Picnic Plows: Life Behind a Horse

Plowing with a horse again was one of those undone things that my father always talked about but never got around to doing. In going through his estate, it became obvious that it was never far from his mind. He had collected several old plows and cultivators in various states of decay and after collecting all the bits and pieces of harness he had saved over a lifetime, I managed to almost fill a truck bed. He had also bought two new plow handles to be used at some future date that never came, at least for him.

As a young man, my father plowed our farm behind a horse. He turned furrow after furrow of weak clay soil that in turn yielded weak corn.

My own memories of a plow horse were with a draft horse that we had named Tony. My grandmother would call me to her garden when it came time to plow up the potatoes. My Uncle Bud and Tony would plow right down the middle of the row. Potatoes would pop to the surface like some newly discovered treasure. I would run excitedly picking up the largest ones while my grandmother lingered and patiently collected the rest.

Our horse Picnic is half draft horse and after quite a bit of cajoling, hollering, and even some cussing, I convinced her of her need to pull in a harness. Now, I can see within her what I had never seen before. She was bred to be a workhorse; it is her true nature. She now walks purposefully, methodically and when I pull her up she stands quietly awaiting my next command. Wearing a harness is what she was meant to do. After only two weeks of work, she has blossomed. She was always big but now she has muscles to boot Her chest has broadened all most as much as her rear end.

So after weeks of pulling tractor tires around in the pasture, the other morning we finally went to the garden. I’m not saying that we cut some pretty rows that morning, but I did do what my father longed to do again, Picnic and I plowed the garden. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It seems you have to do about five things at once when you have a green broke horse. I made about a half dozen passes before I had to take a break. My little foray into the garden gave me a new appreciation of my ancestors who plowed all day behind a horse. I cannot imagine a life that hard.

I have prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for many years, more like an affirmation to help me to become truly thankful, but those few minutes behind Picnic allowed it to finally sink in.

It is quite a thing to witness the realization of what a horse, much less what a person is meant to be. I ponder upon the quite lives of desperation that stretch back behind me in my ancestry. Having walked those comparatively few steps behind a plow horse allows me the realization that I have the benefit of being able to make choices in my life. Unlike my forefathers who could do nothing other than sweat and strain in weary life that offered little joy. I can’t help but have a feeling of responsibility to come to the realization of my own true potential. I feel as if I must somehow do this not only for me but to give validation and purpose to their lives as well.

Picnic is fortunate to have come to the realization of her own true nature. If only the correct path of a man’s life was as clear.

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