Thursday, March 16, 2017

Working With Animals

I've tried to get this topic rolling here a couple of times, without much luck (as I'm the only one who stops in here). None the less, here's another go at it:

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Working with Animal;s a Census and a Poll

If you can log in at SMH, please post an answer. If not, think about giving one here!

My prior efforts here:

I'm taking a bit of a poll, out of curiosity. It's decidedly unscientific, of course. Anyhow, of those people who stop in here (mostly just me, of course) how many have been in a career where they worked with animals.

If you have not, and most people will have not, how far back, if you know, do you have to go to find a person in your family who had a job working with animals. Any kind of job, farmer, rancher, artilleryman, whatever.


 Draft horses and youth:

400714_555211947850572_615600276_n.jpg (JPEG Image, 714 × 960 pixels) - Scaled (90%)

Hay Wagon:

 406792_526087687429665_1981292773_n.jpg (JPEG Image, 960 × 739 pixels) - Scaled (80%)

Big Log:

549409_527898253915275_1025268720_n.jpg (JPEG Image, 586 × 432 pixels)

Harvesting Wheat:

531095_523488837689550_1468435760_n.jpg (JPEG Image, 960 × 714 pixels) - Scaled (83%)

Nice one of boy with pump handle and thirsty, or perhaps curious, cows:

Nice photo showing urban draft horses.  Draft horses were a huge segment of the horse population up until mid 20th Century, with some railroads owning enormous numbers for in city freighting.  Urban drafts dominated the heavy horse market.
The Manitoba Cartage & Warehousing Co. was extensively engaged in agriculture and the breeding of Clydesdale horses. This is their award winning six horse hitch in Toronto in 1929. Photo by Cook and Gormley.

Added May 30, 2013.


Epilogue 2.

Recently there's been some queries about the procurement of horses by the various armies early in World War One.  It's popularly imagined that World War One was the end of the military horse era, but it wasn't.  Millions of horses were used in the war, particularly in the role of draft animals for transport and artillery, and the procurement of horses was a really big deal.

Anyhow, while this thread doesn't really deal with the topic, directly, of the military use of horses and World War One is long enough ago now that darned near everyone who served in it has passed on, there's some interesting topics that this raises, that I'm linking in here

Mobilizing the Horses, 1914.

Draft Remount Training.

British Remounts.

Women and remount training, WWI.

Training Remounts, 1922.

Date Added:  July 29, 2013.


Epilogue 3

I was a participant in a conversation the other day when somebody volunteered an opinion I hadn't thought of, specifically regarding the practice of law.  That this would end up being posted here, as a comment, I wouldn't have anticipated, but it was an interesting observation.

The specific observation was that the person making the query noted that it must have been enjoyable for some circuit riding lawyers of old to practice because of they rode.  That's an interesting observation.  It is true that American lawyers were sort of a mounted profession at one time, riding the circuit from town to town.  At least John Adams wrote of that in sort of romantic terms. Adams liked horses and he liked riding the circuit. He actually bought his last horse, to train, while he was in his 80s.

I'm sure that not everyone who rode a circuit liked it, but what that does cause me to wonder about is the extent to which everyday life for many people once involved animals, and now does not.  Now it involves pets for many people, but that's the note same thing.  The circuit riding lawyers horse, the ice man's draft horse, and so on were working companions.  I wonder if we haven't lost something, now that they're gone?

Epilogue 4

I've recently added a poll on this topic, for those who might find it interesting, now that there's a poll feature. 

Epilogue 5

 City of Houston, mounted police.

Epilogue 6

Recently this topic came up on the World War Two list in the context of armies that used mounted forces during World War Two, which is actually all of them.  This is a misunderstood part of the history of the Second World War, but all armies used horses to greater or lessor degrees.  In response that discussion, the bulk of which I left out, I noted this minor item in regards to the Marines on Okinawa (in addition to a lot of other items);
"Okinawa into service to a very limited extent, showing I guess how that generation contained people who retained equine knowledge."

