The barn was built around a century ago. A pair of double doors on the front flapped when the wind blew, and a short service door was on the side. It wasn’t a big barn, about 30 feet wide by 40 feet long with a small hay mow above. It had a couple of windows for light, and of course a window in the peak. There was a hitching rail outside that gave it a certain welcoming charm. A charm that seemed to say, “tie up to the rail, and c’mon in.”
In the corner of my living room is what some would call folk art. Of course, one man’s art is another’s trash. I’m not big on metaphors, so it’s neither trash nor treasure to me. It simply reminds me of all the years I made my living logging with horses. Evidently some long ago horse logger was having a bad day and broke a drive grab. Breakdowns happen. You fix them; you keep on keepin’ on.
The harnesses are like the old saying about having Grampa’s hammer, but you twice replaced the head and three times replaced the handle. Over the last twenty five years I’ve added tail cruppers, changed the check straps, broke both belly bands and replaced them with saddle girths, repaired or changed numerous lazy straps, changed from swivel to D-ring heel chains, changed breast straps, hame straps, changed out the farm hames for aluminum pulling hames, and I’m on the third set of lines.
Life on the 120 acre sheep farm was a long and quiet grind. Its rewards weren’t monetary, or material. It had been a decade since the days of buying a new European sports car, and a new four wheel drive pickup in the same year. The Saab has been dead, and parked behind the barn for a few years now. The once shiny red pickup is rusted, dented, and will soon be beyond repair. The big purchase in the late 80s was now a Pioneer sulky plow for $500. The hippies might call this going back to the land. The big man, now a married family man again, was too busy being in charge of his family and farm to have a poetic name for the life he was winning.
It often seems to me that a good share of life is determined by our own perspectives. I’ve competed in pulls where the team came in last and I was completely content, if not downright thrilled. I’ve had other times when the team pulled all they could and behaved perfectly, and still disappointed me. It’s just my personal perspective on that particular day that led to my disappointment or pleasure. Let’s face it; a day at a pull, with the good people a pull attracts, and the bond shared with horses is a good day that we should cherish whether you finished first or last.
A few minutes with my Old Man will bring you stories Hollywood could never write. Stories of driving the canned milk to town at age 12 in the family pickup, not having a car to drive, driving new Cadillacs, eating home raised meals, eating at the Four Seasons as Presidents walked out while he was walking in, farming with only horses, then new tractors, then big tractors, then not farming, then doing it again with 50 year old tractors, then once more with no tractors.
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.