The beauty of horses; the aggravation of politicians

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

My father grew up farming with horses.

Wednesday, April 04, 2001

My father grew up farming with horses. It was hard work, but the farmer developed a relationship with the horse that he never has been able to do with a tractor.

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We always used tractors on our farm while I was growing up, but my father never lost his love for horses. We had none of these animals -&160;except for a brief point in our lives when we were terrorized by a Shetland pony stallion that was possessed by demons – but Dad kept a lot of their old harnesses and tack around. He would clean and oil the equipment regularly while telling stories about the horses of his life, calling each of them by name.

He always said that the tractor may have been the worst thing to have ever happened to farming. Oh, he would admit that the machines made work easier and made it possible to farm more land, but a horse knew when to quit. You did not work all night when you farmed with horses. They wouldn’t let you. You went home at a reasonable hour. The horses would work extremely hard, but when it was time to eat and rest, they headed home. You spent more time with your family then. Horses required chores -&160;chores done together by the family.

Many more people farmed in those years and were able to make a living on a small piece of ground. Dad said that each horse had personality all of its own. He admitted that tractors have personalities, too – all nasty ones. Dad could never develop much feeling for an inanimate object, unless it was a good jackknife.

I’d ask him if he would be willing to go back to those years of farming with the big workhorses. He’d think about it for a bit and would get that far away look in his eyes, before shaking his head and saying, &uot;No, the work was too hard.&uot; I’d hear what he was saying, but the look in his eyes indicated that he would have gone back if he could have. We had a neighbor who still farmed with horses and sometimes my father and I would walk down the road just to watch the horses work. There is nothing that demonstrates teamwork better than a well-matched pair of workhorses. The team was a thing of beauty to watch. If one took a step to the right, the other would step in the same direction at exactly the same time. I’d swear that they even blinked their eyes simultaneously. Every movement was done in unison. It was a joy just to stand and watch the beasts of burden as they moved across the field.

As much as my father loved horses, he had an intense dislike for politicians. Politicians were the chief source of my father’s frequent harangues. Many a night, he would sit at the kitchen table reading the Albert Lea Tribune and grumbling, &uot;Why did God have to put all of these other idiots on the earth with me!&uot; We knew he was referring to politicians.

One day, when I was a teenager and looking for a way to get under my father’s skin a bit (as a teenager, I really didn’t need to look for ways to do this), I asked my father what I thought was the dumbest question I could find.

&uot;Dad, if you had a choice of either horses or politicians, which one would you choose knowing that whichever one you did not choose would be wiped off the face of the earth?&uot;

What a great question it was.

It was stupid, yet irritating. I was quite sure that it would get my father’s heart rate up. I and anyone who knew him would have no doubt as to which he would choose. He loved horses and while he didn’t hate politicians, he didn’t much care for them. This knowledge is why his answer surprised me so.

&uot;I guess I’d take politicians,&uot; he said.

I couldn’t believe his answer.

I thought I must have heard him wrong.

&uot;How could you pick politicians over horses?&uot; I asked in disbelief. &uot;You love horses, you don’t even like politicians. Horses bring you pleasure. Politicians bring you aggravation. Why?&uot;

My father gave me the look. The look that the wiseman gives one of his students who has so much to learn. He sighed and answered my question.

&uot;Because politicians don’t poop during parades.&uot;

I’ve been watching and for the most part, it is true.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.