Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Working drafts

Bondurant, Wyoming, gets one heck of a lot of snow in the winter, but grows lush crops of native hay in creekside meadows in the summer. The Campbell Ranch at Bondurant is an old-time outfit, been there forever it seems, and still uses draft horse teams to cut hay in the summer and feeds the hay on horse-drawn sleighs to their cows in the winter. It makes sense for them, with fluctuating diesel prices, and tractors bogging down in snow, to simply continue on in a long-standing tradition. The Campbell men are good friends, gentlemen, and excellent horsemen. They do have tractors and trucks, but each tool has its place, and for the most part, if it can be done with a horse, that's their preference.

When it's time to start the hay harvest, things take a logical progression. First, the horses are run into the corral.

My friend Walden Campbell, 12, is the next generation starting to work the draft horses on the ranch. He enjoys the process of harnessing these gentle giants.

This is a portion of the Campbell outfit, with the Gros Ventre Mountains in the background.

The horses are lined up to begin the process of hooking onto the cutting equipment.

One of the summer hands cuts hay behind a team on the ranch. That's a beaverslide in the background, used to stack loose hay.

This is what a stack of loose hay looks like - a huge bread loaf. You can see the teams working to cut fresh hay in the meadow behind the stack.

While there aren't many ranches left in this area that use draft teams to harvest their hay crop, there are actually numerous outfits that use draft teams to feed the hay in the winter. Husband Jim has the harnesses for a team hanging in our shed, waiting for the right team to find us as well.


Matt Mullenix said...

Beautiful place and animals!

Anonymous said...

We farmed with horses for about 20 years finally stopping when it seemed like poor David was doing more work while I did all the driving. On these hillsides horses make a lot of sense,,I miss it so much when I think of the mowing in the early hours of the day, for the coolness, how quickly the sun would appear no matter how early we got started, and the barn swallows flying all around us as we went along getting insects on the wing. As the sickle cut back and forth through the hay the stalks would shiver before they fell and water droplets would spray into the air, a constant, as we moved along until the sun dried up the dew. I loved to sing loud Buffy Ste Marie songs as we moved across the hillsides,,one more memory, a Montana horse farmer told me they used to make one round of their section with the team in the morning, break for dinner, then make a second round in the afternoon. We still have our last team of geldings.

I have to also admit it was hard hot work for us all and I'm pretty glad to see our neighbor appear and cut it all in less than half the time it took for me and the horses to do it with a 5 foot bar. Beautiful provocative article Cat! ~M

Peculiar said...

My favorite mountains in Wyoming: sigh... Thanks for a great post, Cat!

Doug said...

I went to school in the the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania. One of my favorite pastimes in the fall was to find a cool spot along the edge of an old cemetery and watch the Amish plow their fields with their draft horses. It was a complete sensory experience watching the big animals, hearing the call of the Amish teens in a slightly different language, and the smell of the freshly cut hay. Swirling dust motes would dance behind the cart and I would pretend to read my homework.
Good memories.


ironrailsironweights said...

Nice pictures!


retrieverman said...

Those are Percherons, right?

Rachel Dickinson said...

Really nice post