A Good Horse Made All the Difference
The planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops were dependent on a good horse.
The cycle began in the spring when life was young.
The first two weeks in May was when we always liked to get our corn planted. We used to always say ‘when the oak leaves are as big as squirrel’s ears it’s time to plant corn.’ When you use the wire, you call it ‘checking it’, and that plants the corn in hills and then you can cultivate it cross ways as well as they way it was planted, you see.
With a little time, rain and warm sunshine, the wonder of life stirred in the seed and a sprout poked through the ground. Then came the myriad ifs: if the rains came and the hail didn’t, if it didn’t frost too late or too early, if the weeds didn’t take over or the insects, then the sprout was destined to grow into a tall stock with an ear of corn come harvest time. One man, one team, one row at a time; cultivate—loosing the soil and killing the weeds.
Now the corn should have been 4 or 5 or 6 inches tall before you tried to cultivate it because you would just cover it up too bad. We always used to have a stick, kind of like a paddle like thing, about 2 feet long that we could stop and reach around behind and uncover it—you see. Then if it was checked, the second cultivation would be crossways, we called that ‘crossing it out’. Now that does pretty good at getting the weeds, because your plowing it 2 ways—you see. So the first time you cultivated it you had to have a team that would walk slow, slow and steady, and walk straight. There’s a lot of differences in the way horses work. My good team would be, of course, gentle a lot of horse-sense and the ability to stand hard work and not get hot in the summer time. A team that would always pull when you tell them to. I lot of horses would do field work, but when you put them on a heavy load, like on a wagon, they just won’t—the word is balk—they just balk and won’t go. So that’s no good, that’s just no good. And there’s no way—as far as I know—to make them go. If they don’t want to go, they just don’t go.
The Iowa Heritage Roots in the Soil