Tuesday, 17 August 2010 11:35

25 Years Ago Late Autumn/Early Winter 1979

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From general news sources of the day and the Winter 1980 Draft Horse Journal)

Are you wishing things would settle back a bit to the “way things used to be?” I have news for you. In a good many respects, they are the way they used to be.

There were some dandy hurricanes down in our Southeast and the Caribbean in 1979. The most damaging of that crop was one called Frederic. Frederic forced over 400,000 people along the coast from Florida to Louisiana to evacuate their homes. City-wise, Fred had a special dislike for Mobile, Alabama.

Another one named David rearranged so much stuff in Puerto Rico that President Carter mobilized National Guard units to help clean up the mess. One might surmise from this that the reason that area is called Hurricane Alley is because that is where they tend to happen. It is “just like it used to be.”

To celebrate, sort of, the golden anniversary of Black Thursday (see “75 Years Ago”) thousands of demonstrators gathered in New York City in an attempt (again, sort of) to close down the New York Stock Exchange for a day. Their beef was to call attention to heavy corporate investment in the nuclear industry. Their chance of closing down the stock exchange was somewhere between slim to none. But there were compensations–such as, the New York Police arrested over a thousand of them thereby dressing up their resumés, providing them with lifetime memories and “their cause“ got some ink. New York attracts demonstrators and celebrities. It comes with the territory. So who else came to New York 25 years ago?

For starters, the Pope did–all the way from Italy. He was on a seven day tour that also included Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. His presence resulted in some big crowds but nothing you could call a demonstration.

New York was also favored by visits from Fidel Castro, head hombre of Cuba, and the Shah of Iran, who had been our pet in that region but skedaddled when it became apparent he was more of a lightning rod than a leader. Now, that pair was quite capable of producing demonstrators. And they did.

Castro did his thing at the U.N., with a speech calling for the developed nations to ante up handsomely for Third World nation development or the future would be apocalyptic. They say it took 2,000 of New York’s finest to keep order on the streets. The Shah, on the other hand, was virtually snuck into the country from Mexico for medical treatment. He was snuck in on October 22 and snuck back out on December 15.

On November 4, a bunch of fundamentalist students seized the American embassy in Tehran. Oh boy! A bunch of students seize, occupy and place our people under what amounts to house arrest. As with so many things in that region, the date was symbolic. The Middle East is real big on symbolism. Taking over the embassy was done one year to the day after the now deposed Shah’s forces had shot some of “their” students.

This embassy business brought about the dissolution of the government of Prime Minister Bazaragan, and then the government was completely controlled by the Ayatollah Khomeini and his fundamentalists. As for those American hostages in our own embassy (but in their country) they would not be released for over 400 days! That went a long way in assuring Jimmy Carter of defeat in the upcoming election.

About the same time, U.S. Steel closed fifteen plants and mills in eight states putting 13,000 employees out of work. They were losing money on those old plants. They blamed it all on “those environmentalists” who were calling for pollution controls on the old plants. My guess is that “those environmentalists who just don’t understand business” came in mighty handy as an excuse to dump some old, inefficient, worn out plants.

As a final Christmas present, the OPEC nations kicked the price of oil up substantially. Coming in the early phase of the winter heating season, it was calculated to aggravate our already wobbly economy. The increase was announced on December 16-another Christmas present for President Carter.

I think I’ve made my case that in a good many respects, things are very much the way they used to be. I don’t think that it will be quite as true with the horse end of things.

Some folks adapt to change faster than others. We are among the slow pokes. When we started this magazine I was secretary/manager of the Dairy Cattle Congress and Horse Show in nearby Waterloo. The show dates were late September, so we set our mailing dates to straddle them as far as possible-thus “Summer” came out on August 15 and “Autumn” on November 15. As Ralph Coddington (Percheron friend and a long time column writer from Indiana) once pointed out, the season is about over by the time it made it onto the cover.

So, twenty-five years ago in 1979, seven years after leaving Waterloo (we didn’t want to do anything hasty) we finally fixed it and have had a magazine coming out “on time” ever since. That winter issue 25 years ago was 164 pages-pretty good sized for those days.

All of us who grew up in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s had heard ever so many folks say with great certainly that “draft horses were a thing of the past.” We were sick of it, so we made a conscious effort to write and run features on young people who were doing significant things with drafters.

That issue of 25 years ago started out with a feature on Jim Gulbrandson from Spring Grove, Minnesota. Jim was only 30 years old and was farming 105 acres with some good registered Belgian horses. He had a 16 stanchion barn and just enough Holsteins to fill it. He “reckoned” it took about 15 of those acres to feed his horses.

He had the advantage of being a skilled cabinet maker and was downright handy with metal, engines and wood...a good all around mechanic. Being a competent Mr. Fix-it is a very profitable trait for any farmer. Jim also liked a good buggy horse and had built some buggies too.

I recall Jeannine and I going up to Minnesota and doing this story as a real highlight. We were very impressed and we had fun doing a story that stood a couple things right on their heads. Such as-”A young man cannot start farming with only a modest cash outlay for machinery and he certainly can’t do it with horses. Nor can you make a living on 105 acres with a mixed farming operation; grandpa could but those were different times.”

Jim was not a purist or a fanatic about it. He would, for instance, pick enough ear corn to fill his cribs (no drying bill) and then hire a combine to picker-shell the rest as a cash crop. When he needed a big tractor and disc to incorporate his fertilizer and herbicide, he rented one. The horses were a tool of choice.

The next story was about a big apple harvest in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and we are just going to rerun the whole darn thing. For one thing it will give us a “mule article” for this issue. Besides it is worth retelling.

Another “youthful” story was about two young ladies from France who had about as much brass as Sousa’s band. They were 24 and 22 years old and came over to Quebec with a rather unusual agenda. They were going to drive a horse on a covered wagon from Montreal to Texas. There was nothing stuck up about them. They took baby sitting and housekeeper jobs to make money and get ready for the trip.

They had to be straight from Nutsville, right? Rene Daoust, a Percheron breeder that some of you remember, didn’t think so and befriended them in a big way. He became their ‘outfitter’ with a wagon and a green broke Percheron mare.

Off they went. We caught up with them at the farm of John Smith (another familiar name to many) in Indiana, where they arrived on October 14, 1979. They had by then, traveled 1,000 miles by horse and wagon. they wintered there with the idea of completing their journey to Texas the next spring. They were amazed at the friendliness and helpfulness of draft horse people. We will rerun the picture of them that we ran then.

Never underestimate a young French woman with a name like Isabelle (Braind): Chantal (Herbe) or Jeannine (Sarchett). They can do amazing things. I know.

Our “young kick” continued on page 20 where we introduced yet another young man doing something real with drafters-Mike Johnson from Florence, Oregon. Mike was the owner of Siuslaw Sanitary Service-a horse-powered garbage pick-up with an all girl crew. The city council had its doubts, but they let Mike give it a try and the public response was overwhelmingly in favor. The cost figures were also clearly in favor of the horse.

We went out and visited Mike a year or two after that and naturally, wrote it up again. I figured by now (2004) there wouldn’t hardly be any motorized garbage trucks still in business.

That is probably about enough in the way of recapping stories from that issue. I must say I enjoyed reading it again.

We will run the apple picking story from that issue in it entirety and several pictures from the various stories and sale reports.

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