Dad was always a firm believer that the best way to train an animal was real work. As a kid, I always liked to take them out and take them for a walk down the road, and if dad would let me get away with that, that’s what I did. I still tend to do that, but he’s absolutely right: the best thing for training is real work and probably the best real work for them, that I can find, is picking rocks. We’ve got plenty of them around here. You know, you take a stone boat out. We generally kept a horn tie on them if nothing else but an insurance policy, but dad whipped on us very hard to manage the rope correctly.
This last week has been hot with clear skies and bright sunshine, definitely straw-hat weather. I am a keen and consistent wearer of hats, a cloth cap in winter and a straw hat in summer. In between, there are a few weeks when I’m not sure what to wear, but I do need some head covering as I have got to that stage in life when, if the growth on the top of my head was a cover crop, you’d be thinking about ploughing it up and starting again!
As we entered his harness making shop it just exuded an old-world atmosphere. A wood burning stove was heating the area and a subtle aroma of leather made it very pleasant. There was a vast amount and array of horse related items hanging, sitting and standing everywhere, which would take several hours to truly appreciate. It lacked the appearance of anything modern.
After a hiatus of more than a decade, the Oregon Draft Horse community has a full-fledged Draft Horse and Mule Plowing Competition once again. Organization president Duane Van Dyke was quite excited about the conversion back to competition from the long standing ‘demonstration’ play days that have been held over recent years. This year’s May event featured a whole lot of animals and a great crowd of participants and spectators all enjoying the emerald green beauty of Champoeg State Park.
As an anniversary gift my wife took me to Horse Progress Days in Pennsylvania for 2017. I watched the haying display and a few other things before meandering out behind the big field to the vegetable tillage area. As I walked down the lines of equipment I spotted a plow. The world sort of faded away as a rush of awe swept over me. My chest was tight as I neared the plow and I stood breathlessly looking at everything I had hoped for in a small plow bottom.
I’ve known a couple of Turkey Vultures that waited for me to do chores in the morning at the hay barn. They knew I would be there every day on time. I named them Harry and Carrie. They would perch on the corral rail, across from the hay barn, watching me the whole time. When I was done with chores, they would fly away. I know they grew attached to me, as I grew attached to them!
I was somewhat disappointed because I had begun to feel the word differently in its parts and possibilities. “With” and “Stand.” When we have withstood I feel as though we have prevailed, survived, succeeded, rather than to have, in a competitive sense, won against something or someone. I am drawn to the part about being proof against the weight. We Millers have withstood this challenging Winter. We the journal readership have withstood 28 years in partnership with this glorious publication. And we have done it purely together. And that we is a sum which extends backwards and forward, a sum which is more than its parts.