Monday, August 28, 2017

How to Sew Up a Horse with Buttons

On August 8, I interviewed Dave Dunn about growing up in St. John's. We talked about his early years in Georgestown (which, as Dave said, was "a bustling community, lively as heck"), his dealings with "longshoreman gangs" on the waterfront (who were always nabbing transistor radios, "the iPhones of the day"), and his later life in Makinsons, where he gardens, picks berries, hunts and forages for most of his food. Towards the end of our interview, Dave brought up the matter of tending to injured animals. "If a horse is in trouble," he said, "if they need to get a pill in them, you've got to get a pill in them. You've got to figure out ways to make things work." With that, he launched into the tale of the time he sewed up a horse with buttons.
Diagram drawn by Dave Dunn, showing how he stitched up an injured horse with buttons and a shoelace. The diagram shows the position of the cut, the shape of the open wound, and his method of repair.

When Dave's horse, Prancer, first received the injury, Dave initially called up the local doctor. However, the doctor didn't want to be known as a "horse doctor," and thus refused his services. Dave then took matters into his own hands, and attempted to sew up his horse with sutures, but the stitches wouldn't hold. After giving the operation a couple of tries, he recalled a story of the time that a Clarke's Beach cow had a wound sewn up with buttons. And so, a woman named Myrtle brought out her button collection, and Dave decided to give it a shot. He explained:

“I think it was about seven buttons—four on the bottom, and three on the top. One in the centre on the top, a couple of flanks, and then the ones on the bottom to match it. … The buttons held. And then afterwards, when the buttons were held, then I used a shoelace. Pulled it together with a shoelace, and tied it up with a little bow.”

Dave used orajel to ease the horse's pain, but as he said, "The repercussion of it was that it was a hot day, and while I was in there trying to do it, I was rubbing sweat off my head—and next thing I knew, my forehead went dead, and my nose went dead, and my mouth went dead, and my fingers went numb—oh, it was so funny trying to do it. That was the funny part. It just made it into such a lark."

Dave had called up a nearby vet to inspect his operation. After sizing up the job, the vet told Dave, "I couldn't have done any better." Dave cut off the buttons once Prancer had healed (after a week or so), and that was that. The cut was set at the very point where Prancer's black and white hair met, so nobody ever saw the scar.
Prancer the horse. Photo courtesy of Dave Dunn.

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