The infamous plow that went the wrong way
A few weeks ago there was an artist’s painting on Facebook of a farmer walking beside a one-furrow walking plow pulled by two horses and boy of maybe six years old holding the handle bars of the plow, and doing the plowing.
There was a list of people applauding the scene saying how wonderful it is to see the older generation teaching the younger generation such work ethics at a young age. Really? I didn’t see it that way at all. I thought the artist was a dreamer and had absolutely no knowledge of what plowing a furrow is all about. I found the painting an insult to all those hard-working men who toiled behind a horse, or a team of horses, and plowed over the furrows.
The top of the boy’s head came up to the man’s elbow. Plowing with a team of horses isn’t kid stuff. You need good strong arms to guide a walking plow as it cuts a furrow through the grassy sod.
Strong hands and arms guide the plow, controlling depth and direction, while his torso controls and guides the team via the lines tied around his body. Little nuances of his body movements are translated to his horses via their bit bars. Often, no words are spoken.
The boy, perhaps the man’s grandson, wasn’t dressed as an Amish and neither was the elderly man. They weren’t of a faith that only worked with horses.
Sure, I’m all for teaching youngsters the many old skills of farm life but plowing with a team of horses isn’t one of them if the kid is in the first grade. Wait until he’s 12 or 14 years old and has some muscle and calloused hands to hold onto the plow.
Would you put a kid in a huge modern combine and show him how to run the machine?
The painting made me think of the time The International Plowing Match and Farm Machinery Show put out a ridiculous promotional poster, which was drawn by an artist to promote the plowing match. It showed the plowman plowing the sod over the wrong way. It can’t be done! It’s hard to believe folks that promote perfect plowing competitions picking a poster that has it all wrong.
I wrote about that goof in a column and I had to go all the way back to 1988 to find that gem of a column. I had been writing weekly columns for a few years and I put the columns in photo albums. So it was easy to find after checking a few albums. Later on I just stuck the columns in a box after filling a number of albums with columns.
My editor included the artist painting with the column and when I look at it, I chuckle all over again. The painting was for the plowing match held in Stratford, in Perth County from September 20-24 1988.
This is what I wrote in that column: “A picture in some farm publications promoting the 75th anniversary of the International Plowing Match and Farm Machinery Show in Stratford, Ont., shows a plowman plowing the wrong way and using the wrong technique.
“The artist, obviously not familiar with the art of plowing or agriculture, has the plowman walking behind the one-furrow plow in the grass, and turning the soil over towards the grass.
“The plowman, who looks like a Pilgrim just off the Mayflower, has the reins around his legs instead of around his back. Two bantam roosters are in front of the plowman’s feet. How ridiculous!
“It is impossible to plow the opposite way. The picture is an insult to those hard working farmers who plowed with a team of horses and were craftsmen in the field turning over the soil.
“One farm magazine had a full colour page of the artist’s conception of plowing. I was glad to see an 81-year-old farmer write in to the paper explaining the mistake. Too bad the officials of the Plowing Match anniversary didn’t realize that this promotional poster was incorrect in both direction and technique.”
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and a long-time columnist with Farmers Forum.