Horse Trading

The popularity of horses seems to go in cycles, and a big demand for horses flared up in the early thirties, when nobody could afford to buy gas. Everybody was trying to raise colts, including us. [27.170-6]

Our first foal was the chocolate colored Nancy, from Bird, the old pony mare. She was soon a spoiled pet and was really cute when she was little. I took her into the house one day. All the floors were waxed and slippery then and when we were going through the living room she got excited and started to run, but she didn't get anywhere because she couldn't get any traction on the waxed floor. She must have been awfully cute, because Ma didn't bawl me out. [27.170-7]

(We also had a couple of little pet 'coons that we took in the house. They climbed up the curtains and across the windows and down the other side. We got by with that, too. It seems Ma was a lot more tolerant of animals than she was of us. They must have been cuter.) [27.172-6]

Nancy had a mean streak and would switch and kick if we tried to work her alongside other horses. There isn't any cure for that, but she was really trained otherwise. If I was riding her, even at a gallop, and slid off (on purpose), she would skid to a stop and wait for me. She would walk up and put her foot up on a pedestal, etc. and would follow me anywhere without a halter if I had a whip. [27.171-1]

Once Sivert Peterson had cattle with us in the pasture up by Mill Lake and the neighbors called to say they were out and roaming the country. Nancy and I rode up there in the back of Sivert's pick-up, which didn't have any sideboards. We rounded up the cattle and then road back to Ashby. After 15 or 20 miles without incident he drove over the sidewalk kitty corner in town and flipped her out on her back. Even that didn't scare her. [27.171-2]

I traded Nancy to a horse jockey for Billy, the palomino colt from Montana. He was wild and jumped into the manger every time we came up behind him to start with, but he didn't have any mean streaks. So Nancy went to Ohio. [27.171-3]

We didn't have much luck getting foals from our horses, but somebody started shipping in carloads of unbroken colts and horses from the west (Montana) and we bought quite a few of them. We had around 20 on hand most of the time for several years, raising and breaking them and selling them. I guess I broke every one to ride and used up some of my energy that way during my "squirrelly years." [27.173-1]

During the hot, dry thirties, when nobody could afford to buy gas, horses made a short comeback. Whole carloads of horses and colts were shipped in from Montana. Sometimes there were a few good, well-broken work horses mixed in with the young, wild ones. Old-fashioned horse traders sprang up everywhere. [27.181-2]

We bought quite a few yearlings and 2-year-olds and broke them to work. I always broke them to ride and had some really nice saddle horses, until they got sold for work. [27.181- 3]

Pa bought three colts at one stockyard sale and paid about $40 or $50 for all three. One was a nondescript bay, apparently about a year old. Marj named him "Rosebud" and we had fun riding and teasing him the first winter. He didn't grow at all during the year we had him and we realized he was some kind of runt.

A horse trader brought a load of horses to the stockyard the next summer and we went in to look. Among his horses was a good-looking young black horse with harness marks. We got the "jockey" to come out and see if we could make a trade. We showed him Rosebud and he guessed he was about a "long yearling." Pa suggested trading him for the black horse and the jockey said, "Yah, I'll trade with you." [27.181-4]

We knew there was something wrong with the black one, but hadn't spotted what it was. I led Rosebud in alongside of one of my riding horses and turned him in with the other trading stock. When Pa started to lead the black one out, he hit his head on a post.

The trader said, "Oh, take him easy, he can't see very good; in fact he's as blind as a bat." [27.182-1]

A trade was a trade, and Pa didn't complain at all. The jockey was gloating to himself about getting a yearling for a blind horse, but that blind horse, Dan, made one of the best lead horses we had ever had. He matched up with our best black mare and worked in the field as well as if he had eyes. He was young and active, like his teammate, Dolly. (I sure would like to know where the worthless Rosebud ever landed. [27.182-2]

Black Dan soon learned his way from the water tank to his stall when he came in from the field. We even turned him in to the pasture sometimes.

One day Dan wandered along the south side of the cranberry marsh and slipped in. He was hopelessly mired and the hill went straight up to the driveway from there. We took our biggest team over and managed to pull him out of the mud, but he couldn't get footing enough to stand up on that steep hill, and the team couldn't pull him up it either.

We pulled him out of the mud with a rope around his neck, which was an everyday thing, pulling horses and cattle out of the mud in sloughs. You would think it would pull their heads off, but we never hurt any of them doing it. It had to go quickly, though, or there was danger of choking them.

To pull Dan clear up the hill that way would be too hard on him, so we got a long, heavy hay rope and put it around him just back of his front legs and out between them. Then we got two big pulleys and made a block and tackle of them, between two trees. That way the horses had power enough to pull him up the hill, a few feet at a time. We had to keep the rope tight or he would try to get up and slide back down. We finally got him up to the driveway; he probably was sore, but none the worse for the experience.

