Sack Cloth and Coal

Photo prompt copyright:

Photo prompt copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Field

As Hector tied sacking over Henrys feet, Henry chomped leisurely at the contents of his nose bag whilst his tail tried to knock Hector’s cap off.

Nay lad we’s going to need our caps and boots this day. It’s sore cold outside and we’ve forty bags of coal to deliver. You’re be needing all your strength and the old yellow blanket, for Iceland’s got now’t on Birmingham today.

With layers of sacking over his leather jerkin Hector guided Henry around drab red brick streets. Now and again Hector would loop his arms around the horse’s neck as they both struggled to earn their keep.



The winter of 1946/47 was bitterly cold and the continuation of former wartime austerity meant that coal was still rationed.

Hector and Henry are an amalgamation of childhood memories. Inspired by a memories told to me by Bill Thornber.


This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. neilmacdon

    Nicely evoked, the atmosphere of by-gone days

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Neil, they certainly are by-gone days, but still sharp in my memory.

  2. plaridel

    great imagery. i can visualize as we speak.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Plaridel, that is a kind comment. As writers we must hope that our readers find great imagery in what we write.

  3. Sandra

    Henry got better treatment than most of the horses so far in the Friday Fictioneers stories. A lovely warm story.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Sandra, its damp and cold here, so I needed a warm story. Hector even brushed the short beard that his old horse had.

  4. Iain Kelly

    Lovely scene, I can see them struggling through the streets against the elements. Nice one Michael.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Iian, for this old pair it was a struggle, but Hector took great care over Henry, brushing him daily

  5. rochellewisoff

    Dear Michael,

    I’m so pleased that Hector didn’t eat Henry. You created a three dimensional character with the dialect. Lovely.



    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Rochelle, I do find dialect really hard to write, your comment will encourage me to at least attempt using dialect in the future.

  6. wmqcolby

    Such a neat story, Mike. It’s like I saw it in a living photo. Bravo!

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you so very much. I do wish that I had thought to use my camera to record so many things that have now disappeared.

  7. jellico84

    What an awesome little glimpse of a piece of history. How soon we have forgotten what a real day’s work is. Ever and always, I will remember with profound love, respect, and honor the gentleman farmer who delivered milk to us even in the middle of the blizzard of 1978. He did so by horse and sleigh. An extremely rare sight in central Ohio back then (or even now), but ever so blessed by his devotion. Mom had left me home to take care of gr. grands (I was 8) so she could walk the mile and a half to the store and doc’s office for medicines. She’d been gone for many, many hours. The farmer’s visit literally saved our lives, especially my Mom’s. He asked where she was, I told him she left to go to store right when the sun came up. It was evening now. He left and went looking for her. He found her in a snow bank about 3/4 a mile from home. Frostbite, hypothermic, barely alive. He brought her home by sleigh and fetched the doctor on the way.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you for sharing a piece of real life, your farmer was an intelligent resourceful man. Until the 1950s some farmers around here in the yorkshire dales used sleighs to move items on the steep hillsides

      1. jellico84

        Oh, I can just imagine. That would be so terrifying, I think, to ride in such a conveyance up a sharp hill. I’ve ridden in sleigh’s but only on flat ground.

        1. rgayer55

          It’s the downhill part that would scare me.

          1. Michael Humphris

            Once the sleigh starts moving downhill its best to jump off. I once roller skated down a steep lakeland hill, never again, it was terrifying. Mike

        2. Michael Humphris

          Mostly they were taken up hill empty, then used on grass or snow to slide a load down the hill. I have seen a similar set up using runners under large wicker baskets to slide/carry tourist down a hill in Madera’s capital !!!

  8. draliman

    I love the scene in my head as this little team makes its weary way around the cold streets.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you so much for your comment, as a writer I always hope to paint images.

  9. creatingahome

    I love this very much.
    The bond between the both of them is sweet.

  10. lingeringvisions by Dawn

    I like the voice in this and love where it came from. Thanks for the footnote.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you so much for your feedback, it is appreciated. Mike

  11. Dahlia

    Nicely painted scene 🙂

    1. Michael Humphris

      It helped that I had Bill who recalled the memories to mind.

  12. rgayer55

    And all this time I thought he was delivering Christmas presents to all the bad little girls and boys (just kidding). Beautifully written, Mike. I felt like I was there in the moment.

    1. Michael Humphris

      I guess he occasionally carried other goods, perhaps for someone doing a moonlight flit.! Thank you for the positive feedback

  13. Liz Young

    This reminded me of my friend Jennifer from my early schooldays – her dad was a coalman who kept his horse in a shed behind their house. I can still smell the coal dust.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you so much Liz, I so remember that smell, and I wanted to describe it in the story, but sadly I did not manage to do so.

  14. gahlearner

    This is a wonderful lesson about history. What I love most is the affection between horse and man despite the hard times and life they lead.

    1. Michael Humphris

      In this case it was as they say “a trouble shared is a trouble halved”

  15. Clare Hempstead

    I love the dialect you used in this. It reinforced a real sense of the scene.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Clare, dialect and me generally don’t get on, as I find it hard to think in regional dialects, sadly my own rural dialect has long ago disappeared. So I am so pleased to get your feed back.

  16. Michael Wynn

    You captured the sense of a time, place and situation brilliantly here.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you for your kind feedback Michael, it is appreciated.

  17. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)

    Despite the ordeals of cold weather and rations I can feel the warm connection between Hector and Henry (love the choice of names)

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you so much Bjorn for your kind comment. Hope that you are keeping warm and have plenty of rations in for the festive season.

  18. Alice Audrey

    The struggles of horse and man make for some strong imagery. Well done.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Alice,

  19. Alicia Jamtaas

    I truly love this story. There is such a wonderful balance between need, want and love. Kudos, Michael.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Alicia: Thank you for your wonderful comment. Commenting help me to understand how my writing comes across. Mike

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