By Norris Chambers

We had a two-horse team that we used to plow, harrow, cultivate, perform necessary hauling with the wagon or make quick trips with the hack. It served as the general power source for the farm. Neither animal had an objection to wearing a saddle and was often used in locating and handling cattle. All horses were appropriately named when born or acquired without proper identification. In our case the lady’s name was Min and we called the team-mate Stranger. We had a third horse that we called Alec. We used Alec if we had a one horse job, such as pulling the buggy, dragging logs out of the brush or any other simple job such as pulling any one horse farm implement. Alec was the horse that I rode five miles across rough country to a little one room school building where the teacher attempted to educate and properly discipline eight grades in the one room. During most of my 17 year peanut farming and ‘possum skinning boyhood we had a faithful old mule named Buck. Buck did many of the menial jobs that that we considered beneath Alec’s dignity!

            I used Min and Stranger when plowing with any riding implement such as a planter, cultivator or middle buster. These riding tools positioned the rider closely behind the horses. It was common practice for the operator to carry a thin switch and use it to keep both horses pulling at the same rate. Old Stranger was willing but his natural gate was a little slower than Min’s and for me to keep him moving at Min’s rate required my constant attention. When Stranger fell behind and Min moved ahead it placed the heavier pulling on Min. She was soon sweating and Stranger was walking along in his furrow, reaching over occasionally for a big bite of the adjacent row of animal goodies.

            This condition meant that it was time to start punching Stranger with the long switch. This caused the slower horse to jump forward, leaving the faster one to lag for an instant. Of course Min jumped forward when she was left behind and Stranger fell behind as usual.

            It was obvious that a problem of this magnitude would require Clifton’s help and a trip to our engineering headquarters, the blacksmith shop. The meeting started and before the problem had been properly studied Clifton announced his solution. “It’s simple,” he explained. “Just tie the switch to the depth lever on the cultivator in such position that when Stranger slows the switch will punch him and he will pick up his pace to keep it off of him.” Each horse was connected to the plow, one on each end of a double-tree that was connected in the middle with a bolt. If either horse slowed or increased his pace the double tree-turned and his position indicated that he was pulling too much or not enough of the load. When the horses were side by side they were pulling equal amounts. The plan sounded reasonable so we decided to try it.

            I attached a stick with a sharpened tip to the tall upright lever and adjusted its length to punch Stranger if he lagged behind the equal load position on his side of the implement tongue.

I climbed into the cultivator seat and let the team know that it was time to go to work. They responded willingly and we started down the row.

            Stranger slowed to his regular position, about a foot behind Min. Our stick did its part and painfully reminded him that he was lagging behind again. He jumped forward for a moment’s relief and made Min aware that the contents of the right lane had suddenly enlarged and it was time for her to assume her lead position. As she walked ahead of Stranger he was stabbed by the protruding puncher and quickly moved forward. It looked like our plan was beginning to operate properly. Clifton shouted from slightly behind me, “Hey, its working!”

            Before I could answer the jumping race gathered speed and we were running through the peanut field, throwing peanut plants in every direction. Our team was gathering speed with every jab and the old cultivator was shaking and rattling worse than a threshing machine in a hailstorm. I reached to turn the seat release but it released itself before I could find it. I was lying in the sand watching the team and plow disappear in the direction of the barn. Clifton was running behind the race but didn’t appear to be able to do anything except shout, “Whoa, whoa!” Min continued to ignore her orders and Stranger only ran faster every time our stick jabbed him. I saw the right wheel leave the plow and keep rolling across the field. The cultivator was being dragged through the crop at a high speed. Before I had time to worry about it the harness began disintegrating and the two horses were in the last stage of their race to the barn. The cultivator was strewn over many rows of peanuts, Clifton looked sad and disappointed. I don’t know how

I looked, but I knew it wouldn’t be good when I tried to explain what happened to Papa.

            Was there any fun involved in this tragedy? Clifton thought it was funny because it was me on the plow instead of him!