longer time was required to stop in order to sober up before reaching the Big House where another stop was made for Mistus to inspect the drove. The drove was led one by one to the rear door of the ante bellum plantation mansion and the Mistus was wheeled out in a luxurious rolling chair by a mulatto woman.

Maude was a beautiful brute

The Mistus was reared in the lap of luxury, and was a product of the southern aristocracy and with resources to back up her ideas of extravagance. She could not get away from it. When Maude was led up for inspection she was proud that her son would have the prettiest team in town and was glad he paid twice as much for her as they usually paid for a family horse. As the drove trotted down the Highway, Maude was a beautiful brute. Her black coat shone out in the sunlight. It was smooth as satin and as glossy. At that time one of the favorite customs among the young people was buggy rides in the afternoon. A girl counted her popularity by her invitations to go driving. Lewis was “itching” to show out his new horse and could not wait till Sunday p.m. to come (which was usually the high point in pastime in rural districts.) A note was sent to the home of his best girl asking her for a date to help him christian (christen) his new beauty.

For the purpose (sending the note) he selected a most likely Negroe and some time was spent in dressing him up to impress the girls family. A high standing celluloid collar was always on hand to be used by the messenger. If one could arouse from a sleep such as Rip Van had, they could recognize Sunday in a small town by the “Piccaninies” flying to and fro with notes. And it might be added that the maidens were on the sly expecting one.

Perhaps she had been kept awake half of the previous night because in secret anticipation she had put her hair up in rags or curl papers or kid rollers and sleep was next to impossible. In the days of kid rollers – kid gloves were also slept in, and the face had an overnight buttermilk spread or mask – sometime even worse. There were no local telephones for date making – neither were there beauty parlors in that period – but primping and love making prospered the world over, and in some way Maude got her “make-up”.

Maude was brushed till her hide was slick

The invitation was answered with a sweet acceptance and Maude was brushed and brushed till her hide was soft and slick. Her mane and tail was also thoroughly combed and brushed. The H. M. T. (Hug Me Tight) buggy was also rubbed up and polished and she was hooked to it. The buggy which was commonly known by that name was light weight, expensive and and a small seat. It was usually used for sporting purposes.

It was noticed that she was very frisky and was “rareing” (sic) to go. When she arrived at the home of the “best girl” “Mocking Bird Place”, she could scarcely be held in check long enough for the “best girl” to get in and she could not get in till two men were called to hold the horse down and cover her head with sacks. For the occasion the “date” attired herself in a charming dress of Dolly Varden organdie, white sandals and picture hat. The dainty outfit was accompanied by a white sunshade covered with ruffles and a feathered fan.

Traveling so fast that it took two to see them

After the dainty girl finally got in a white ribbon was tied in a large bow around the buggy whip. This was too much “agony” for Maude so she made a start on her wild drive. Lewis “showed” her and the outfit to the home town people and then decided to show her off to his friends in the capitol of Lowndes.

The seven mile run from town to town meant nothing to the speeding Maude, and was rapidly covered. The girl was holding on and Lewis secretly admitted that they had to go where the horse willed. Those who saw them said they were traveling at such speed that it took two to see them. Wherever a stop was made for a cold drink, two men had to hold her and again her head was covered. Lewis only thought she had wonderful speed and needed “breaking in”, so he was still proud of his buy.

Several of the principal streets were driven up and down and then he began to circle around the public square. The climax of the wild ride (which he was enjoying immensely) came as he was passing the Courthouse. Maude was daintily trotting along when, Alas! Her tail dropped off in the highway! The beautiful luxurious tail that was one of her great attractions.

Maude never stopped

It was about five p.m. when the streets were crowded and around the courthouse at that time the elite of the town and county were gathered. It would be difficult to describe the embarrassment of the couple. The amusement of the bystanders and the amusement of everyone. A horse had lost his tail and trotted on and around the square without ever stopping. An occurrence that it was said by spectators that no one ever heard before. And it was not a case of “they say”, but it was witnessed by outstanding citizens. Maude was carried on the last stages of her journey to the farm.

Upon investigation, it was found that the false tail was made of beautiful horse hair and made with some attachment by which it was fastened to and around her own tail which was but a “nub”. Of course the job was not secure, hence the discovery. The “once over” which she was then given disclosed the fact that the mane was also false.

This was an abundant amount of glossy horses’ hair made into a mane and stuck on with a heavy glue, and her wonderful amount of spirit and speed was due to the fact that she had been “pepped up” with quantities of Cocaine. By the time she reached her destination the effects of this had worn off and when her “make up” was taken off, she would not have been recognisable (sic) and was too worn out to be of any service. Her “make-up” and transformation was a neat piece of work.

Lewis returned to horse trader

Lewis goes back to horse trader and a small adjustment was made, but the joke lives on, and is still resurrected and laughed over by those who saw it.

Not a Tall Tale – but an actual honest to goodness incident that took place in Lowndes County, Maude was a knock-out but of short duration.


Mr. L. W. Reese, my informant, is a land owner and planter at Lowndesboro, Alabama. He is a grandson of N. M. Reese, a pioneer in Lowndes, and who aided in the development of the village. L. W. Reese attended home schools and Howard College, Birmingham, Alabama – past merchant at Lowndesboro, and at time the incident written of occurred he operated the extensive “Turner Farm”, a property of his mother, 7 miles south of the county seat, and he was the purchaser of the horse with the “make-up”.

He is a bachelor 55 years of age, weighs 145 Lbs., pepper and salt hair, dark complexion and gray eyes. Democrat and Episcopalian.

Interviewed in his home, with a view of again getting the story I had heard before. (4/5/39) MS. WPA writer.

1This is a transcribed, unedited story written April 4, 1939 by WPA (Works Progress Administration) WRITER MARIE REESE Interview L. W. Reese (white) Lowndesboro, Alabama

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