Friday, July 3, 2009

Dolly and Dixie

When I was six years old, i.e. in 1946, our family moved from uncle Alvin's place to the Alexander Farm which was south of Trenton Missouri. My dad was a share cropper. That is my Dad farmed the land and shared the profits with Mr. Alexander who also was the president of the bank in Trenton. We had six or eight dairy cows which my brothers and I had to help feed and milk as chores each evening. My dad also raised beef cattle, pigs and chickens. And for crops my dad raised corn, soy beans and grew hay for the cattle. So we also had other chores to do each evening such as feeding the calves, pigs, and chickens, and gathering eggs. I'll try to write a few stories about life on the Alexander farm, but this story is about Dolly and Dixie.

In the beginning, Dad could not afford a tractor, so he bought a team of young horses. They were named Dolly and Dixie. I think that they were sisters with Dixie being a year or two younger than Dolly. Dolly was bigger than Dixie and a light grey, and Dixie was a darker grey with mottled black spots on her back. In a very short time, they became a very well trained team. When my dad was picking corn, no one would be in the wagon, the horses would be lined up along side the row of corn to be picked and my dad would just say giddy-up and whoa when he wanted the wagon moved ahead a few feet while he was on the ground picking the ears of corn and tossing them into the wagon. The horses would obey his voice commands. To pick corn by hand, a man would wear a leather strap on his hand that had a metal hook in the palm of the hand that would quickly remove the ear of corn from the husk in one motion and with the other hand; he would toss the ear of corn into the wagon. A good corn picker could move along a row at a walking pace and pick every ear of corn. Not as fast as a mechanical harvesting machine, but surprisingly fast.

In any case after a few years, Dolly developed a bad habit. In the evening, Dad would un-harness the horses and put them into their stalls in the barn. In the front of each stall was a large wooden trough in which hay would be placed for the horses. It ran the length of the barn. Well Dolly got into the habit of pushing on the boards in the front of her stall until they fell off and then she would walk into the hay trough area. That way, she could get to the hay in front of the other stalls. Unfortunately she had to turn left or right to fit into the trough and then she could not get out once she got into the trough area. The only way to get her out was to remove more boards to the trough to get enough room for her to get out. The boards then had to be nailed back in to place to get the stalls and feeding trough back to where it should be. That was a lot of extra work and wasted time. In any case, my Dad got so angry after this happened several times that he made a fist with his right hand and hit Dolly in the head right between the eyes. Well horses have very thick skulls so I don’t think Dolly felt much pain, but my Dad came running out of the barn holding his hand and yelling #!@%*<& in pain. He had broken his hand hitting Dolly in the head, and it was corn picking season when that happened. So my Dad had to hire another man to help him get his corn picked that year.

Later on my father bought a tractor and Dolly and Dixie did not need to work as much, but they were a good team. One night there was a terrible storm and Dixie and Dolly were out in a pasture. The next day, my dad found Dolly tangled up in the pasture fence and badly cut from the barbed wire that ran along the top of the fence. Evidently the thunder or lightning had spooked her into running into the fence. Dolly was so badly injured that she had to be destroyed.

After that Dixie was a lost sole. I think that my Dad sold her, but don’t really remember. It was sad that she really could not function as a member of another team. I’ll have to ask my Dad about what happened to Dixie after Dolly passed away.