A lifetime with farming and horses

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CLAYSVILLE, Pa. – A new year brings the promise of all things possible, and a refreshed sense of hope for the future. It is also a time to reflect over the passing year, determining what experiences have made an impact on our lives, changing the way we view ourselves and the people who surround us.

For me, 2002 brought a sense of “hard work pays off.” I was stuck in an endless array of odd jobs trying to make a few bucks. One of these jobs, however, happened to be the highlight of my year.

Farm and Dairy gave me a writing assignment with a man from Washington County, Pa., a man whom I knew nothing about prior to our meeting.

I headed out for the western Pennsylvania town one morning, thinking it would be just another typical interview. I pulled off at a gas station to meet Frank Ramage, owner of RCR Belgians in Claysville. As I waited, I caught sight of a man with a grin upon his face walking out of the station toward my car and just knew this was the man I was to interview.

He just told me to follow him and we would get down to business once we had arrived at his home a few miles away.

Life captured on film. As I entered his home, I noticed the many photographs of horses and family members adorning the walls. Ramage had thought enough to get out pictures from years past, hoping to help his interviewer understand his life.

The pictures meant nearly nothing. That is, until Ramage started recounting the tales that went along with each photograph.

As he spoke of days bidding on horses, he brought to history to life. He told of his happiness, mishaps and hardships. But the one thing that rang true through all the stories was the importance of his family, friends and community.

First horse. Ramage was just a boy when he received his first horse.

“Granddad left me that horse in his will. I was probably just 8 or 9 when I got the horse,” Ramage said. “That was back when horses were just horses.”

From the time Ramage began his life with horses, he became a staple the community depended on. Ramage told of big snowstorms years ago when he and his horse(s) would brave the cold and snow to bring food and other commodities to those in need.

“The ridge was all snowed in and I’d go down in this hollow and up across the farms,” he said. “I would haul feed and groceries for different people, picking others up along the way.”

In 1950, he recalls, one snowfall measured 30-some inches. Since the snow was too deep for car or even tractor, Ramage rode horseback toward Washington, Pa., to haul bread in a gunnysack back to his family.

Knowing that he had horses turned out a few miles away that had not been fed since the wintry storm covered the area, he set out to do what was necessary.

“I started out one morning down Brush Run. My feet were dragging in the snow all the way down,” Ramage said. After finishing with his own chores, Ramage helped a neighbor feed his livestock, then proceeded to haul feed.

Not only has Frank Ramage captured the attention of his community, but those in the surrounding areas as well. Ramage became a 4-H leader in Washington County, Pa., starting the first horse club in the area. Today, the club is known as Silver Bits.

Breeding Belgians. A 1985 trip to Amish country meant a new beginning for Ramage, who purchased his first Belgian colt, Dollies Queen Farceur, or Queen for short. Since then, Ramage has been raising Belgians and participating in events.

His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all get involved. Getting the horses ready for shows and pulls has always been a family affair, Ramage said.

“When I was pulling, Phyllis and the other girls would ride the horses when I wasn’t able because of work,” said Ramage.

Although Ramage no longer participates in horse pulls, he still participates in shows with his family.

Ramage has competed in horse pulls in the tri-state area, judged at the Pennsylvania Farm Show horse pulls and has four generations of family currently showing horses.

Keeping busy. Ramage, who has never owned a tractor, still works his team of Belgians on the land which was his birthplace. Each May, Ramage hitches up the horses for a three-day, 40-mile, wagon train that runs from Claysville, Pa., to Brownsville, Pa., ending at the steam engine show in Brownsville.

Ramage can also be seen with his Belgians at different fairs and parades, including the Claysville Memorial Day Parade, and the Christmas parades in both Washington and Claysville.

Although his involvement is becoming more limited, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will most likely participate in more shows and events.

“I’ll probably keep a mare around and raise a colt or two,” said Ramage.

Today, with four generations showing Belgian horses, you can bet that wherever his family is, Frank Ramage is not far behind.

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