Dolly and Topsy

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embellishment

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My love of horses began early in my childhood when I visited my uncle’s farm along the Bonnechere River and watched the magnificent draft horses at work in the hot summer sun.

My uncle had two Percheron horses – one white and one black. Their names were Dolly and Topsy. The horses were guided by the voice commands of my uncle, and sometimes by my grandpa; both old-time farmers well versed in the ways of their hard-working, precious horses.

There was a fairly steep hill on one of the fields that the horses had to navigate as they brought the loaded wagon back to the barn to be relieved of it’s huge burden of freshly harvested hay. Since he had not the luxury of an extra man to drive the team, the reins were loosely tied around the front beams on the wagon. While the loader relentlessly pulled the hay onto the wagon, my uncle relentlessly forked and balanced the load. Commands were spoken to the obedient animals as man and beast worked together in harmony to bring in the harvest. Descending the hill, my uncle calmly, yet authoritatively, coaxed and guided the horses safely to the bottom with their precarious load.

The horses knew the routine. Reins were necessary only in an emergency or when the routine was changed and the horses needed a bit of extra guidance.

Hooooo now, eaaaaasy Topsy, easy Dolly, eaaasy now. My uncle’s steady voice talked the horses step-by-step down the hill, where often times they had to almost sit back on their haunches to hold back the weight of the wagon. At the bottom of the hill a quiet ‘haw’ turned the horses left down the lane towards the barn, and at the gate, gee turned them right into the yard and on to the barn.

Why did the horses heed and obey my uncle’s voice?

For no other reason than they trusted him fully to guide them safely to their destination.

There came a time in my life when I, a willful, stubborn and uncontrollable filly finally gave in and yielded to the voice of my Master. Once I understood that my Master had ‘only my good’ as His intents and purpose, only then was I able to yield myself in submission to his love. I’m still learning to heed and obey his gentle commands.

There is a co-relation between authority and obedience. Those powerful draft horses knew their Master’s voice and obeyed it. Somehow, even a beast of burden knows that commands are not given simply to restrict or control. Commands are given for guidance so that our burdens will not overtake us. They are given as guidance by a Master who not only cares for us, but who also knows the way in which we should walk.

These magnificent horses, in their simple obedience to the authority of their caring master — my uncle — taught me the relationship between authority and obedience. They also taught me an important lesson about faith. You see, faith comes from the Latin word Fides which means trust. The horses trusted my uncle. Their trust was based not only on the love and care that he gave them in their daily lives; but also in faith that he knew the direction he wanted them to move. Not being as smart (or as obedient) as the horses, these lessons I am still learning!

Once at the barn, the horses were driven into a space between two hay mows. A giant fork suspended from the ceiling was lowered and driven firmly into the hay. Ropes and pulleys hauled the laden fork back up into the loft where the fresh hay was released into the mow to await it’s winter destiny in the bellies of the horses who so diligently had helped with the harvest and the small herd of cattle that provided the much needed milk for my uncle’s family.

Nothing in the world can compare to the smell of the freshly mowed and harvested hay, the sweet sweaty smell of the perspiring horses (and men) and dank barnyard smells replete with chicken, pig and and cow manure.

I loved every minute of it! My grandpa and uncle (and my brother – who helped on the farm during his teen years) worked hard. My aunt cooked nutritious meals and my cousins and I played on the rock fences and wooden rails that lined the fields.

What wonderful memories I have of summer visits to the farm. Those days are long gone, but even now, as an adult, the smell of freshly mowed hay, the smell of a horse or the sound of clanking machinery swiftly take me back to those halcyon days.

Here is a short video of hay being harvested using an old-fashioned hay-loader almost exactly as it was done by my uncle and grandfather. The draft horses look like Belgians, another lovely breed of heavy horse – a bit stockier perhaps than the sleek Percherons, but just as amazing – as is every draft horse in its own right.

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