Beasts of Burden: What Do They Think?

July 20, 2019

Beasts of Burden: What Do They Think?


beast of burden (from Merriam-Webster)

noun phrase

Definition of beast of burden

an animal employed to carry heavy loads or to perform other heavy work (such as pulling a plow)

White horse with a unicorn horn
This beautiful horse had a unicorn horn and fanciful headgear, waiting to take tourists on a slow journey around the French Quarter in New Orleans this spring

The Rolling Stones Song

The Rollings Stones song, Beast of Burden, has been stuck in my head for more than a week since connecting with a friend who was going to their New Orleans concert last Monday with his significant other. Especially the line, “I’ve walked for miles, my feet are hurting”. It feels so relevant to me because of the foot surgery, but for this post, it’s about the animals, the true “beasts of burden”.

How Do They Feel?

I’ve always wondered how our beasts of burden feel about their “jobs”. Are their feet hurting? Do they enjoy being useful, understanding how important they are to us? Are they singing the animal kingdom equivalent of Whistle While You Work?

From the Disney Company
Excerpt from Whistle While You Work
"Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won't take long when there's a song to help you set the pace"

Or do they want to go on strike for better working conditions, a day off, or higher “wages”? Is it more likely that they’re singing Old Man River to themselves as they toil?

Paul Robeson as the stevedore Joe, singing about the force of the river and the inescapable drudgery of his near-slavery working on the docks
Excerpt from Old Man River
"You and me
We sweat and strain
Body all aching
And wracked with pain

The Dancing Chicken Doesn’t Have a Choice

What do they think? As a teenager, I burst into tears at Aquarena Springs in San Marcos when my younger brother put a quarter into a little cage and a live rooster danced for about 30 seconds to earn a half ounce of feed. “He’s just doing his job,” my Mom said. “But (sob) he doesn’t (sob) have a choice! (sob) It’s not fair!” I felt that the rooster would rather be home on the range than dancing for his supper in a coin-operated metal cage in the theme park’s petting zoo. I think this was one of the many times that my mother muttered “Life isn’t fair”. I didn’t appreciate that at all at the time, but now I know what she meant, the wise woman. Sigh.

From the Petting Zoo blog; the dancing chicken ‘game’ looked something like this

Ralph, the Swimming Pig

Aquarena Springs sported glass-bottomed boats from which visitors would view underwater theater, submarine ballet and “Ralph, the Swimming Pig”.

Archive photo of Ralph from Aquarena Springs

Ralph was actually one of a succession of pigs who were trained to swim and amuse the guests. Was this a great life for a pig? Certainly better than the life of swine raised for the table, I guess. But would he rather have just roamed free? Or is that a false construct for a pig?

In a New Orleans Mood

This post started because I’ve been in a New Orleans mood, partly because of the previous post about the cookbook, partly because of the Rolling Stones concert, partly because, well, I just love New Orleans.

So I was looking at pictures from our last trip to NOLA, and these beautiful horses just spoke to my soul. I hope they are happy. I want them to be.

A portrait closeup of this noble character; does he mind his daily grind?
Waiting for passengers on the carriage ride

And this one, bearing the unicorn horn, how does he/she feel? There seemed to be mutual affection with his handler, a bit of a unicorn herself. Perhaps her work is also a daily grind. Or maybe they’re happy together, living a charmed and useful, productive life. What do you think?

Readying the harness; friends getting ready to work together?

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