This is the story of the horse that lived once, died once but was buried three times - largely at your expense.
The horse, a gelding named Aboo, was owned by Tuke, wife of Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker who commands the Army's sprawling base at Ft. Hood, Tex.
The general said yesterday that the Army had a responsibility to dig up Aboo twice after his death in July and would have done the same thing even if the horse "had belonged to Private Smedlak."
Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.), to whom somebody at Ft. Hood complained about Aboo's repeated exhumations, said it looked to him as if the dead horse had gotten special treatment because he has harnessed to the general.
"Mrs. Shoemaker was not satisfied" that Aboo had died of colic as the civilian veterinarian had diagnosed in the original autopsy, Proxmire said.
Therefore, continued Proxmire, "the general was not satisfied. Therefore the Veterinary Corps was not satisfied. That is called chain of command."
General Shoemaker, who stressed during a telephone interview yesterday that this "is not the least bit humorous to me," said his wife's fears that something besides colic killed Aboo stemmed from the fact that the Army had sprayed the insecticide malathion at the Ft. Hood stables shortly before the horse's death.
Back in 1973, the general said, almost all the horses in the Army's 1st Cavalry Ceremonial Horse Platoon died because of a human error in worming them. So, he said, everybody in command at Ft. Hood was sensitive to such problems.
Col. Robert Hill, the general's chief of staff, said a civilian contractor with a mechanical scoop was hired to go to Aboo's unmarked grave on the base and dig up the horse. Army veterinarians conducted the autopsy this time, concluding Aboo had died of a ruptured stomach.
Aboo received a second unceremonious burial in the sanitary fill at Fort Hood but was not to rest there for long. Army veterinarians had not taken enough tissues from the horse's insides to enable pathologists to determine the spread of the insecticide, according to Hill.
So it was back to Aboo's grave to dig him up a second time for more tissue. At this point some unidentified Army source blew the whistle.
The whistle blower told Proxmire, the senator said, that although the Army's Veterinary Corps was obliged to conduct such autopsies, "enough was enough. Help."
Aboo was buried for a third time, at the base, again unceremoniously by mechanical scoop. Laboratory technicians examined his tissues extensively and determined that it was not the malathion that had killed him. Colic, a stomach aliment, remains listed as the cause of death.
Your cost? "The cost of the burials and exhumations is estimated to be $312 for labor and equipment," the Army said.