That brought this response from another poster:
That's an interesting widespread would horse-knowledge be among Americans in say 1940? I would guess that a lot of farm life was still dictated by animal power, even though tractors (I am assuming here) had made inroads to American farm since the Model T. I have seen video of Model T's being used in all manners on a farm (using the tires to drive farm equipment via a belt for example).
I replied:
I'll babble on a bit as this is one of my favorite topics.  Indeed, I can probably link in some old SMH threads on this very topic.

Automobiles actually hit the US like a storm starting just prior to World War One.   The Model T was truly revolutionary as it was so widely affordable.  Still, horses remained a much more common means of transportation and work "horsepower" than people imagine today.

Going back to prior to the Great War, the largest single owners of horses in the US and Canada were the railroads.  Railroads had huge numbers of heavy draft horses, and their needs were so predominant that they dominated the draft horse market.  People today like to imagine that heavy drafts were "farm" horses, but they were only farm horses as farmers bread them for sale to draft users in the cities, i.e., railroads and local transportation haulers.  Farmers themselves preferred "chunks", a smaller type of draft animal, but the numbers really began to decline in that category in the early 20th Century.  Anyhow, huge numbers of horses were actually maintained in towns by commercial users.

By WWI local haulers had started to switch to trucks, but horses remained very common, and they continued to remain very common on in to the 1920s.  Horse use in agriculture also remained very common, even with small gasoline engine tractors (by our standards today) making real inroads.

The Great Depression slowed rural mechanization down a great deal, and many farmers who would have switched to tractors chose not to or could not afford to during the 1930s, so horses hung on in farming in a major way.  In local commercial transportation horses greatly declined in the 1930s, but they did not disappear.  You can still find horses in common use for some sorts of urban hauling.  Both my parents, for example, could recall ice being delivered for domestic use by a man who came with a horse drawn wagon.  I have a photo from the 1940s of the City of Montreal clearing snow with a horse drawn snow plow, taken by my mother.

It was really the immediate post war period that picked back up the pace of mechanization in agriculture and eliminated the urban hauling with finality.  There were still regular farmers who used horse or mules as late as the 1950s, but they were very much on the decline.  A friend of mine whose father I knew fairly well once showed me a photo taken of him using the family's mules for the very last time, the summer he reported for basic training during the Korean War.  With his father dead, and with his leaving for the Army, his mothers and brother decided that the time had come for a tractor.

On the other hand, one additional thing to keep in mind is that most town and city dwellers in the US hadn't been horse users for a very long time.  Even in the late 19th Century, when horses were common for all uses, people in towns largely did not use them.  Just too hard to keep in town.  Rural people used them, but those who lived inside a town limit tended not to, as it just wasn't practical to keep one.  Only the wealthy could afford to do so. So, for that reason, it was really the bicycle not the automobile, that was seen at first as a real revolution in transportation for the common man.

So, I guess to answer the question a little more directly, with a much larger percentage of our population living on farms (or ranches, which still use horses today), and with some ongoing urban use, horse familiarity would have been much higher than it is today, but at the same point in time, it would not have been common knowledge amongst most troops either.
  But it was this reply by another participant I wanted to note:
My dad's and mom's families' farms in Missouri still used horses through WWII. They didn't get tractors until well after the war.

Epilogue 7.

Our comments on Horsepower, the equine age.

Epilogue 8

Just the news story my 53 year old self wants to read on a Sunday morning prior to a really busy Monday morning.

