“Summing up his years he thought of the cowboy. He had been a cowhand for many years and had made many a drive, had driven 3,000 steers from Old Mexico to Montana. He had helped move his herd across the great rivers from the Rio Grande to the Powder River in Montana. The time had come to die. He was 91-plus, as he put it. His fellow cowhands asked what they should inscribe on his gravestone. His reply was: ‘Just say, he done his damnedest.’”
– Rachel Peden, “The Land, The People”
By JUDITH SUTHERLAND
Farm and Dairy Columnist
Mention horsepower, and it most definitely opens two schools of discussion. There are those who love their four-legged horsepower sidekicks, and those who can talk endlessly about some of their favorite wheels made up of varying horsepower.
I was raised on a farm that considered horses hay-burners, and tractors were worth their weight in gold. Therefore, I saw horses as only frivolous fun, and work outweighed fun by a country mile.
Yesterday was one of those rare days in which fun outweighed work. Cort celebrated his 24th birthday, and decided after a long spell of hard work, it was time to get away and have some fun. He invited me to share the day with him and three of his life-long friends.
We spent the first part of the day at COSI, the science institute in Columbus, then met up with his dad at Quarter Horse Congress, where he has been spending many long days working.
Walking the buildings filled with beautiful horses and all of the impressive accessories that go along with showing them, it brought back memories of stories passed down, almost all of them involving horses that were used to plant and harvest a crop.
My dad never saw horses as something to own for pleasure, because he had been raised beside two grandfathers who saw modern-day tractors in opposing light.
His grandpa Charlie Myers was disgusted that loyal workhorses could be pushed aside for a fuel-guzzling piece of equipment that cost too much money and was likely to bring nothing but grief. His grandpa Herbert Young was chomping at the bit to buy the first tractor in the community.
Earl, one of Herbert’s sons, saw even the workhorses as entertainment. After plowing or planting a field, he would unhitch the hardware from the horses, stand them side-by-side, jumping up on top of them, one foot placed on the back of each horse.
As soon as he had his balance, he would command the horses to high-tail it back to the barn. Everyone who has ever told this story said they feared for Earl’s life as those horses neared the barn, looking as though they were ready to take flight.
Earl would jump off just in the knick of time, dust himself off and say he couldn’t wait to do it again. He would grow up and grow old, always surrounding himself with horses that he kept for pleasure.
In our local newspaper, historian Betty Plank shared a great horse story. A tavern owner and his wife lived in the upstairs of an Ashland, Ohio tavern. On Saturday evenings, when young men rode their horses into town, they could count on the men drinking too much liquor and getting in fights.
Weary of having her sleep interrupted, the wife grabbed her butcher knife, cut the straps tied to the hitching post and sent the horses on their way. “Hearing the commotion, the men ran out and spent the rest of the night tracking down their horses,” Plank writes. The tavern owner is quoted in Hill’s History of Ashland County as saying, “It was a little rough, but a matter of necessity.”