(From general news sources, the Winter 1982-1983 Draft Horse Journal and the various breed publications of the time.)
Our holiday issue, mailed about December 15, 1982, was a 172-pager, a size we never even dreamed of when the magazine was launched in 1964. Circulation had reached past 20,000, another figure we never dreamed of attaining.
And on page 3, it carried a notice that the annual meeting of the Draft Horse & Mule Association of America was scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 16 in the Holiday Inn at Goshen, Indiana. Once considered dead, its main job today is the production known as Horse Progress Days, an annual two-day showcase of horse and mule farming equipment that rotates from the Mississippi Valley to the Ohio/Pennsylvania area in the east. That is essentially what the old Horse & Mule Association has morphed into.
Belgian registrations for the year just past (1982) numbered 4,065 and transfers 5,677. Percheron registrations for the year totaled 1,253 and transfers totaled 1,125. It was a bull market where drafters were concerned in the late 1970s. This was quite a sensational comeback.
The 1983 Percherons Notes was 76 pages, the Belgian Review was 106, and the 1983 Clyde News ran to 40 pages. When someone asks you when "the good old days were," I think you could tell them the 1970s and not be too far off the mark. That is when the drafters made a noticeable comeback.
Our holiday issue for 1982-83 contains a number of articles that I think bear repeating. The first one is an article written by Wendell Berry entitled "A Visit With William Schmucker." Bill Schmucker was a very successful farmer, horse breeder, dairyman and a re-designer of machinery. For instance, he did not hesitate to buy a new 336 John Deere baler, and then remodel it for live horsepower in the form of his Belgian horses. Bill told the writer, "It doesn't cost any more to fix-up a new one than an old one."
The author of that article, Wendell Berry, is a practical Kentucky farmer who has written some fine books and even poems. We encouraged our readers to pick up two of his then-recent ones entitled The Gift of Good Land and The Unsettling of America. These are both excellent books, along with a lot of others. He isn't writing in some ivory tower, even though he has been a professor. Basically I found the Schmucker article full of common sense, which–of course–is not common at all. So I just decided to run the thing a second time ... but I'm not going to pay Wendell a second time. That would be foolish and horse and mule farmers (which he also is) are not foolish. So he will understand.
And then, just a few pages along in that issue comes another article about another Hoosier whom I admired greatly–Ralph Chattin. That one doesn't have a by-line so I must have written it myself. Ralph Chattin knew more about mules than the mules did themselves. I also think Ralph was the president of the Draft Horse & Mule Association when that organization launched the first "Horse Progress Days" at the farm of Elmer Lapp in Pennsylvania. I'm sure of it. Ralph and Elmer were the chief architects of that first Horse Progress Days. I think we'll try to find space to run it in its entirety in a future issue as I believe it's well worth reading if you didn't catch it the first time around.
As for my own sermon in that issue I was advising breeders to knock off breeding their two-year-old fillies. The market was wobbly enough without that. Besides, let them mature before making them into moms.
We will close up this meandering section called "25 Years Ago" with some retirement advice. It was 25 years ago that Bear Bryant, the legendary football coach at Alabama University decided that the right time to quit was after 38 years of almost unparalleled success–323 wins, 85 defeats and 17 ties at the college level including six Alabama teams rated as number one in the country. Seventeen days after his retirement, he checked into the hospital with chest pains, and he died while undergoing the examination. His physician said he was making jokes about going out to Las Vegas during the examination.
Now for the other extreme, you have to go to Sweden where Bjorn Borg, who was only 26 years old, just up and quit tennis. This was after five straight Wimbledon titles. My source said of Borg that his speed was astounding for a player raised on Sweden's slow red clay. Well, of course, all that red clay. It wears you out early. Who could blame him? Once you know about red clay just being EVERYWHERE ... it explains a lot about my relatives.