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Life at the Livery from A Tailor-Made Bride
Did you notice what is missing from the photograph above? Women. You'll find nary a one. That's because the livery stable was a man's domain. Females flocked to dry good stores, dress shops, milliners, and drug emporiums but avoided the masculine hub known as the livery stable. Why? Mostly because of the smell. And the likelihood of stepping in something no lady would want clinging to the sole of her shoe or staining the hem of her skirt.
Such was Jericho Tucker's world as owner of the livery in Coventry, Texas. A man's man, he welcomed his comrades to pass the time swapping stories or discussing crops and cattle by the potbellied stove. So what if the air was a bit gamey? A little manure never hurt anyone.
He kept prime horseflesh on hand for harness or riding, maintained a respectable selection of carriages and wagons for rent, pitched hay, tallied accounts, and even dealt with colicky critters when the need arose. Travelers stopped by to board their mounts or rent a saddle horse for the day. Young swains coughed up hard-earned coin to impress their gals with romantic country drives in a rented rig. His livery supplied an essential service to the people of Coventry, and Jericho managed the business with a practical eye and compassionate heart.
As I researched livery stables to accurately portray Jericho's trade, I came across a fabulous find in one of our library's genealogical collections—a transcribed log book from a livery in Bonham, Texas dating back to 1885. Not only did I learn what prices were charged, I also gained insight into the types of services offered. Here is a sampling:
- Horse rental per day - $0.50
- Horse and buggy rental - $1.00
- Carriage and team - $2.00
- Carriage and driver - $4.00
- Buggy to depot - $1.00
- Horse to pasture - $0.50
- Feed - $0.25
- Bucket of oats - $0.50
- Stall rental - $1.50
- Stall plus hay - $2.50
- One month board on horse - $10.00
- Currying horse - $0.10
- Saddling horse - $0.25
- Repairs on carriage - $0.50 to $1.50 or higher depending on extent of repair needed
- Fee for lost horse blanket - $0.75 for regular blanket, $2.00 for double blanket
In addition to accepting cash for payment, this log book also chronicled a variety of barter offerings. Customers were known to pay in corn or cords of wood. One fellow who had accrued a rather large debt paid with a big black sow. If a man had no goods to offer, he might pay in services like hauling hay in from area farms, working the nightshift at the stable, working as a carriage driver, or painting the livery.
Jericho Tucker conducts such a business and basks in the safe, masculine world of his livery until a young dressmaker moves into the vacant shop across the street. Now he can't help wondering if this pretty little filly is the one to tame his stallion heart.