Happs Plowing Teams and Teamsters Do It Again
Happs Plowing Teams and Teamsters Do It Again

Happ’s Plowing: Teams and Teamsters Do It Again

by Maureen Harkcom of Ethel, WA

Ethel, Washington once again saw the horses move in as teamsters arrived from Washington and Oregon to take part in the now annual Happ’s Plowing Competition. Percherons, Belgians, Shires, Norwegian Fjords, a Clydesdale and a pair of American miniatures all found their way to this small rural community to the ranch of Ken Olsen and Maureen Harkcom. Spectators followed and the day was “off and running.” Or, should we say plodding?

For the second annual Happ’s Plowing Competition, our judge was Mr. Don Anderson of Toledo, Washington. Don grew up driving with his father and grandfather and has about 75 years of experience with lines in his hands. Don personally has owned some great Shires, Percherons and Morgans and takes a great deal of pride and pleasure in good working horses. He enjoys good working horses and always seems willing to talk and share. He is an avid reader and has a voracious appetite for knowledge, seeking out every opportunity he can to learn from others’ experiences and wisdom. While it was tough to keep up with whom all the competitors were, Don did a great job and was appreciated by all – teamsters, reporters, spectators, and especially us for taking on the job of judging.

Happs Plowing Teams and Teamsters Do It Again
The wood beam Oliver 40 plow of Roger Daugherty sits in the field during lunch break. Photo by Wendi Ross.

We had a little rain during the night so the grass was wet but no one minded as they put plows to earth and teams and teamsters worked together to turn the sod under. They had more than four acres done by the time “off the field” was announced. Their work will go to good use as the piece will now be worked and seeded to produce dressage rings for the various equine events hosted by Happ’s.

This year, as last, the predominant mood seemed to be that of sharing and learning. Little confabs could be seen as teams rested (though I am not sure if it was always the equine members that were wanting the rest) and teamsters shared stories (perhaps a few tall tales?), and just had a chance to talk to friends seen too infrequently and make new acquaintances. Those who farm, log or drive for pleasure all shared their joy in working with their equine partners. Spectators crowded around every chance they got to take pictures, touch a horse, and ask multitudes of questions: “What kind of horse is that?” “How much do they weigh?” along with statements such as “I didn’t know people really did this anymore.” One lady contacted me ahead of the event as she was looking to buy a draft horse to learn to drive. She used the day to observe and learn. She has concluded though that she wants to stay with driving a cart or carriage as plowing looks like too much work and is too dirty. That’s what makes it all work. Each of us has our own niche – that place where we feel comfortable – and that is what will keep this art alive.

Happs Plowing Teams and Teamsters Do It Again
John Erskine and his Shires.

When we finally got everyone off the field (I would never tell on Les Courtney and how his wife Carol had to make him quit plowing!) everyone gathered for awards and goodbyes before hitting the road home. The rain that we got overnight made the ground too wet to work so Sunday’s Ground Working was called off.

  • “Best Looking Female Plowman” – Teri Sardinia of Winlock, WA
  • “Best Looking Male Plowman” – Roger Daugherty of Oregon City, Oregon
  • “Youngest Plow Horse” – 3 year old Norwegian Fjord “Istes” teamed with his full brother “Elfenn” owned by Woody Hoopes of Monroe, WA
  • “Oldest Plow Horse” – 18 year old Percheron “Jerry” teamed with 17 year old “Bird” owned by Clarence Stancil of Tenino, WA
  • “Longest Hauled Horses” – “Sydnie” and “Icky” Shire mares of John Erskine of Sequim, WA
  • “Best Non-Traditional Team” – 3 abreast Norwegian Fjords “Brass Ring Geir,” “Gandolf” and “Honey” owned by Joel Harman of Mosier, OR
  • “Best Lady Plowman” – Teri Sardinia driving Belgian mare “Missy” and Shire mare “April”
  • “Best Open Plowman” – John Erskine
  • “Best Senior Plowman” – Larry Livingston of Olympia, WA driving Belgians “Dick” and “Duke”
  • “Best Crown” – Les Courtney of Amboy, WA with Belgian stallion “Dan” and Belgian/Shire mare “Maudy”
  • “Best Finish” – Gean Courtney of LaCenter, WA with Belgians “Tom” and “Molly”
  • “Best Going Team” – “Sydnie” and “Icky” (with John Erskine walking along behind)

We had a great time and are looking forward to hosting the Happ’s Plowing Competition 2003

Happs Plowing Teams and Teamsters Do It Again
A meeting of the minds: John Erskines’ Shire mares take a brief break as (left to right) John, Joel Harmon, Dan Kintz and Bub Roux discuss plows and horses.