In San Antonio, one of the old roads leading into Alcalá, there was a big courtyard and a stable. Once a year, stud-horses were brought from the Cartuja de Jerez to cover the mares of the town. This event had two announcements: one official, for the breeders who had stables and wanted to get pure-bred foals; the other clandestine, for the children, communicated via their friends, to go and watch the spectacle of the covering of the mares.
Four soldiers from the cavalry breeding stables brought them from Jerez in a lorry the day before, and put them in the stable to rest and get a good feed. It was a mystery how the kids found out about the arrival of the stallions, but however it happened the word soon got round, and the next day after school a little group of us went through the Plazuela and down the hill to San Antonio without telling anyone where we were going.
As if up to no good, we silently approached the half-open gate to the yard where the stud-horses were. In the middle of the yard were two formidable equine examples; alert, well-endowed, skittish, ready to accomplish the mission that had been entrusted to them. The owners of the mares waited in the entrance. The mares were cleaned, bare-backed, and held only by the bridle. The stallions appeared to be conscious of what they had to do, but the mares were distracted, haughty, looking out of the corner of their eye as if suspicious of the encounter.
A soldier ordered the men to bring in the mares. They told us children we could not come in but they left the door ajar so as not to deprive us of the spectacle. The mares were led to one corner to await their turn. We did not miss a single detail. They brought out a sorrel, the colour of cinnamon, well-groomed, handsome and raring to go, as if it were his wedding night. They gave the signal for a mare to be brought over. The soldier started to tease the stallion's organ to bring it to a state of readiness. The stallion gave a snort and started to tremble.
When he saw the mare, his erection grew enormous, he raised his front legs violently and placed himself on top of her. After a few seconds, he suddenly thrust his penis into the mare's vulva and flooded it with semen, doing honour to his name [stallion in Spanish is semental]. You could have heard a pin drop; it was like a sacred ritual. The spectacle lasted several minutes. The horse withdrew, satisfied, and we children watched every move. The soldiers closed the gate and off we went, going over the details of everything we had seen. It was a masterly lesson, honest and educational, which we would never forget.
We went back through the Calle Centeno, the Callejón del Gato and the Calle las Brozas to the Calle Real. We were pleased with ourselves, we had learned a good lesson, much better than those conversations we'd had so many times and which never left you any the wiser. From then on, we would feel ourselves one grade up from our companions who hadn't been there.
And now, when we see fine horses going through the streets of Alcalá or on the Romeria to Los Santos, we say to each other: “That's the son of a stud-horse”. In those days there were indeed some fine equine specimens in Alcalá, and good riders. I recall that during the 1940s in Alcalá there were only three or four cars, a couple of lorries, and the buses that passed through on the way to Cádiz and Algeciras. Horses, carriages and carts were the norm.
Every morning the men rode off on a horse, a mule or a donkey and came back at dusk. The animals were left tied to rings at the entrances to the bars while the men drank a few glasses of wine. Some, having drunk more than they could pay for, would appeal to friendship and exchange their packets of tobacco, their flint lighters or even their donkeys. But that night, the children dreamed of the wonders of nature and the stallions.
Translated by Claire Lloyd
Crónicas del ambiente alcalaíno (III)
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