I've always felt that the Amish, though their motivation might be different from mine, know a thing or two about how to run a family ag operation. There is much to be said for one-horse power versus many under a hood. I've had my own heavy equipment including dump trucks, dozers and back hoes. So I certainly have an appreciation for hydraulics and the power of internal combustion engines. On the other hand, I've also owned horses and I'm the quintessential, tradition-filled romantic so If I was to run my own small ranch operation, I would clearly want the warmth and companionship of a horse, or a team, over a cold, impersonal reliance on iron and lubricants. Certainly, a quad might be a way faster way to get some jobs done and a tractor might be an easier way to plow ground or lift heavy bales. But I am not inclined to choose "easiest" or "fastest" as the primary factor in deciding how to approach any given project. I am far more likely to choose best process and quality of the overall experience so long as the desired outcome isn't compromised.
Gasoline vs. Hay
Winter came in heavy last week
It's been snowin' nearly non-stop
Big flakes comin' so thick now
Cain't even see the barn rooftop
We've been pasture-feedin' twice every day
Flakin' bales off of the back of the truck
It's been bitter cold and slow goin'
Especially Sunday when we got stuck
We had to walk back to the barn
And hitch up our eighteen hand shire
Shorty is a gentle, willing stallion
He easily yarded our truck outta the mire
That night in bed before I nodded off
I lay awake just a'ponderin' and comparin'
Modern trucks and old-school horses
Which was better at work-sharin'?
I tried to evaluate them both fairly
Acknowledgin' I'm partial to traditions
No question I'd rather muck a stall
Than breathe-in fuel emissions
You'd guess the one with an engine
Would logically come out on top
Else why did we abandon animals in
Our century-old tractor for horse swap?
So let's just lay out some facts
What are the pros and cons of each?
On balance is one any better than the other?
Or do merits of each offset the other's reach?
Let's see, a truck or tractor when parked
Needs no care or water or feed
Except for battery tendin' so that's a pro
Strike one against our beloved steed
With a simple, quick push of a button
An internal combustion engine gets goin'
No need to take time for tackin' it up
No curryin', hoof-pickin' or harness slowin'
But I can't turn out that same equipment
In a pasture to feed itself all day
Nor can I all winter long just
Supplement with our own cut hay
For all the gasoline-burnin' machines
I periodically drive twenty miles into town
To buy gasoline, anti-freeze or oil
Or worse if that engine up and breaks down
A horse ain't gonna get stuck in mud or snow
And though he'll need reg'lar shoein' and such
Mostly his maintenance don't get technical
Like what my truck or tractor needs so much
Horses can get into tighter spots
On rugged, rocky terrain they're boss
They'll go lots of places where
A truck or quad is simply at a loss
And then there's the relationship
Man develops with his horses
And that's what it comes down to for me
As the most compelling of the forces
I've never looked a tractor in the eye
Or been nuzzled by a stinky quad
Never had an engine start and go
By simply givin' it a cluck or a nod
When I ponder the way of the the world today
Seems to me the modern bent is to go faster
Working with stock slows things down some
Reducing stress and who-knows-what disaster
If you want to talk barnyard economics
My John Deer won't a new tractor throw
But Shorty and Belle surely reproduce
They gave us our third new filly a month ago
So I reckon either way you slice it
It comes down to your own tilt
As for me I'll take the horse every time
It's just the relationship-way I'm built
by Rik Goodell
© 2022. All rights reserved
I am grateful to David Graham once again, for his allowing me to post his beautiful western art alongside mine. If you do a search here on my website for "The Fencin' Crew" and "The Cowboy Way" or "Handles and Horse Thieves", you'll see other paintings of his that have inspired my poetry.
To see a lot more of his work, go to his website: https://www.davidgrahamart.com/