V-Plow and Snow Mower
by Fran Kueker of Verndale, MN
Through the noise of the circular saw and the sounds of the cordless drill, Mark mutters, “I still think you’re nuts.” I ignore my husband’s comment but Dad’s voice rings in my head, “those things never worked.” I dig through the pile of scrap lumber in search of a two by ten for the brace on the V-plow. I can picture my father, who passed away last spring, shaking his head as if to say, “see for yourself then.” Dad had no use for horses in his later years. He always said, “if you had to farm with them you’d know why,” I remember watching him driving a neighbor’s team on an occasional hayride; seeing him video today’s teamsters, working the land with horses for pleasure; while tractors stayed parked near the barn. I believed it had more to do with losing a son to a horse accident than farming with them as a boy. Out of respect I’d never asked. I merely understood his discouraging comments towards horses. Not that I would let it stop me, but I tried not to flaunt it in front of him. Finding a suitable board, I turn my thoughts back to the project.
I’m determined to stay in the workshop till this is finished. Knowing if I leave, it too will be abandoned, set aside, till my nagging will urge Mark to finish it. With only the chain and single tree to be attached, I trust he can finish without my supervision. I race to the barn to harness Red and Kaibab.
With a click of my tongue Red walks proudly out the barn door. I drive him to the plow, turn, and back him up squarely in front. Our first four inches of snow awaits us. Draping the lines over my forearm I hook the tugs to the single tree, take the lines back in my hands and give a click. Red walks off pulling the V-plow behind. I walk alongside, staying out of the way of the swinging plow. The nose picks up, glides over, digging into and gliding over the snow again.
I drive him to the barn, find an old cement block and place it on the V. Off we go, a little bit of weight making a difference. I switch horses back and forth for several hours, working one while the other rests. With the yard half-finished I quit for the day; instructing Mark to add a platform and a rail across the front. Dad was probably right, but I won’t give in. I’ll figure out a way to make this work. I pull my log sheets off the bulletin board and record the driving time of each horse for the day. Pouring a cup of coffee, I pull a chair in front of the wood stove to warm my feet.
Two more inches of snow fell overnight and I’m up with the sun. The thermometer reads five degrees; the wind is whipping out of the north. I lace up sorrels and dig out the warmest gloves I can find.
The snow keeps coming; two to four inches every couple of days for almost a month. I live behind a horse and V-plow. Friends and neighbors tease me. Mark just shakes his head. The yard and drive look as though I’d been nipping on the bottle, with all the swinging of the plow behind the horse. No steering equals no straight lines.
With the January thaw comes stuck vehicles. The V-plow packed the snow more than it moved it. Back to the shop, dragging Mark behind. A back issue of Small Farmers Journal clutched in my arm. I pull a pair of front runners from an extra bobsled out of the corner. Hand him the open page picturing the snow mower. The saw and drill run nonstop. I dig through the lumber pile in search of wood. Reluctantly, I give up my antique pump handle for the tailgate lever.
The next afternoon we pull the contraption out into the yard. I hitch Red and Kaibab to the new snow mower. For the next three days I spend every minute I can cleaning up the weaving, wobbling mess in the yard.
Snow keeps falling every couple of days. With four scraps of two by six and an old bucket seat, I make a removable platform, mounting the seat to it. No more tired legs.
Friends and neighbors come by to see the new contraption wondering how high of a snow pile the horses will climb. I cut my plowing time from sixteen hours with the V-plow to six or eight with the snow mower. Many leave agreeing with my husband, I’m certifiably crazy to look forward to more snow. Clearly, everyone else in Minnesota is sick of it by February.
It’s the end of February and we got 14 inches of new snow throughout the night. Excited with the challenge of such a snowfall I drive the team to the mower. The snow is almost as deep as the box. I pull out the V-plow. Unable to plow a strip I can use for a starting point I run in the house and call a friend with a plow on his truck. “I just need a small strip plowed,” I explain.
Two hours later the truck pulls in, drops the plow, pushing my snow down the drive. I run out to stop him. “That’s enough, I can get the rest,” I insist. He won’t take no for an answer. We are leaving for Florida for our son’s wedding in two days. I have laundry to do, suitcases to pack, a house to clean and groceries to buy. I let him finish plowing knowing it would otherwise take me the better part of the two days to accomplish that alone.
I add up the hours I’ve logged with Red, one hundred and eighty two; Kaibab’s, one hundred and seventy eight. The program awards prizes; my goal, five hundred hours for the year. I still have six months to go. I pin the sheets back on the bulletin board.
That was our last snowfall for the year. I put the snow mower away and hope for the challenge of fourteen inches at once next winter. As I lean the V-Plow against the wall till then, I think of Dad. As always, he was right. I wonder if he’s watching over me, sure he is. I can see the smirk on his face as he turns and walks away. Knowing he’s thinking, “you kids never listen.”