My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that colour.
A couple of posts ago, I used the word “piebald” in conversation, and that led to a number of comments and observations. Which in turn made me think about where the word came from and why I knew it.
Let’s take the why first. I used to read a lot of Westerns as a child and boy; our house was a Max Brand house rather than a Louis L’Amour house; Zane Grey barely got a look-in. [That fascination with Westerns now has me reading Elmore Leonard with glee and abandon.]
Westerns were not just about cowboys and guns and cattle, they were about horses. And Max Brand opened up a whole new vocabulary for me, one that I cherish even now. Bays and roans, sorrels, palominos, piebalds (pintos in the US) and skewbalds, paints, duns, chestnuts and brindles, greys with or without dapples.
Language is something that entrances me, particularly when it is precise and rich and full of colour (no pun intended). There is something deeply satisfying about using the right word in the right place, what I tend to call the Dandle phenomenon. [I’ve never been able to use the word “dandle” except in the context of “baby” and “knee”.]
A fascinating world, one that you can step into quite easily via Wikipedia. Just read this article on Equine Coat Color and you can make a start.
Apropos piebald. The more I thought about it, the more I realised there was a second influence, one beyond Max Brand. And it shows my age. Peter, Paul and Mary. In the Wind, their third album, is one of my all-time absolute favourites, a real Desert Island disc for me. And on it there is a song called Stewball, one I really like. But then I like the whole album. Long Chain On and Rocky Road are probably my favourites, and I just love the treatment of Quit Your Lowdown Ways and Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.
I used to wonder why someone would call a horse Stewball. Which led me to skewbald. And on to piebald. And on to equine coat colours in general. This was probably 1969, when I was 12, so the memory has lasted.
Somehow we need to preserve the richness of language that comes from passionate people following their whims and fancies, in this case people who love horses. [My thanks to Shaw-Web.net for the photograph, it’s just the kind of site that the web stands for.