RED LODGE, Mont. — Blowing up dead animals was “just part of the deal” in the 16 seasons Nolan Melin worked as a backcountry horse packer and trail crew member for the Forest Service.
“You’ve got to get rid of them,” he said matter-of-factly about a pretty unusual occurrence.
Otherwise, a dead horse or mule might attract bears to a wilderness trail, which is dangerous for humans and the bears.
Horse packing is a skill few people possess in this digital, mechanized age. The profession harkens back to a simpler time when horsepower actually involved a real horse.
In the Forest Service’s Region 1, which encompasses 25 million acres spread across five states, there are only eight full-time horse packers with another 25 who include that specialty in their other duties. So that made Melin a rare breed.
Traute Parrie, retired Beartooth District ranger, said, “When I got to the Beartooth District ranger job, it was some combination of humbling and thrilling to realize I’d landed on a district where we still had a permanent packer, a rare thing these days. It spoke to the values that this district holds important.”
The reality is that it’s also a punishing profession — lifting heavy loads as well as dealing with horses and mules that sometime possess a mind of their own. Most horse packers have several tales about a wild blow up, when animals bucked loose and took off for points unknown.
“Mules are unforgiving if you don’t understand them,” Melin said. “I love those old mules, but they knew who was boss and who they could walk over.”
Worn out at the age of 36, after years of heavy lifting and being thrown from his mount a few times, Melin is stepping down from his job as packer for the Beartooth Ranger District to work in Miles City, Montana. The new job will be closer to his hometown. He grew up on a ranch outside of Ashland.
Different people react differently to a story like this.  I sent it around to a collection of friends and an older one, perhaps now approaching 70, simply lamented how this news story reports the subject as broken down at 36.  There's something to that.  But, for a person who loves the outdoors but who spends every day in offices, imaging an occupation outdoors with horses and mules can't help but seem, well, romantic.

March 16, 2017


Pat and Marcus said...

I've been getting a lot of truly excellent and very interesting responses to this query, which are being put up on the SMH thread. For anyone stopping in here, please feel free to add to them here or there.

Rich said...

I make part of my living with beef cattle, and both of my grandfathers were farmers.

My paternal grandfather mainly raised beef cattle, but during his life he also raised dairy cattle and pigs (the way I understood it, he raised feeder pigs and part of their feed was the skim milk from the dairy cows). He only had a few dairy cows and quit milking in the '50's.

My maternal grandfather also had beef cattle, dairy cattle, and pigs. But, he continued to milk cows until he retired in the mid '70's.

Both of my grandfathers had used horses on the farm when they were younger. My paternal grandfather absolutely hated horses, while my maternal grandfather sorta liked horses and kept one around even after he didn't use them on the farm anymore. The fact that he and his brothers had done a little rodeoing when they were younger might have had something to do with his having horses around.

Both of my parents worked on the farms when they were growing up, and my father is part of my farming activities.

Besides that, I think almost all the ancestors I know of had animals as part of their working lives.

Pat and Marcus said...

The other day I had lunch with an old friend of mine from out of town who informed me that he'd recently applied for an open position in Animal Control. I.e., a position of being a "dog catcher." That surprised me, but when he told me why, it made some sense. "You get to work with animals." He's always liked animals a great deal, and he's right.

That position is one of the few, urban, positions in which a person still works with animals on a daily basis. And it's a vital service. Good to think that it goes to people who want to work with animals really.

Pat H said...

That also got me think, I'd note, about the curious nature of prejudice and occupations. My friend is a highly intelligent person with a very difficult university level advanced degree. But, in spite of that, he was willing to walk away from that field in order to take one where he'd get to be with animals every day. It says a lot for him.

I'd wager that a lot of people would find that shocking. But why? Why shouldn't that sort of decision be admired. I thought of that because, in part, on the same day that my friend related this to me, I was working on another project where a person who was having a species of crisis was considering abandoning a career in order to simplify his life and deal with it. An expert also working for me simply found it appalling, taking the view that this was simply not a realistic option. People approach these things rather differently, it would seem.

Jan said...

I have worked with horses for a living and I trained dogs and taught obedience, etc. classes for many years. I now own a small farm where I raise sheep and also have chickens, a couple of milk goats that I do milk daily, and of course dogs and a horse.It is both sad and scary to see how far removed people have become from animals - both those that are considered "companion" animals and those who provide food.

Pat and Marcus said...

FWIW for those who might stop in here and read these matters, this thread is actually one of the top ten for the site, but it doesn't register in the top ten for some reason. It has more views than the botton item on that list.