Storytelling

Community Outraged Over Killing of Pantomime Horse

“Candlelight Vigil Held For Slain Elk — A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night honoring the lost life of a Boulder elk. Residents have been outraged over the elk’s death, which they claim was cruel and unnecessary. Boulder Police Officer Sam Carter shot the elk, which had been wandering the Mapleton Hill neighborhood over the past couple of weeks.”

http://www.kktv.com/news/headlines/Candlelight-Vigil-Held-For-Slain-Elk-185870561.html

The small town of Lynbrook, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, was outraged this week when a police officer shot and killed a pantomime horse who had spent the previous several weeks visiting the town. Residents were outraged, and have begun a vigil in front of Lynbrook City Hall, demanding an explanation and an apology. The pantomime horse had become a popular fixture in the downtown area, often speaking to pedestrians, and entertaining local children after school, solving math problems for them by clopping his foot.

The officer, claiming he acted under orders, pointed out that the pantomime horse was a public nuisance and had been defecating daily on the Police Department front lawn, and urinating against the building. “It was getting out of hand,” said the officer, who agreed to speak only if his name was withheld, pending the official investigation of the incident.

When asked about the legality of shooting a pantomime horse, the officer insisted that it’s a gray area of the law, at least in this part of Ohio. “If someone pretends to be an animal, and is treated as an animal, whose fault is it?” the officer asked.

The officer had no comment when asked if he thought there was any chance the investigation into the shooting may focus on the fact that the pantomime horse was, in fact, a man in a horse costume, and that shooting and killing a man in a costume, whether he was a horse or any other animal, might constitute murder. “You certainly can’t call it manslaughter,” the officer said. “Not when he was dressed like that.”

The pantomime horse’s arrival was a cause celebre in the community. His faithful presentation of horse behavior won the hearts of residents who seemed happy to ignore the fact that it was a man in a horse costume; many fed the pantomime horse carrots, apples, and sugar cubes. He would whinny to show his appreciation, and often neighed contentedly when its neck was stroked or patted.

Donald Stevens, whose home is near City Hall and who witnessed the shooting, explained that the creator of the pantomime horse was long-time resident, Syd Bleck, familiar to most of Lynbrook as a homeless alcoholic. “He was the town drunk. Had been for decades. I went to highschool with him here, and he was a drunk in high school, and then kept right on going. I used to buy him drinks, and had quite a few laughs with him, but then, at a certain point, you have to quit doing that stuff, maybe raise a family and at least try to make something of your life. But not Syd. He would stagger from one end of town to the other, begging for drinks, collecting bottles to return, and scrounging pennies until he had enough to buy some booze. Then it was off to the bar.”

“What what I don’t get,” said the officer who shot him, “is that it wasn’t even a good costume.” Admittedly, the pantomime horse costume consisted of a paper mache head painted brown with shoe polish, a discarded broom head for the mane, and tattered brown blanket draped over his shoulders to form the body. Because Syd worked alone, there was no rear end, and no tail. Still, people were drawn to his rendition of a horse.

Donald Stevens, the appreciative neighbor, attempted to explain Syd’s popularity: “Everything he did as a pantomime horse he had originally done as the town drunk: he’d shit on your lawn, piss in your garden, and steal whatever wasn’t tied down. He would even hang around the schoolyard begging lunch money from the kids. He probably deserved to be shot. But once he put on that horse costume, he became more gentle, somehow, like a majestic beast that shared his majesty with the whole town, even as he crapped on our lawns. I really enjoyed him. So no, they shouldn’t have shot him. Maybe just put him out to pasture.”