Situated a few blocks from the French Quarter, the Mid-City Carriage Company stables 28 mules and 12 head of horses along with a wide variety of carriages, the staple of which is the Vis-a-vis. They hold seven hack permits for the Quarter which is the cornerstone of the service. Along with this they do weddings, funerals, and special events. There are twenty drivers and ten support people including office help, checkers, a full-time farrier and a wheelwright. This is a busy and successful enterprise which was built slowly and deliberately.
One of the primary goals of natural horsemanship is to get our horses to trust us 100 percent. Great horsemen and horsewomen throughout history have known that in order to become truly and completely accepted as a friend, companion, boss, leader, and/or trainer to any equine we must first gain the animal’s trust. In his book, Colt Training, Jesse Beery, the famous 19th century horse gentler/trainer, author, and founder of the Jesse Beery School of Horsemanship states, “The first lesson we give a colt is simply to teach it to have confidence in us and that we are its best friend and don’t intend to hurt it.”
Its been a long time ago now, from 50 to 55 years or so, back when I felt myself drawn to each and every image I ever came across of horses or mules working in harness. Didn’t know why. I was a city kid with no immediate background in the stuff. But the attraction was very strong and central to an overarching dream of someday having my own old-fashioned, general farm. Back in the fifties and early sixties, in urban centers, the conventional wisdom had it that agriculture had grown up for good and all. The industrialization of farming with its concomitant chemistry and heavy metal disease (big machinery) was, back then, already fashioning a base for today’s genetic engineering and cyber nonsense. Way back then anyone who expressed an interest, let alone a preference, for the old farm was branded as “backwards” and “sentimental.”
Many years ago, when I spent time in the far north, I worked in a tannery that produced smoked moose hides. We used lime to dehair the hides and glutaraldehyde as a tanning agent. I really learned how to flesh and dehair hides there! It was smelly, heavy, wet work. But even though the chemicals were safe, I still wanted something simpler. Several years ago I regained the itch to tan hides. I experimented with battery acid, which is inexpensive, but somewhat dangerous to use. Another downside is that bugs will eat the acid tanned hides but ignore the brain tanned hide sitting on top of them.
Laundry is one of those jobs that has been around since the dawn of time. The dawn of clothes at least. Electricity has taken a relatively labor intensive job and made it quite easy. All we need now is an automatic clothes folder. But when the power goes out and you are out of socks or you do something like me, crusade into off grid living, you need some alternatives.
In 1974, looking down 800 feet of waving, sometimes parallel, pairs of emerging corn plant rows all I could do was choke back the tears, so bad it was painfully funny. Ray said, “At least you don’t have to try to cultivate that mess with a tractor. You’ll have to make some choices, some of the rows spread out so far apart you may have to pick which side to save, but Bud and Dick will watch those plants real close and do everything they can to avoid stepping on them, unless they’re laughing so hard they get dizzy and step wide.” Charley added, trying hard not to laugh, “You know what they say Lynn, you can get more corn in a crooked row.”
Wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of all that fixing and building on my new place, somehow tryin’ to make a go of it, make a ranch, out of the blue I met someone, and all the puzzle pieces that hadn’t made sense started to drop into place with not much more than a love-tap. I think that’s how you tell if you’re on the right track, when all at once the hard things start gettin’ easy, and the easy things just kinda sort themselves out. You can get awful tired of protecting and defending yourself, tired of treating folks around you like the strangers they’d rather not be, while you shut yourself off, thinking your own silly thoughts. When you feel yourself open like a plant to the sun after a long hard winter, it’s worth takin’ a look around to see what shined on you, that maybe shook you awake.
In 2014 the Cummington Challenge celebrated 20 years of entertaining spellbound spectators while, at the same time, educating everyone about the beauty and intelligence of oxen. In these 20 years upwards of 150 different teamsters have participated in this ever-changing obstacle course with their well-trained teams of various bovine breeds. They were judged and timed and their efforts were always applauded. The SRO audiences were treated to interesting, often comical, stories about each teamster and his/her team. Several bovine beauties were celebrities in documentaries. In all these years there have been only six different winners as some have won as many as six times!
Arriving at the woodlot, he parks the cart in the sun so its on-board panel above can soak up even more energy than is already stored in its 10 KW hour battery pack which supplies a 2,500 watt, 120 volt inverter. He easily lifts his six-pound electric chainsaw and connects it to a 150 foot extension cord plugged in to the cart. The cord trails behind him as he walks into the woods and up a rise. He pushes a switch with his thumb and the chainsaw roars, or more accurately, purrs to life. Within a minute the tree gives way, falling neatly.
I was still a bit groggy and adjusting my hat, when a shrill ethereal whine hit my ears. It was like a baby with a cough, long, hoarse, high-pitched screams of pain. A Piglet. It crawled towards me, its hind legs bearing no strength, streaked with mud and even some blood, whining at me, blaming me for all my sins, and ready to eat me for sure. The dead had come to exact their revenge. I dropped my milking bucket and ran away. I think that was a very sensible thing to do. Inside my mom and my sister were talking, my brother was slowly ambling out of bed, all blissfully unaware that the dead had risen because of my laziness.