The Draft Horses

As I recall, it was the winter of 1954 that Cousin Jim and I made an unscheduled trip to the University of Missouri Campus. Our girlfriends had traveled the 100 miles by bus in order to participate in a musical event and we journeyed  there as well, in Jim’s aging Chevrolet sedan.


The campus was alive with high school students. However, in spite of all the activity  we were able to locate the girls and when Jim sounded the horn they came running. Unfortunately, our moment of bliss was shot lived. We only time to say hello before their overseers bellowed out: “YOU GIRLS GET BACK TO YOUR ASSIGNED DORMS RIGHT NOW!” And our social life ended before it had begun.  There was no alternative but to drive back home – in the rain.


It may have been after midnight that we switched to a gravel road because, according to the map, it was shorter. In less than a mile before the gravel ended and we found ourselves on rain-slicked clay. With little or no warning we slipped into a deep ditch. There was no chance of getting out without help.

Neither of us had brought a jacket. Jim curled up in the front seat and I took back. The night was long and very cold. Shortly before dawn a light appeared some distance from the road. Once we were able to see our way we hiked to the farmhouse and rapped on the door.

A short woman opened the door to us and inside her husband, a thin man who might have been in his seventies, with bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, was about to set in on a steaming breakfast of eggs, hams, biscuits, and coffee. He motioned us to take a seat at the table. Though he didn’t offer to share his breakfast, he listened to our tale of woe.

Then, to our surprise, he left his breakfast and put on his coat and hat. We followed him to the barn thinking he was going to get his tractor. Instead, he harnessed a massive team of draft horses and then he drove them to Jim’s car.

When the old man gave the command the horses gave a mighty pull, breaking the “leather tug”. So much for that, I thought. I expected him to take his horses back to the barn and go finish his breakfast, but Jim was thinking. “Did you see that?” he said. “They snapped that tug like it was nothing.”

I think I saw the old man’s chest swell with pride. Leaving us with the horses, he went to the barn and returned with a length of wire, a punch and hammer. Carefully, he punched holes in two ends of the tug and laced them together with the wire. Then he spoke softly to his horses and they eased forward. With hardly any effort they brought the car back on to the road and turned it around so that it was facing the gravel.

As I recall, we only had two dollars between us. We offered the farmer what we had, but he waved us off and took his horses back to the barn.