One day, several years later, I was working in the field behind the schoolhouse when Dan got sick. I hurriedly unharnessed him and turned him loose. He rolled and rolled and died in about an hour, supposedly from a twisted gut. [27.182-3]

We were advertising horses when a fellow came from north of Underwood and described a young, sorrel horse. He said, to me, "I'm sure you'll like him."

We had a big, bay 3-year-old we broke that was too gentle and lackadaisical to suit me. He said his horse didn't match anything he had and our bay did. Pa didn't want to drive clear up there to trade a really good horse for one that there was no doubt something wrong with, but I kept needling him until he said I could go up and see what the other horse looked like.

When I got back, he said, "What does he look like?"

"I traded even," I said.

That was about as aghast as I ever saw Pa look. [27.183-1]

After the other fellow came down and switched horses, we took the sorrel out to the edge of the field and hitched him to a wagon and hay rack with our biggest, gentlest old mare. Pa and I were both on the wagon. He told them to go, and we went on a really wild ride. I had traded for a runaway!

Old Molly could hardly keep up, but there wasn't much she could do but go along. We tried to keep them on the loose, plowed field until they finally got tired and stopped.

We unhitched them right there in the middle of the field and went for the breaking harness. That had trip ropes on it and when a horse would make a false move we could trip him right on his nose and hold him there. In no time at all that runaway was our third best lead horse and forgot all about running away. [27.183-2]

A new multiple hitch system for horses, the "tying in and buckling back" system, was developed just before tractors came on so big. With it, if you had two good, solid horses for the outside lead horses, you could drive almost any number of horses with two lines. I plowed with a two-bottom "gang plow" with four horses, two and two (strung out), and broke alfalfa with five or six horses on the same plow, three in front and two or three behind. [27.173-2]

We had the blacksmith make a tandem disk by reversing the blades on a horse disk and attaching it to the back of another horse disk. We drove eight horses on that, four and four, sometimes with as many as four unbroken 3-year-old colts in the back team. [27.173-3]

Of course, we were only one-horse farmers compared to the ones who were developing the big hitches in southern Minnesota and Iowa. There they were plowing and disking with up to 12 horses in three teams, using only two lines. [27.173-5]

Pa took a lot of interest in horses as he had been through a horse era once before, in the livery days, when they shipped in western broncos for buggy horses. I thought it was so much fun I hated to see the tractor era coming in. I had all the Beery Horse Training Course books. I even said I was born 30 years too late, that I would rather have lived through the horse years. [27.173-4]

We broke all our horses with trip ropes on the front feet before we hitched them to anything, so if they stepped into the eveners in front of them or got their feet tangled up in anything, like fences, they would stop and stand stock still, so they wouldn't smash things up. [27.173-5]

When the first tractors came out, only the big farmers bought them, but we bought some of the bigger horse machinery they traded-in, including a three-horse, two-row cultivator and a six-foot horse mower. [27.174-2]

We really got some good, well-broken horses by buying colts and raising and breaking them ourselves. When I was grubbing some small popple stumps to square up a corner down by the slough, I would hook a big team to the stump and they would lean into it and pull steadily while I chopped roots from the back side. When the stump let go, they would almost land on their noses, but they would patiently do the same on the next one, time after time. [27.174-3]

When I actually got old enough to go out with girls (finally), I used to say I liked horses best and girls second. [27.174-4]

One of Sivert Peterson's horses died one fall, and Pa lent him Dexter, one of our big, black horses, to use for the winter. [27.185-2]

Poor Dexter didn't make it back to the farm in the spring. He used to get a colic spell once in a while. It ran in the family -- it was his mother that got colic and died just as we were moving to the farm in 1922. Pa told Sivert to give him a quart of linseed oil if he got colic and he would get right over it, as he had done so many times. [27.185-3]

Well, Dexter got colic and Minnie, who lived in the other half of the big, brick house with her mother, Hannah, had a state veterinarian with her that weekend. Of course with a special horse doctor like that right there in the same house, he took charge. Sivert forgot about the linseed oil and the vet treated him with more official medicine. Poor Dexter passed away before Pa heard about it, so all he got back was his hide, which was worth about $2.50. And I had to skin him, too. [27.186-1]

International Harvester's first Farmalls were just coming out during the "big hitch" era and Woltvedts were thinking about buying one. The old man sent Herman to Fargo to tractor school to learn about tractors, but they didn't buy one until the H Farmalls came out anyway.

The Equity had a tractor meeting in "the hall" and the International Harvester Company sent up a "10-20" Crankshaft. They set it up on blocks in the front of the hall to show how big and strong it was, and old Halvor Woltvedt went up and looked at it. It was sure funny to watch those old guys look. They would have known about as much afterwards if they had been looking at a corpse at a funeral. [27.173-7]

When the first tractors came out on steel wheels, only the big farmers bought them, to start with. [27.174-1]