Horse, 1, Police, 0

THE lady said, ``Why!'' in a single syllable that combined disbelief, dismay, disgust, calumny, vituperation, scorn, and a few other derogatory and disparaging abstractions. She told me she had been for groceries, and coming back had passed through the village just as a beautiful quarter horse sauntered the main street, right in front of the post office, and attracted her attention with his stately dignity and what appeared to be his pleasure at leaving his pale to wander about and look things over. He had no halter, and a gentleman was gingerly trying to direct the animal off the highway and into a parking lot. The gentleman, the lady said, was clearly uninstructed and uninformed about horses, and she could see he wouldn't prevail. Then she realized enough time had elapsed since the horse got loose for somebody to telephone for help, because now a police patrol car howled around a corner and came on the scene with blue lights flashing and the importance of the constabulary at stake.

``There are times,'' the lady said to me, ``when policemen should be arrested!''

``Why!'' she said again, ``I haven't been so upset in years!''

The lady told me that the precipitous arrival of Law and Order caused said beautiful horse to leap over several automobiles, which he did with grace and charm, and then he climbed a fence that had some rosebushes and went through a backyard at the expense of a clothesline and somebody's weekly wash. Matters were now out of our lady's view, so we don't know more. ``Why,'' she said, ``the very idea of scaring a poor horse like that!''

She is probably right. Police academies neglect certain topics, and while a recruit is taught to take fingerprints and hold up one hand if he wants traffic to stop, he isn't instructed to approach the wayfaring horse with friendly gesture and a soft clucking to gain attention and respect. Policemen need to be taught how to suck through a tooth and bring a horse over so he'll lay his muzzle on your shoulder. There never was a bigger slob than a horse being properly made off, unless it's a vicious dog who wants his ear rubbed.

Any police officer who comes with flashing lights to arrest a gentle saddle horse in front of a post office is in the wrong profession. He should be sorting sawdust in Lem Porter's shingle mill. ny officer candidate getting his buttons and badge should be required to pass a test on handling animals.

A great shame in this respect lies upon the cops, from local constables up to the FBI, in regard to skunks. The prudent citizen, finding himself menaced by a skunk, should never, never, call the police. All statistics show that the only thing any policeman knows about a skunk is to shoot him. There is much talk about control of handguns, but nobody seems ready to take them away from policemen who get called on skunk duty.

There is only one thing prudence and wisdom call for when dealing with a skunk - let him alone and go away. We country boys know that, and any of us could make a small lecture at the police academy and send the rookies out informed and cautious. But, as nobody ever said, spoke, and uttered, ``Alas!''

Now comes a hurried telephone call from Mr. Urban, who was out trimming his hedge and noticed a strange animal under his front porch. The dispatcher at headquarters gives the alarm, and all officers check their pistols and practice their draws. The fastest gun in town is sent to the relief of Mr. Urban, who is feather-white and distraught. ``I think it's a skunk!'' he tells the officer.

A skunk is a modest sort and likes to be alone with his meditations. There is no record in the annals of natural history to justify the skunk as a menace. If Mr. Urban will keep his mouth shut and mind his own business, the skunk under his porch will shortly go away, probably to turn up soon under another porch and repeat his risk.

But now the officer is ready, and our friendly little skunk has been arrested, booked, charged, indicted, tried, and sentenced. For the next six months Mr. Urban will wish he had kept his mouth shut and minded his own business. Any policeman who shoots a skunk should be made to sleep on Mr. Urban's front porch all summer. A skunk is a Samson who pulls two pillars and wreaks his vengeance. I'm trying to think of something similar for scaring a horse.

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