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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Stables were cultural hub

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Years ago, Ruth and I toured the Budweiser Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. The tour was fascinating as at the time it was the foremost, most modern and automated brewery in the world. When we reached the stables where many of the retired Budweiser horses lived, we were amazed for the structure was as elegant as a nice home.

This triggered research on the evolution of the horse stable. I found that the "stables" of today had replaced "livery stables" located in cities during the height of the horsepower era before the advent of the gas-powered automobile.

Livery stable is derived from "delivery stable" for at one time almost all goods purchased in stores in the city were delivered by the store to the customer's home. This required large outlays of barns, horses, wagons and buggies for delivery purposes, thus the name livery stable.

The term "livery" used by itself, seems to have been coined in the smaller towns of the Midwest.

Here, stores were smaller and often contracted or hired private firms for customer deliveries. These private firms often rented mounts, teams and equipment to the public along with farrier and grooming services.

During this same period, many of the more wealthy individuals owned their own stock and equipment, and they housed these in elaborate barns located on the rear of their property. These were called stables or "carriage sheds." It appears that maybe a privately owned horse facility should be called a stable and the same facility open for the public called a livery.

Along with liveries, livery stables and stables there were also freight companies for heavier hauling of products. Some blacksmith shops were versatile, offering farrier service, wagon repair, saddle and harness repairs and gun-smithing. Any of these businesses might also offer livestock sales in conjunction with the other services.

All of these evolved from the old time "wagon yard." Both in Europe and early America, travelers sought nightly comfort and protection at remote taverns and inns who offered fenced or walled courtyards and stables for stock. Many of these "traveler way-stations" later became stagecoach stops and grew into villages or towns.

The wagon yards of America came into the history spotlight as settlers began their treks into the West. The settlements along the trails opened wagon yards to attract traveler business by housing and feeding their stock, trading fresh for tired stock, selling supplies and providing protection for the campers. Many wagon yards offered farrier, veterinary and grooming services along with wagon and harness repairs. Most had a single man's bunk house with privies and offered firewood, hay and grain for sale.

After the country settled up, the settlers kept returning to the wagon yards to sell and barter garden produce, poultry and livestock, seeds and plants and home-made items, and they came especially to visit with neighbors and enjoy companionship. The young people courted by strolling around the wagon yard with their escorts while children played games and the adults played cards or dominos. A night or a weekend spent at a wagon yard was similar to our weekend vacations or shopping expeditions to the mall.

Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew"

August 21, 2007 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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