My Forty Years Scribblin's
Historical Accounts
The Anvil and the Forge

This piece was written in 1961 or '62 and published in Montana's Little Legends (1963). The blacksmith's trade was an important part of early day life.


What a colossal job to shoe the thousands of horses required to keep early-day commerce in motion. Let us not forget the blacksmith, for many of the animals were inconsiderate enough to have kicked him into a convenient corner, or even to Kingdom Come.

Our young moderns might be interested to know that when a blacksmith was called upon to shoe such an animal he was apt to call upon his helper for "the twitch" or "twist."

However, the wiggling was done by the horse, for the "twitch" or "twist" was a length of rope run through two holes bored in a stick. The rope was looped around the horse’s lower lip and the stick twisted to bring it up snugly so he was kept busy working at the distraction and had no time to worry about his feet. After a few times he might become accustomed to the procedure and the blacksmith must resort to other tactics, such as fastening it on his ear.

There was scarcely an end to the tricks the "smithy" was called upon to execute in fashioning the tools of every man’s trade. When next you walk along West Broadway in Missoula, pause for a moment where Plymouth Auto Sales is now located. You may hear the echo of a hammer on the anvil and the sizzling of red-hot iron being tempered in the cooling tank. For there, once, stood a blacksmith shop.