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A flash back to the old school

Old-fashioned farming play day teaches public value of historic means of farming


For the Capital Press

Gerald Dillman's grandparents on both sides of his family tree farmed with horses and mules.

At age 22, Dillman says he would like to get involved with driving and maybe do a little horse farming of his own.

This Murtaugh, Idaho, native got his wish recently when he arrived as a spectator at the annual draft horse, mule and antique tractor farm day about 10 mile southwest of Twin Falls, Idaho. Ben Holland of Richfield let Dillman take a turn at guiding a walking plow pulled by a team of draft mules. After some basic instructions from veteran driver Cotton Riley and with Holland holding the drive lines, the two headed off through the deep dirt at a running walk.

"It was exciting," Dillman said after a few rounds on a short row. "It was hard, though, keeping up. You would get skinny real fast doing this all day. Skinny and tough. There's a lot to take in, but boy howdy, it's fun."

Each year, the Southern Idaho Draft Horse and Mule Association joins up with the Magic Valley Antique Tractor Pullers to have an old-fashioned farming play day for the public. Visitors are encouraged to ride along when possible, ask questions, and have lunch while watching farming practices from the days of yore.

Edith Harmon of Buhl, vice president of the tractor association, said the horse and mule drivers have a lot in common with her husband Delbert and other tractor club members.

"It's all about having fun and keeping the history of farming alive. ... My grandkids have very little clue," she said, recalling the pioneer life of her own grandparents breaking sagebrush range into farmland. "It was a hard life, but it was a good life. Things were not easy for them. We still see the same challenges today, but everything is more modern."

Harmon, 72, recalled that her first washing machine was a wringer, and everyone knew clothesline etiquette, where unmentionables were hung on inside lines, hidden by sheets. Washing was done on Monday, followed by ironing on Tuesday and baking on Wednesday. Saturday was the day to go to town, and Sunday was for church, a day when clotheslines were empty of everything, even the wooden pins.

"I think my old wringer got the clothes cleaner," she said.

Despite a strong breeze and temperatures still low from an overnight freeze, about two dozen spectators, many with children in tow, turned out at the 80-acre bare field to watch the tractors and draft animals in action. Some sat in their cars while others were out talking to the drivers about the details of their hobbies.

Dillman said he has been reading books on how to farm with horses or mules, but coming to a live demonstration and talking to the ones who have experience is an easier way to learn. After leaving a zigzag row of his own with the walking plow, he watched Holland cut a straight line up the field holding both plow and lines.

"That's awesome, how straight that is," Dillman said. "It may not seem like a big deal to them, but it is to me. ... The problem with books is, you can't raise your hand and ask questions. The amount of knowledge here is phenomenal."


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