Demonstration at OJT to coincide with festival


Haying With Horses

Photo courtesy of Margaret Dick
An unidentified man atop a sickle mower guides a brace of Belgian horses across a field of hay on a sunny summer’s day.


by Rick Nichols
Current and former Jefferson County residents planning to be in downtown Oskaloosa June 25-27 for this year’s Old Settlers’ Festival may want to drive just a little further to check out the “doin’s” at Old Jefferson Town.
The Jefferson County Historical Society has made arrangements to have teams of horses and mules hauled in from Lyndon, Harveyville, and Troy for a demonstration of the equipment farmers routinely used to cut and rake hay before machinery powered by steam, gasoline, or diesel came along. The multi-day event will take place in the five-acre pasture at the south end of the pioneer village, where native grasses and wild flowers were planted a number of years ago.
Frank Burkdoll of Lyndon will be bringing a pair of Halflingers to the site for the demonstration, which is being called Haying with Horses. According to Margaret Dick, president of the historical society, Halflingers, which are relatively small as horses go, are still considered drafts (i.e., work animals) because they have a stout build.
Harveyville’s Collin Zirkle also will be bringing horses to OJT for the demonstration. Both Zirkle and Burkdoll were at the pioneer village early last week to meet with Dick, Mary Luse, treasurer of the historical society, Jamie Mestagh Knabe, and Larry Elkinton to work out a few of the details pertaining to the event.
Burkdoll told the group that the demonstration would not be “totally authentic” but was quick to add, “We (he and Zirkle) do it (cut and rake hay) the best we can with what we have.”
Burkdoll described himself as a relative newcomer to the world of old-fashioned haying but said Zirkle literally had many years of experience in the field.
Supplying the mules will be Doyle Prawl of Troy. Dick said she has not seen his mules but thinks they are of a size commensurable with that of a draft animal.
A passenger wagon pulled by a team of Belgian horses will be used to transport people from the north end of the pioneer village to the pasture so they can get a good look at the haying process. Howard Myers of Overbrook is furnishing the horses and wagon.
Dick said Belgians are draft horses built to pull wagons and perform various other tasks associated with farming — in short, work.
Current plans call for hay to be cut and raked both Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27, weather permitting, of course. The temperament of the horses and mules is another factor that also will have to be taken into consideration at the time.
Knabe will be providing meals for Burkdoll, Zirkle, Prawl, and Myers while they are in town.
Elkinton plans to bale the hay Sunday, June 28, weather permitting, of course.
The pasture dates back to 1988, when William and Betty Leech donated the land to the historical society. Mrs. Leech and conservationist Roger Coleman hand-gathered and sowed many of the flower seeds that were planted there. Conservationist William Hannah also helped with the project.
Concessions will be available on the grounds during the demonstration.
Admission to the demonstration is free.

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