Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Plow Day

While writing The Book of Draft Horses: The Gentle Giants that Built the World, I learned draft horse owners across the country are using their gentle giants to plow and work fields, mow and rake hay, even for logging. To share memories and pass on their skills to future generations events called “plow days” are held in rural communities.

I attended a Plow Day at the Jimmy Dozier Farm in Rocky Mount, North Carolina earlier this spring. It is an event that has grown bigger every year. Not only were there several teams of draft horses and mules plowing a thirty-acre cornfield, there were other things from the “good old days” on display. An antique car show, folks making grits and cornmeal with a restored burr mill, and a display of old horse powered farming equipment was spread out over Mr. Dozier’s front yard. Hundreds of people were there to watch the horses and see the displays. Rocky the Trick Mule provided entertainment, and there was plenty of food on hand to feed the crowd.

Jimmy has four draft horses, a pair of Belgians and a pair of Spotted Draft horses, which he raised from the Belgians. With the help of his horses, Jimmy plants corn in the thirty-acre field. He also uses the horses to rake his hay fields. He is restoring a horse drawn hay mower so he can also mow it with his horses.

The plow day was attended by hundreds of spectators. Jimmy doesn’t charge anything for the folks to come watch. It’s his gift to the community, and a way to hand down old traditions to the younger generations. Young people who want to try their hand guiding the horses down the furrows get a lesson from Jimmy or one of the other team owners. There is great value in giving the older generations a place to not only show their skills, but also share their stories and reminisce with each other.

My friend and I were admiring the line of antique cars. She remembered someone in her family who had an old car like the one we were stopped next. A man overheard her and stopped to look, too. Then he told his story of how as children he and his siblings used to rider in the rumble seat of the family’s car, a Model A Ford. “Look in there. You can see it’s not a lot of room, and the one we had wasn’t that nice,” he said as my friend and I peered into the tiny back seat of the car on display. That car had been restored beautifully; its rumble seat padded and covered in fine, smooth leather. “And if it rained, then that was just to bad,” he chuckled. You could see the fond memories dancing in his eyes.

We walked back to the plowing field. I snapped more photos. There was no roar of engines, just the jingle of the harness chains and voices of the people talking and laughing as they watched the men and horses at work.


Em said...

I think these horses may come back into 'fashion' if gas prices keep going up the way they are! At least for some smaller farms!

ron1234 said...

So when is the 2009 plow day?

ron1234 said...

I called Jimmy. No Plow Day this year.
New knee and grand baby on the way.
What do we do now?

Donna Campbell Smith said...

That's what Kim just emailed back to me. Would be nice if someone else would pick it up. If you hear more let me know!