There's no quicker way to travel back in time than to watch draft horses till the soil. Late in October, at the Bill and Celia Edwards farm near Waverly, Ill., a Currier-and-Ives scene unfolded, complete with draft horses, plows, wagons and implements.
The event - the 6th Annual Horse & Antique Tractor Plowing Demonstration - has been held at the Edwards farm for the past three years. As is often the case, the demonstration was the result of friends putting their heads together.
"Wayne Miner, my husband Bill, and Morris Gray talked about plowing," says Celia Edwards. "They wanted horses and tractors both."
Although horses far outnumbered beasts of iron at the event, the demonstration offered something for everyone. Traditional activities and events were the order of the day.
"The first year, we did everything," Celia recalled. "We even cooked over an open fire, making beans and cornbread."
Ten antique tractors were featured at this year's demonstration. Bob Imhoff, an IH collector, brought his 1953 Super M. Don Hermes brought an IH MTA with a John Deere plow, Rusty and Darryl Stewart brought their IH 400 LP, and Bob's dad, Bill, brought his Super H International and a 460 IH as well as an Allis Chalmers D14. Bill Edwards brought horses and tractors (an Allis Chalmers WD 45 and an International H) to the demonstration, as well as a variety of plows.
"We had mostly two-, three- and four-bottom plows," he says. "Most were IH, along with a Case."
A few tractors were on display but stayed out of the plowing demonstrations. The Stone brothers, Merle and Duane, brought handsomely restored pieces, including an IH W9, Cockshutt and Co-op tractors for display.
At past demonstrations, organizers could count on about 25 draft horses, ponies and mules showing up. This year's show brought about 43 different animals, including Belgians, Clydesdales, Percheron, ponies and mules. The horses were used to pull plows, disks, walking plows, a sulky and wagons. Owners came from all over Illinois; a few came from as far away as Wright City, Mo.
More than 100 people were on hand to enjoy the demonstration. They saw horses well-suited to the work. Draft horses are noted for being more calm than other breeds, and with thicker, sturdier bones and broad feet, are a good fit for field work. Most draft horses are 16 to 19 hands high (a hand equals four inches). The average animal is about 5'8' at the withers (just above the shoulders).
Not all draft horses come in large economy size, however. The Haflinger, for instance, is a smaller animal. Kenny and Sharon Creech, Wright City, Mo., brought Haflingers to the demonstration.
"The Haflinger originated in Austria," Kenny says. "It's half mountain mare, and half Arabian stallion. They look like a small Belgian." Haflingers are typically measured in inches, with the average animal at 50-60 inches.
The breed's name comes from a village in northern Italy. In Austria, Haflinger stallions are state property; only mares may be privately owned. Colts are carefully screened by state officials to ensure suitability for breeding.
Mules also played a role in the day's events. Bob Woods from Pekin, along with Dennis Brakensiek from Wright City, Mo., brought mules to the Edwards farm. A cross between a female horse and a male donkey, the mule is considered an intelligent animal with great stamina for work. FC
For more information: Bill and Celia Edwards, (217) 435-4671.
Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer based in Virden, Ill.