Back in the early days of Pike County all the farming was done with horses and mules. These animals were used in the log woods, used to plow the fields, used to plow corn, used to cut and rake hay. The draft horses were called the gentle giants. Most of the draft horses weighed over a ton each. Of course the size of the mare and a lot of times depended on the size of the stud horse the mare was bred to.
King and Joe were a pair of draft horses owned by my dad. They were a beautiful pair of horses and dad said weighed over a ton each. Dad said this team of horses knew the ropes as the old saying goes.
In those early days of Pike County, a lot of the farmers kept brood mares. Two well-known horsemen that kept stud horses were the late Tom Harris and the late Everett Ritenour. Tom Harris in those early days lived on the Ewing Farm and what I was told farmed part of the river bottoms.
Dad said Tom Harris kept a Percheron stud and this stud threw many fine colts. King and Joe were out of this stud. Dad said he never knew any of the Harris colts that didn’t have good sense.
I have seen pictures of mares working in the field with their colts walking along beside them.
Everett Rittenour kept Belgian studs as far as I know. A lot of good teams of horses were raised out of the Harris stud and the Rittenour studs. I have heard this rumor (whether it is true or not) the colt when born had to stand and suck its mother and if it didn’t the owner got to breed his mare back for free.
It must have been really something to see teams of horses working in the fields. This is something you will never see again unless you are Amish or drive by on county roads and see the Amish working in the fields.
There are a few old farmers that remember those good old days. One summer day my great uncle was working King and Joe (this was in the summer and Uncle Cliff Osborne had come to visit.) At that point in time I don’t know how many teams of horses dad had but King and Joe were Uncle Cliff’s favorite team when he came to visit, and like dad said, (room and board).
Uncle Cliff was a good worker and really liked horses. Some of dad’s family said Uncle Cliff would rather work horses than eat. But this was soon to change.
One summer day, Dad and Uncle Cliff were plowing corn next to the Scioto River. They both had been watching the sky because it was hot and sultry. As usual Uncle Cliff was working King and Joe. The bad storms always came up the river from the Waverly side.
Dad said the sky got black and it looked like night. He and Uncle Cliff unhitched their horses, jumped on one of the horses and started for the corncrib to get out of the storm. But Great Uncle Cliff never made it. I have always heard that animals attract lightning and that was what happened to Great Uncle Cliff. The lightning struck King and Joe and Great Uncle Cliff.
Dad said in all of his born days he had never seen anything like it. The storm let up and went on up the river and the sun came out and the rain commenced to quit. So he went and saw King and Joe and Great Uncle Cliff in a crumbled mess. The brass knobs on the hames were still smoking. Dad never would say much about the lightning strike. But later on Dad said with tears in his eyes, “They all went together.”