Ox Teamster’s Challenge 21st Year
by Nan Clark of Chesterfield, MA
photos by Scott Wright of New Rochelle, NY
I thought I would be writing this story in a snow-less winter. However, the first week in February brought the first white stuff to Western Massachusetts. Old-timers are still scratching their heads and feeling sure we’ll pay for this in April or May. Could it be Global Warming? After all it isn’t nice to fool Mother Nature! Local Sugar-Makers wonder about the sweetness of sap from trees tapped in a warm January.
Today is “Fat Tuesday” and the winter birds are gorging themselves at my feeders. A bright sun is sparkling our six inches of crusty snow. My memory reaches back to August 2015, another sunny day — but much warmer. Actually just the right temperature for the Ox Teamster’s Challenge at the Cummington, MA Fair. You might think that nothing very new could happen at this crowd-pleasing event after 20 years. You would be so-o-o-o-o wrong!
First of all there was a super ugly, misshapen log that was NOT part of the competition, but teamsters could TRY to load it on the sled. In picture #1 (Above) Tom Jenkins’ team, “Rock” and “Star”, display their expertise by successfully “backing” the log onto the sled. Few teams could do this because oxen resist backing up. Tom’s patient guidance has taught them well. He is a respected forester who logs with his oxen and he had this to say. “If I found that kind of log in the woods, it would stay right there!” An adoring crowd cheered to that.
Picture #2: Our youngest challenger, Brody Hicks (age 6), guides “Oak” and “Elmer” carefully thru the pylons without disturbing any tennis balls.
Picture #3: Brody’s team knocks over the bucket of water to win him $20. Brody’s brother, Tucker, also won himself $20.
Picture #4, #5 & #6: Durham team “Dick” and “Eddy” loading the extra long log with a triangular hitch, quietly guided by D.J. Clary.
Pictures #7 & #8: Gail Roberts with Randalls, “Nick” and “Nack”, also expertly loading the log. She and her team go on to complete the obstacle course with a perfect score.
Pictures #9 & #10: Gail guides Durhams, “Dick” and “Eddy”, thru the pylons, around the timber, and spilling the water bucket for her $20. Judge Joe Hillman sees another perfect score! Wow! He double-checks his notes with the tenacious timekeeper, Sebastian Ross. It’s true! First time in 21 years of the Ox Teamster’s Challenge that one person took both First and Second place with two Perfect Scores.
Picture #11: Our new photographer, Scott Wright (who just happens to be my son), took this colorful picture of Gail and her beautiful boys all smiles for the camera.
Surely it was a banner Challenge. The eager SRO crowd was treated to some bovine beauties guided carefully with voice commands. All the teamsters used the traditional twisted Hickory stick made by a respected teamster of yore, Art Hine, and given to the Challenge by Art’s son Nathan. Ten teamsters took home their share of the rosette ribbons and generous premiums provided by the fair officials. It was a long afternoon filled with patience, surprises and good humor. If that sounds good to you come see us in 2016 at the Cummington Massachusetts Fair, where there is plenty of parking for four fun-filled days in August 25-28. See you there!