There is nothing I love more than a good brew and I would not hold it against other members of the animal kingdom if they shared my love of beer. While doing research in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle I came across this amusing story of a politician who was nearly decapitated by a beer drinking horse. The article was part of a wonderful series called ” O’Loughlin Recalls.” The story appeared on June 26, 1944, but the story goes back to a much earlier era, perhaps the eighteen nineties. It seems that back in the gay nineties one of the ways that rising politicians made themselves prominent in the community was by taking part in the local volunteer fire brigades, which often paraded on various holidays. The aspiring politician would ride in the parades mounted regally on the back of a fine white horse. O’Loughlin explained a long forgotten Brooklyn Thanksgiving custom. It seems that there were groups in each Brooklyn section called Rangers who organized Thanksgiving parades together with turkey shoots that tested the skills of local marksmen. O’Loughlin tells the tale of a young man, Tom Cullen, who would later go on to represent South Brooklyn in Congress. Tom was desperate to be seen on the back of a noble white horse one Thanksgiving many years ago. Like King Richard at Boswell field, Cullen was frantically searching for a gracious mount. The neighborhood was scoured for a horse and finally a noble steed was found. This horse worked during the week pulling a beer wagon for a local German brewery. There was one secret about this noble steed that neither the Rangers, nor Cullen, knew. Its driver every morning would stop at the saloon of one of his customers and the horse was given a bucket of beer. The horse grew to love the beer and the animal would pull truckloads of beer happily through the streets of Brooklyn without even a protesting whinny, even on the warmest of days. The parade began and Cullen became an object of admiration. All was proceeding exceedingly smoothly until the horse reached the spot where he got his daily bucket of foaming brew. The horse recognized his favorite bar, stopped dead in his tracks and would not budge, thus holding up the entire parade and causing a great commotion. Such was the hullabaloo that the rotund German saloon owner appeared at the door of his saloon to see what was happening. The horse recognized the publican and bolted making a bee line straight for the swinging doors of the saloon as the crowd on the sidewalk parted like the Red Sea in Exodus of the bible. The bolting of the horse was much to the chagrin of the now precariously mounted Cullen, who in fact, was holding on to the reigns for dear life. Cullen barely managed to duck under the door jamb as the horse galloped through the doors and up to the bar where the jolly portly German was only too happy to serve him his usual quaff. The horse finished his beer quickly, swung his head vigorously two or three times and then let out a satisfied blast through his nostrils indicating that he was ready to rejoin the parade. The horse sauntered back out through the saloon doors receiving a wild ovation from the spectators lining the street. The horse acknowledged the ovation by bowing just like any well-trained circus horse.
If the horse was happy, then poor Cullen was still frightened about the prospect of more equestrian saloons along the route. One of the Rangers was sent ahead to scour the route for saloons and Cullen took two or three detours off the parade route to avoid a repeat of his near decapitation.