Tuesday, 17 August 2010 09:11

25 Years Ago Late Winter/Early Spring 1981

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From general news sources and the Spring 1981 Draft Horse Journal.)

January 20 was inauguration day for an incoming president, Ronald Reagan. He got off to an auspicious start. At the very time he was taking the oath of office, the 52 American hostages that had been seized by Iran almost 14 months prior, were boarding planes to return home. The timing could not have been more dramatic ... and Reagan knew something about dramatics!

The whole show was in contrast to outgoing President Carter's tastes and methods. Carter and his brood, for example, had walked the route down Pennsylvania Avenue four years before. The Reagans chose to ride in a limousine and wave to the crowd from the open car–sort of a coach and four performance. He wasted no time in labeling government more of a problem than a solution. Within less than two weeks or so he was proposing a $32 billion increase in the military budget. No more Mr. Nice Guy. His rambling inaugural address vowed to slash taxes, revive the economy, reduce the role of federal government, speed up deregulation and return to the states a larger role, etc. etc. Not much on specifics but stuff that some people loved to hear while it made others shudder.

Poland was pretty much closed for business. Lech Walesa, the labor leader, called for a shutdown that brought most of the country to a standstill. The work protest was a whopper and an embarrassment to the government–even though it was a puppet government. They didn't want to be closed down by their patron/sponsors in Moscow. One way or another they muddled through a few more months. Moscow cast a mighty big shadow over all those eastern European governments.

The month of March saw the U.S. involvement in the politics of the central American states steadily increase. Reagan also announced plans to cut several thousand federal employees loose and to tie welfare benefits to work requirements.

He was, you might say, just getting under way when a would-be assassin's bullet felled him as he walked to his car after making a speech at a labor convention in Washington. His press secretary, Jim Brady, and two other officers were also wounded. The upbeat way he handled this did much to endear him to many of his countrymen. The man had style.

The man arrested for this abortive attempt was from Colorado. His name was John W. Hinckley, Jr. He was white, certainly not underprivileged and 25-years-old at the time. Not a very good candidate for martyrdom–not even very political. About 15 months later he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Nothing to do with race, color or politics, near as I can see.

I think the rather courageous and classy way Reagan handled this episode made admirers for him. That is not to say he converted them, but he certainly gained their respect.

It is time to move on to the horses and for that I can think of no better source than the Spring 1981 DHJ. There is a young man (like 15) on the cover driving a big handsome team of Belgians on a sulky plow. He is David Hennen. His father, Dick Hennen from Shakopee, Minnesota, brought about as many pairs of big broke geldings to the Waverly Sale during those years as any man. He described his 15-year-old son as his "right-hand man," on their 80 acre farm and also with the dairy heifers they raised, the work they did at Murphy's Landing (a restoration site nearby), their general farm work and the schooling of all those good drafters Dick was buying for later marketing at the big Waverly Sale.

Dave is now, and has been for some time, a part of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale operation in St. Louis, Missouri. That can happen when you attend the right schools like Yale, Harvard and Pay-Attention-To-Dad. We've asked Dave for a few words about the road from grade school and Murphy's Landing to Budweiser and you'll find that later in the print version of this issue.

I also want to mention that the photographer of these two Hennen pictures that appeared in Spring '81 were taken by our good friend, Claude Sinnen, also from Shakopee.

The lead feature was on Jennis Hofer from Freeman, South Dakota. At that time he was farming over a section of land with a stock cow herd of about 100 and the same number of brood sows. There was a pile of work on a place like that and a good deal of it was done with Percheron horses. We will rerun a couple of those photos.

Next stop was a full page and a little more trying to drum up some enthusiasm for the Draft Horse and Mule Association that had been resurrected recently. The Association had hired its first executive-secretary. His name was Miles R. "Mac" McCarry. He had just retired from a long and distinguished career in the dairy cattle business–partly with the Holstein Friesian Association of America (during which time I met him) and more recently than that, a long stretch with the Curtiss Breeding Service at Elburn, Illinois. The breeding service was an outgrowth of the outstanding dairy herds owned by the Curtiss Candy Company. But I never saw Mac eat a candy bar. If he did, I'm sure it was made by Curtiss.
We will show you what "Mac" looked like 25 years ago. Not a whole lot different from the last time I saw him. He has been a regular contributor to the DHJ for years with a writing style all his own.

Mac made an immediate difference back in the spring of 1981. For the months of April, May and June no less than seven one-or-two-day draft horse seminars and/or clinics were scheduled at the following places: Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana; Penn State University at University Park, Pennsylvania; University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri; Nova Scotia Ag College, Truro, Nova Scotia and the Bank of America Livestock Symposium, Fresno, California.

Now it wasn't all Mac. Most of the directors (Ralph House, from Indiana, Berry Farrell from Missouri, Mike Johnson from Oregon, Ted Bermingham from Vermont, Howard Johnstone from Kansas and myself) took our turns at the ones close by and local or home state horse people did likewise such as Ed Johnston (Clydes) at Penn State; Gene Chipman (Mules) and Bill McGrew (Belgians) at Columbia, Jack Briggs (Belgians) at Cornell, Phyllis Grupe (Belgians) and Fred Polinder, Jr. (Clydes) at Fresno and on and on. There was a strong tide running in draft horse affairs 25 years ago–even if it was invisible to the boys down at the pool hall, or those in the Rotary Club and/or the offices at the American Farm Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce.

On the historical end I ran the second half of my story on Iowa's Shire breeders from the early days up through 1940. The breeder who got most of the ink, and certainly deserved it, was Frank Huddlestun from Webster City.

My only recollection of writing that piece now is that in winding it up I needed (or thought I needed) to know when Frank Huddlestun died. So I called an absolutely wonderful woman named Edith Jensen who worked at the Hahne Printing Company in Webster City. They were printing nine magazines at the time and their flagship was the Aberdeen Angus Journal. Since we lived about 80 miles from any cemetery in Webster City and Edith could pop out to one on her lunch hour, I asked if she would mind checking out the year of Huddlestun's demise. A request of that nature might have unbalanced or even offended some women–but not Edith.

"Sure, she could do that" ... and she did. She went looking for tombstones. The date was late 1939. We will run a picture of his last champion at Des Moines in 1939.

And, yes, we still enjoy the company of Edith Jensen now and then. I discovered something else about her just lately. When she was a bit younger she had a pilot's license and belonged to a local flying club. Finding a tombstone on your lunch hour was just child's play to a woman who, in the not too distant past, flew airplanes.

We have had some great companions and some marvelous help on this magazine starting with the guy who owned the small printing shop in Waterloo and took a chance on us.
There was a lot of other pretty good stuff in that Spring 1981 issue (which was 164 pages long). Such as, the reintroduction of the draft horse at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, after a lapse of some 40 years! We will make a bit of a fuss about that elsewhere in the next issue. For right now, however, I want to wind this 25 Years Ago up. In the print version of the magazine we have something reprinted from 18 years ago.

Namely the trip that five of us took to Colombia, South America ... the one that ended in the horse show organist playing the Colombian national anthem at the Indiana State Fair in 1988.

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