We were traveling US Route 61 this week to Oak Hill to pick up some things we'd bought. A glance at a field along the road made us slow down and stare. A man was plowing a field with a team that looked like a team of horses.
"Turn around!" I said.
"We're running late. We don't have time to turn around," Larry, the sensible one, replied. He was right. We had a full day ahead of us and couldn't spare even a few minutes. I sighed and settled back in my seat.
"Did you see that, though? He was plowing with horses! I can't remember when I last saw someone doing that. I think it was in the late 70's, when Dan Simons was plowing his tobacco field. We used to use our pony Goldberry to cultivate, remember? She was a good little worker." I tried to look back down the road but the field and its occupants were already out of sight.
"Those aren't horses, they're mules," he said.
"Really? I thought they were horses." We drove back to the little road that led to the field, parked the truck and I got out, camera in hand.
You never know how someone will receive a visit from strangers, especially strangers who are already trespassing. But the man in bib overalls waved and walked over to meet us. Whew.
This was Gary Philpott, a retired miner and heavy equipment operator, who was using his white mare and his mule to disc the field he had plowed the first day we saw him. Born in Ansted and raised in the little community of Deepwater on the banks of the Great Kanawha River, Gary remembered working with horses as a boy on his father's farm, and always wanted his own team. He fulfilled that dream in 2000, buying his first team of draft horses, and then, piece by piece, the equipment he needed to work them.
Gary's work took him to several places in West Virginia, including, surprisingly, to my county of Jackson where he worked on building the watershed lake on Gay Road--the one in my post just two days ago. He's also visited Riverbend Antique Mall, where we have one of our booths, and I think if we'd talked a little longer we'd have discovered someone we knew in common; that's just how it works in West Virginia.
"By the way, whatever happened to that old plow you had out in your yard?" he asked.
"That old thing? We tossed it over the hill. Why would you want that?" the widow asked.
"I want to use it," Gary told her.
I asked Gary if he minded me taking some pictures for my blog, and he said not at all. "As a matter of fact, there were some people who stopped the other day and took some, and later my neighbor called to tell me I was on the internet. He'd seen the pictures posted on Facebook!"
I hope our paths cross again, and that we will be able to see that field green with the oats he planned to plant.
Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.