HELPING HOOVES


| February/March 1988



Harness on horse

#1, Box 63, Avoca, Iowa 51521

This story is about a man who farmed with horses all his life, and his horses and family. My father lost practically everything in the Crash of 1929. He did manage to keep his horses. He moved my mother and older brothers and sisters onto the home place to live with and care for his mother. I was born on this eighty-acre farm. I recall, as a very small boy, carrying a fresh drink of water out to the field to my dad. Often times when I reached him he would stop to rest the horses while he told a short story and had his drink of water.

He would always check the harness on each horse. He loved his horses very dearly. He would always tell me, 'If horses are cared for, they will care for us.'

I recall the trees in the fencerow between our farm and a neighbor's meadow. Dad always tried to stop his horses in the shade. He would comment that a tree was a valuable thing to have. He said that not only did they share their shade with men and horses, but they also kept the wind from blowing away the topsoil, as it had during the Dust Bowl days. He said that many farmers would do away with the trees, because they thought they lost too much of the crop from their shade. This wasn't true, he would remark, because the soil they kept from blowing away was of more value than the minor loss of a bushel or so of grain.

The horses would stand with their heads under the trees switching flies and nibbling the leaves from the lower limbs. Dad once told me that the hackberry seed skins acted like a laxative to the horses. This may have been so, I don't know. However, all four head of horses would deposit fertilizer while standing under the shade of the trees!

My father would not allow a tractor on the farm except to run the threshing machine. He said, no matter what they said, tractors packed the earth.