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Sagging Cob ~ Atlanta, Michigan

artwhiz47

Hamburg, United States

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NB ~ I realize that the horse pictured here is not technically a ‘cob’ (for some reason I associate cobs with gypsies), BUT…
all this talk of Snigging Cobs in Cumbria put me in mind of this unusual photo. My maternal grandfather George W. Elson (1871 ~ 1952), seen here negotiating this nag’s spinal column (an early form of equine massage?) (is there a latter-day form of equine massage…? …probably), was a domestic missionary with the Congregational Church organization. He was sent to the wilds of Michigan to the town of Atlanta, where he set about befriending the Atlanteans. Atlanta was not the end of the world by any means, & was the county seat of Montmorency County. But it was a depressed area, & though I think it’s safe to say that most of the residents were already convinced Christians, they required aid of various kinds. Supplying this support was my grandfather’s mission. He was a charmer with a non-stop sense of humor & a sterling intellect, & from the handful of letters that I have seen, sent to my grandmother after they left Atlanta, it is clear they were a popular pair. That grandmother, Mabel Hobbie Elson (1878 ~ 1965) can be seen wringing her hands in this photo. Mabel was from a privileged background, & it was a shock to her system, no doubt, to be whisked away from her brilliant wedding with its catered ‘covers’ & string orchestra to Atlanta, Michigan. What’s more, she became pregnant almost immediately, & despite the fact that she was a stoic type & a non-complainer, her letters home hint at some fairly intense homesickness. Then there was the ‘9 months’ factor… would the baby be premature? Were people counting on their fingers? Oh, woe. But Uncle Jack cooperated & spent his entire term indoors, so this did not become a weighty dilemma. All this happened in 1900 – but they only spent a couple of years there. My grandfather’s religious ‘calling’ was borderline; he went to Moody Bible Institute but was never ordained. His first love was social work, & after they left Michigan to return to Western New York, after a brief spell of Leaving It All Behind & running a music store in Springville, NY, about thirty miles south of Buffalo, he went to work for the Erie County Department of Public Welfare & remained with that body until his retirement in 1942.
This horse & he were inseparable. There are terrible (quality) pictures of Pop on the honeywagon (manure spreader), on the haywagon (tossing hay), with Sagging Cob standing patiently in harness. There’s one with the two of them side by side, peering out of the barn door. The photograph seen here was in much worse condition when I started on it… couldn’t do much about the inherently bad focus, but I did clean up a multitude of spots & scratches & other sins. Rest assured – Pop was a devoted animal-lover; no horses were harmed in the making of this picture. How my grandfather got off the horse in the end is unknown, but he lived to father two more children.

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Artwork Comments

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