Letters to the Editors


| July 2003



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Ronald Bennett sits atop the big farm horse

In the northwest area of the Finger Lakes in New York state, the small farming community of Ionia sits close to the Hopper Hills. In the 1930s and early 1940s, a railroad ran through it, locally known as the Peanut Branch. In 1937, the railroad was removed, and my dad recovered a huge pile of railroad ties that we used as fuel in our furnace, - we also boiled it in asparagus soak-pans to extract maple sap. The syrup was great if one didn't mind the taste of pine from the smoky ties.

Our barn had four horse stalls, and Dad kept mares to raise colts, which we sold for extra income. Lue was our best and most-intelligent mare, and she produced many colts through the years. My brother-in-law, Henry Sadler, helped my father break and train the colts when they were old enough to work and be harnessed.

The farming community around Ionia was known as the first to grow and ship cabbage, asparagus and cucumbers by railroad. My father planted 1 or 2 acres of cucumbers each year, and the job was always hard on the hands. One year, the ground was plowed and ready to mark in 6-by-6-foot rows to plant. Lue pulled the homemade marker that had cultivator teeth to dig the soil, which left row marks. Seeds were dropped by hand, so Dad didn't need Lue for that job, so he tied the lines to the hame on her harness, slapped her on the rump and said, 'Co to the barn.' Many times I rode on Lue's back to the barn when she wasn't needed, but that time I helped cover cucumber seeds instead. My mother saw Lue trotting back to the barn without me on her back. Thinking the worst, she got into the Ford Model A and came down to the cucumber patch and gave Dad a good tongue lashing for scaring her.

Strong Road in the 1930s was made of gravel and had very little traffic. The narrow road had trees so low that a person could be knocked off a big load of hay if he didn't lie flat and hang on. Our barn was a post-and-beam structure built in the 1800s. Some beams were a foot square and 40 feet long, hewn by hand from one big tree. The drive floor had a hay mow on each side with a metal track in the peak to carry the hay car over the mow. Dad used a set of grapple forks and Lue to pull the hay into the mow.

When word came that the hay mow was ready to receive the hay, I called down to Lue to pull. This amazing horse would walk away from the barn up the road until the rope pulled tight at the end of the track, turn around and come back to the starting place and wait for the next pull. Many farmers used their car or a tractor to move hay, but we relied on wonderful, old Lue.

As the years passed, we got a Ford tractor for farm work. The memory of Lue now amounts to a collection of hayforks, trolleys and other tools from the 1800s. My collection isn't as splendid as Steve Weeber's (Farm Collector, May 2003), but I have more than 20 different trolleys and 10 different forks and slings.