Farming with Horses (2)

“When an old tractor died, no one grieved its going. But when an old horse died, the family shed many tears, for the animal had become a part of the family, and a friend.” (Jerry Apps, Horse-Drawn Days, xi)

That heart-felt testimony to horses is just the way my father Garven felt about horses, especially two of them. My father told so many stories (unfortunately forgotten by me) about Chubby and Boots that I didn’t even scratch my head to recall their names. Doesn’t he look like a happy and proud horse owner here?

This photo was taken when Dad was farming in Larkin Valley. He’d purchased Chubby and Boots before he and Mom were married in 1941 and, of all the horses he ever drove or owned, they were his favorites. I understand they were bays, reddish-brown with a black mane. My guess is that they could be Percherons, members of the first draft horse breed imported to the U.S. They came from France in the 1830s and became the most popular breed in the country. On the other hand, Chubby and Boots could be a mixed breed.

I don’t know what happened to them, but Dad owned other farm horses in the fifties. We used a team to pull the rope to lift loads of hay into the mow of the barn. And I remember getting my denim jeans soaked as I sat astride a sweaty horse that Dad followed cultivating potatoes. That was about the end of the working horse days for us.

“Through the years,” Clara wrote in Homestead (16), “traveling was by a team of horses pulling a wagon, buggy or surrey to go to church and a sleigh used during the winter. The horses were put into a barn in the church yard during church services.” I think she’s especially referring to the days when Emil and Gina’s family was young. I recall reading that Emil would put up the Fitch Coulee school teacher’s horse in his barn during the day. I’d love to have photos from that time.

In 1959, we still had a horse on our North Beaver Creek farm, one that would accept a harness, so occasionally we’d hook up this animal to an old sleigh we had.

My brothers Phil and Paul and I are the happy riders in this cutter. I remember Mom and Dad telling about the heated bricks that were set on the floor of the cutter to keep feet from freezing. This cutter may have looked something like what Emil and Gina had fifty years earlier, although theirs may have been a variation to accommodate their large family. In any case, life on the farm had a place for horses for a very long time, even after tractors began their takeover.

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