I’m sure most farriers have read the 8-line poem, “For Want of a Nail,” which is printed below in its entirety.
But few farriers may have heard the 1923 Chicago gangster quotation, as reported in the Chicago Tribune...
“For the presence of a horseshoe, Nails was lost.”
The bizarre 1932 incident involved Chicago gangster Samuel “Nails” Morton, so named because of his “superior qualities in gang fights.” A so-called Chicago florist, Morton had been acquitted in the murder of a pair of Chicago police officers in 1922.
But in May of 1923, Morton went for a Sunday morning canter in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. After his nervous horse reared up and threw him, Morton was kicked in the head and died. That gave rise to the gruesome Chicago joke: “For the presence of a horseshoe, Nails was lost.”
But that’s not the end of the story. The newspaper reported later that a “firing squad of morons,” made up of Morton’s henchmen, returned to the stable, rented the same horse, took the poor animal out to the prairie and “bumped it off in accordance with gangdom’s code.”
They also sent a legendary message to the stable owners: “We taught that (expletive) horse of yours a lesson. If you want the saddle, go and get it.”
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost. —
For want of a shoe the horse was lost. —
For want of a horse the rider was lost. —
For want of a rider the message was lost. —
For want of a message the battle was lost. —
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. —
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.