Shortly after Mrs Ed and I bought the farm I got my first team of draft horses. As you know if you read an earlier post, that didn’t turn out so well. I am one who believes everything happens for a reason. My mistakes brought me to meet harness maker, Bernie Sampson. Like many people that grew up in the horse era, Bernie has a knack for sizing up horses and people. He is a natural and college educated historian. Having spent my professional career in the history business, I can appreciate the lessons history can teach us, if we just listen and ask questions.
I went to Bernie to buy a harness, and I got a life line to enable me to pursue my passion with draft horses. Left on my own, I probably would have quit after my first near-death experience. But I didn’t. I continued on so I could have more. I know that might sound dumb to some people, but I also believe one learns through mistakes (if you take time to reflect and not repeat them).
The next best thing Bernie did for me was to talk me into joining the North Star Draft Horse Association. Bernie and a number of other long draft horse farmers organized the Association in the early 1980s. Formed to promote use of draft horses during a time when the industry was starting to rebound from an all-time low, the Association brought horse people together to help each other and to educate the public.
One of the first events I went to was a field day at Rollie and Mary Millers in Floodwood. I’ll never forget Don Denton driving his four big black percherons. I got to see teamsters plowing, disking, cutting and raking hay. It rained but because the show must go on, they tedded hay anyway.
It was during these early years I met draft horse legends like Jim McNeil who raised and showed registered Belgians. I was fortunate to go to several sales with Jim and Sam Yoder. Jim was usually looking for a new stallion and could rattle off a horse’s pedigree like a genealogical zealot. Sam and I could sit for hours watching horses come through the ring. More than once I heard him say “I should have bid on that one.” More than once we came home with a trailer load of horses. One time we joked that Sam’s pasture was like a used car lot of horses. He had at least one of everything except American Creams.
“I should have bid on those,” he said later. Jim and I laughed so hard I think we had tears in our eyes.
Thanks to Bruce Hage from Cotton for selling me Patsy and for his uncle Bob McKay for trading me her lifelong mate, Kate. I got them when they were 4 and kept them until they were twenty. They taught me about “turning inside out.” That’s when your horses turn in and come back towards you. Suddenly your lines are useless and usually a tangled mess ensues. Patsy and Kate were what I needed at the time because they were “forgiving horses.” They taught me to try to avoid “inside out “whenever possible.
The Draft Horse Association is where I met many other good people. I met Jerry Holmes and Duane Barrow when they came to help with a logging job. I have many good memories of Jerry helping me with the oxen at Blackberry. Duane, who is club president, is not only a good leader, he is an excellent teacher and gives selflessly of his time and experience to those of us who have so much more to learn.
Tomorrow is the 2013 NSDHA annual meeting. I look forward to this and the quarterly meetings to see old friends and meet new ones. I jokingly refer to the club as a support group for draft horse collectors. It a place where you can learn new things and hear stories that make you feel that what you did for your last near death experience is not as dumb as you thought.