(From the general news of the time and the 1957 Belgian Review)
No public celebrations were held because nobody noticed. But I do believe, after studying mountains of evidence, that you can make a strong case that the bottom was reached for draft horses in the mid- to late 1950s. Unlike the dinosaur, the draft horse had not been wiped out. But the turnaround was so incremental that it, too, went unnoticed for several years.
Their demise had been predicted for so long by so many terribly smart people. As these folks pointed out, horses are impractical.
I remember one of those persons in particular. He had been immensely successful in selling those big blue silos and was just a very up-to-date fellow. Of course, he didn't need one himself. The last time I counted the big blues in a long drive across this state, I ran out of numbers. I further noted that many of them, maybe most, were standing empty ... unconnected to a feed lot or barn of any kind. Several were on vacant or former farmsteads. They must have been unpractical. They stand like tombstones. Actually, they were good silos. It was the livestock that left, something to eat the silage. Some day a graduate student in anthropology will write a thesis on the "Lost Culture of the Big Blues in the Mississippi Valley."
Last night I was reading a favorite column in a farm paper we subscribe to. I have a lot of respect for this columnist's judgment ... and his judgment is that the window for farmers to invest in the ethanol industry has already nearly closed. It appears that the promise of ethanol will probably make the rich richer.
I can see it now. Rows of corn 16 miles long. Gets rid of a lot of that pesky turning. It will be breathtaking, sort of like young love. But it will be practical. It would be impractical to harvest it by the ear.
This leads us to rural population. Have you noticed there aren't nearly as many people living out there anymore? You don't suppose farmers themselves could be considered impractical, do you?
I don't know about the future ... so I'll wind up the horse end of this column by running three photos from the '57 Review. They were in three of the strongest hands in the Belgian business: Schneckloth, Harkness and Meadow Brook. They were (are) very practical men.
For the "unhorse" part of "50 Years Ago," we will start with the adventures of Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union. Fifty years ago he got lucky. While he was out of town, the old hard-liners in the central committee voted him out of office. Well, when Nikita got back in town, he and his buddies rounded up the whole blooming committee and undid what had been done. And then they, in turn, removed the Stalinists who had tried to deep-six Nikita. That included Molotov who was especially offensive. (Never trust a man with a cocktail named after him.) We were better off with Khrushchev in the saddle than with the crowd that had tried to get rid of him.
In our country, television, that still very new industry, was having a hard time of it. All three of the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) had the crying towels out saying how much prime time was still for sale ... hours that would normally bring in millions of dollars. Some irreverent types even suggested that they were in trouble because they aired so many boring programs. But overall, business wasn't exactly sparkling 50 years ago. To make things a bit worse, the Ford Motor Company introduced their latest model, the Edsel. I'd say the economy was nervous. It certainly wasn't a scary depression. I suppose dull would be a fair description of it.
In July of that year, the evangelist Billy Graham pulled the largest crowd ever into Yankee Stadium in New York City. They called it 100,000. The previous high had been 88,000 to witness the Joe Louis-Max Baer boxing match in 1935.But probably the most important single event (or series of events) took place in Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Orval Faubus, in clear defiance of federal law, called out the Arkansas National Guard to stop black students from entering white public schools. The mayor of Little Rock was no fan of the governor's and it quickly got nasty. Enough already! President Eisenhower got his dander up and sent in federal troops. It was a landmark vi