Transcribed by Rae Wayne
March 18, 1948 – Reprinted July 27, 1978
* CAL’S COLUMN *
This article will have to do with horses and mules and folks. It is a fact that many men are no good as teamsters, while others are capable of managing a team and getting a maximum of work out of such teams. Why some men are good teamsters and others are not is perhaps hard to understand. However, it is the same way in every calling. We have good preachers and men who can handle the Bible. We have others just as sincere and earnest, who never will make preachers even if they live to be a hundred years old. We have capable editors and then we have others that are not talented and are wholly unsuited to the work of an editor. The same is true of perhaps every other work or calling, there being those who fit and those who are out of place. We have seen farmers who should have never tried to farm. We have seen preachers who should have by all means followed some other calling. We have seen lawyers who ought to have been farmers and we have seen a few farmers who ought to have been lawyers. We have seen men teaching school who would have done far more good farming.
But let us get back to our original theme of horses and mules and folks. The editor’s father was a farmer, a very careful and hard-working farmer, who loved to have a place for everything and everything in it place. He grew perhaps as large corn and as nice tobacco as any of his neighbors. He was, however, a poor teamster. In the first place, he had almost invariably a poor team, generally made up of mares and produced a colt about every other spring. If there ever was a worse plow animal than an old mare with a young colt, we have yet to discover same. Our father owned in the years gone by a mare called Dinah. She had less sense than any other member of the horse family we have ever known. We have frequently remarked that, “If her brains were dynamite, they would not blow her bridle off.” We recall one trip our father made, riding Dinah. He was on his way to Dixon springs and on the road, he met, or rather saw coming, the first automobile in that section. It was owned and driven by Taylor Gregory, who was very considerate of the scared horses and mules that were so common in those days. Our father saw this “monster” coming and so did the mare. He never rode with a spur and used only a small switch to hurry up Dinah, together with his heels. He began to “heel” the mare and managed to ride her into a hedge row or fence about 50 feet from the road. He had her head away from the road and felt reasonable safe as the “red devil” came closer. But when the car had reached a point just opposite our father and old Dinah, the mare began to back up. The more our father kicked and tried to get her to go forward, the more she backed. The driver of the car had completely stopped and was watching the scene, apparently feeling helpless to do anything. If he had tried, he could have easily driven out of the way and gone on up the road. Instead of driving on, he sat and watched that old, fool mare back up close enough to his car to kick one lamp, the old fashioned brass, acetylene headlamp, completely off. It is needless to add that our father, a very modest and timid man, was embarrassed almost beyond endurance. But he did not pay for the lamp and the owner did not ask him to. We wonder really whose fault it was anyway.
On another occasion our father and his brother, our Uncle Luther, went to mill at Hartsville, carrying along a load of wheat and exchanging it for flour in the barrel. On their way back, one of the nuts that hold the wheels on came off and the wheel kept rolling on for a mile and a half. Finally the wheel came off and the axle dropped to the ground. Our father had to walk back down the road for a mile and a half to find the nut. On his return, the two men finally managed to prop up the axle and get the wheel in place. On another trip they were somewhat less fortunate. They were returning from Hartsville with quite a heavy load of flour, which was also in barrels. Our uncle was doing the driving this time. The team had no breeching, so as to be able to hold the wagon back on steep grades, and this was before the day of wagon brakes. The only way then used to slow a wagon down on steep grades was to lock a wheel with a chain. To save such trouble, the uncle decided he would let the team trot down each grade. Finally the rolling wagon and trotting team had gained such a headway that they were fairly flying down the hill. Finally the barrel of flour, standing on end and on which the driver was riding, headed over, pitching our uncle right out between the animals that composed the team. He dropped his lines and decided to try to save himself. Our father grabbed the lines and finally stopped the team which had, by that time, reached the bottom of the hill. Our uncle had managed to cling to the wagon tongue, to which he was holding with his hands and feet and was swinging under it very much like a lizard under the bottom of a rail. He escaped unhurt, but was given quite a scare with the rough road only a few inches from his back and the flying feet of the team at either side.
Later on when the writer had reached the “ripe and experienced age of 16,” his father had another teamster’s accident. This time he and the same uncle had gone to our nearest town, Dixon Springs. At that time there was no bridge across Dixon’s Creek at the mouth of the Young Branch, on which we lived. The ford at that season was rather deep, there being perhaps two and a half feet of water at the crossing place. Our father had the lines or reins and was sitting on the wagon frame, his feet hanging off over the water. One of the team was that same old dunce of an animal, old Dinah. She was always a fool about files that got on her head and neck. While the team was being watered at the crossing, and the driver was not looking very closely, a fly apparently got on Dinah’s neck. Unable to shake off the fly in any other way, she lifted one hind foot and undertook to remove the fly in that manner. She succeeded in getting her hind foot to her neck and the fly was scared off. But she had a much harder time getting that long hind leg back in place. As she went to put the foot down, it became entangled in the check rein between the harness and her mouth and the more she tried to put the foot down, the worse her position became. Every move to restore the rear foot to proper position only pulled her head back toward the wagon. In her struggles to get the foot down again, she became shaped somewhat like a circle. Our father was then helpless to do anything, and was hardly prepared for what followed. With another struggle in her nearly circular shape, she fell over the wagon tongue into water nearly three feet deep and her head went entirely under water. She threw her head out of the water to get some air, blowing water from her nostrils perhaps ten feet into the air and giving out at the same time a tremendous kick. Her hind foot missed our father’s thigh by only a few inches and the blow was so hard that the hard wood of that sassafras wagon frame was splintered. Had it struck our father’s thigh, he would have had a severe leg fracture.
Our dad did not have much love for water in the sense of jumping into a stream, but this time he had no other choice. He “loped” right off that wagon into the water and waded to the head of the mare which by that time was almost drowned. He grabbed her bridle and managed to life her head above the water so she could have some air. The uncle also sprang into the water and cut the harnestring and other parts of the harness, releasing old Dinah from certain death. Finally, the two men patched up the harness and managed to get home. The writer was then, as he thought, pretty smart. So he said in his disgust, “Why didn’t you let the old fool drown?” Our father’s answer has remained with us through forty years and it was; “You ain’t got no sense.” If old Dinah ever got to the horse heaven, if there is one, it was for no reason in the world except for her lack of sense. She scarcely knew enough to come in out of the rain. We have been aggravated by this old dunce hundreds of times. In plowing corn, she had no regard for the place where she walked. She had just as soon walk right on the corn as to walk by the side of the row. Then in turning at the end of the field, she usually managed to tramp on and break down the biggest and finest stalk of corn in reach of her old big feet. And when this happened, we “Kinda” went to pieces and generally made matters worse by trying to whip the mare until she had tramped down perhaps a dozen stalks of corn. About this time, our dad usually appeared on the scene and made a prouncement about like the one that he gave off at the time we wanted to know why he did not let old Dinah drown. And maybe he was right in some respects, but we are grateful for one thing and that is we have not had to plow old Dinah for nearly 40 years and we hope that so long as we live, such a trial will not again befall us. Maybe we are prejudiced; but reader, you never plowed old Dinah.