Set in the heart of the Lake District National Park, Tarn Hows Wood lies on the eastern flank of Yewdale. The valley is characterized by Yewdale Fell to the west, with Yewdale Beck flowing in headlong rush from its cascades in Tilberthwaite Gill, to its tumbling rapids in the lower reaches of the valley before flowing into Coniston Water. The flat valley bottom is a miniature agricultural patterned landscape consisting of small hedged fields, punctuated by small groups of trees.
Evan came to Les with many lessons already learned. His father, Ronald Ames, had taught him a great deal about working with horses and how to work in the woods. Sixteen-year-old Evan is smart, polite and enthusiastic, and hopes to become a large animal vet. He values highly the lessons that 80-year-old Les is teaching him about how the old masters of different trades performed their tasks: harnessing horses, building logging scoots, designing eveners and neck yokes. Horse logging, haying and dignifying the horse are other skills Evan is learning.
The arch was built on a small trailer axle that I cut down to 3 feet wide and tacked back together. This was done so that I could keep the wheels parallel. I cut the middle out after construction was complete. I used heavy wall pipe from my scrounge pile for the various frame parts. It is topped off with an angle iron bar for added strength and to provide a mount for the winch and some slots for extra chains.
The woods are full of horses. A team of Suffolks pulls up to the landing with a load of logs, as a team of Percherons leaves with an empty scoot. Soft bells announce the arrival of a single Belgian, twitching out another log to be bucked into 8-foot lengths and forwarded to the pulp yard. In moments when the chainsaws fall silent, leaving only the sound of bells and hooves and the calls of the teamsters, this could be a forest scene from a hundred years ago.
The students learned to skid in an open field to gain confidence in handling the horses. No one had handled draft horses previously. To start with, when a horse turned his head, the students would jump back. The students learned to drive first, then skid a log in the open. Stakes were set up in different patterns for them to skid a log through. Then they were taken into the bush to learn skidding. One student said, “You don’t expect us to skid a log in there do you?” Ole asked him where he thought he would be skidding logs from. This student became one of the best skidders.
Horse logging is smart physics. The horses actually pull an “arch,” a rubber-tired sulky-like contraption that is rigged to actually lift the forward end of each log slightly off the ground. The teamsters, looking for all the world like Roman charioteers, stand high on the arch, leaning back against the seat for stability, bouncing through the forest. When the horses get it under way, the log rides on its rear end, front end raised, lessening the drag and damage to the ground.
What of the squirrels, grouse, frogs, mice and fur bearing animals that call this home? They were betrayed by the ones who studied them, lived off them to either be trampled by the machines or try to find a new home as winter set in. Their food supply and homes are gone forever so may many of them be gone forever. What greed does to us!
The problem horseloggers face is reducing skidding friction yet maintaining enough friction for holdback on steep skids. The cart had to be as simple and maneuverable as the basic two wheel log arch which dangles logs on chokers. We wanted it to be light, low, with no tongue weight, no lift motor to maintain, no arch to jam up and throw the teamster in a turn, and a low center of draft.
A couple of years back I spent a couple of days logging with Donnie Middaugh. Since the log job was closer to my house than his, we used my horses to skid the job. Roy and Libby was the team. This team had skidded more timber than most Timberjack 230’s will ever hook onto, but at this point in their lives, they hadn’t skidded logs in a couple of years. I was pulling the team at horse pulls and kept them hard with occasional farm work, but mostly pulling an exercise sled to keep in shape for the pulls.