'Hal' and Friends

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By Christopher Klose

Photo by Charles Eggert

According to Ed Blundell, mayor of Red Hook, every day more than 14,500 cars pass through the stoplight in the center of the village. Even for a town of more than 12,000 residents, which Red Hook has become, that's a lot of cars -- not to mention noise and pollution.

Yet there was a time when dirt roads were more the norm in Red Hook and horses almost as common — and unremarkable — as the ubiquitous black and white Holsteins that then filled the landscape. That was before the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.

From the late 1800s until "the bridge" opened in 1957, Red Hook's population was remarkably stable, hovering around 4,000. There were cars, of course, but you knew who "they" were: Mike Odak, the mailman, on the rounds in his 1947 Chevy coupe; Phil Newmark (of Feller-Newmark Road), king-of-the-road in his big black Buick; the farmer-brothers Bob and Harry Teator, passing slowly, each in his own Ford pickup.

And of course, the drivers knew you — and your dog and horse, too. And everyone waved to each other, windows down, hand extended.

Postwar America's love affair with the Wild West was in full television flower, with every little girl and boy a would-be Dale Evans or Roy Rogers. Just like the posse above, packed aboard Hal, a former New York City police horse living out his retirement years on Echo Valley Farm...

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