September 18, 2023
While the hair on my head is now sparse and my beard as white as snow, I am not quite old enough to actually remember horses working in the field. I do, however, recall my Dad telling me how he quit school in Grade 9 so he could drive horses in the field to help his father. My grandpa told stories of arriving from England and eventually taking a homestead, which was pretty much 160 acres of trees; the first 120 acres he cleared with an axe and horses.
Granted that was roughly 120 years ago, which seems like forever, but in terms of history, it's a mere blip. With such stories part of my youth, the idea of working fields with horses, while not exactly idyllic, is at least nostalgic. So, taking photos of horses pulling a binder at the recent Yorkton Threshermen's Show & Seniors' Festival was, as always, a pleasure, as was receiving photos from Kristina Just of the PALS Draft Horse Field Days in Rama.
It's quite amazing that the old machinery is still functional and that people are still dedicated to training and working draft horses. But, of course, the horse as the source of field power on the farm is a thing of the past. Flash- forward to the now and farming is carried out by high-tech behemoths.
Take, for example, a new Case IH model. According to producer.com, it took the lead in the horsepower race by introducing the 715 horsepower Steiger 715 Quadtrac recently at the U.S. Farm Progress Show. The tractor looks like something out of a Ray Bradbury novel about farming on Mars. My grandpa would have little reference point for such a monstrous unit, even having lived through the arrival of huge steam engines. How could he imagine a tractor with air conditioning and radio and a connection so he could ask grandma what was for supper one minute and the elevator agent the price of wheat a minute later?
Where does the farm sector go next? Well, an autonomous Versatile DeltaTrak tractor was on display at the Ag in Motion farm show in July, again according to producer.com, where it demonstrated its ability to operate on a programmed course without operator input. At this point, Grandpa would be shaking his head and telling me I was reading too many sci-fi novels. He might also mention it was nice having the horses to talk to; adding tractors makes poor listeners.
Certainly, you can't stop progress, but not everything old should be forgotten, either.
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