By: Marieanne Coursen, Agricultural Interpreter
Our museum teachers include among their offerings, a tour based on the book, Ox Cart
I try to make sure I have Jiggs and Buckwheat, our team of oxen, hooked up to their cart when I know this tour is being given to enhance the children’s experience. However, the book features a single ox pulling a cart, so it has been my hope for a long time to hook a single ox to a cart to go along with the story. It looks like I will finally be able to make it happen. This winter we bought a single ox yoke from Nathan Hine (www.thehinefamily.com) in
. After it arrived, I brought it to Pete, in our paint shop, and we selected an historical color blue. Massachusetts
Next we needed a britchen. We happened to have one that had been hanging in the barn for years. The britchen is just a simple harness that is particularly helpful when using a single ox because it helps stabilize the yoke and also allows the ox to use his rump to hold the cart back on a hill or back it up by pushing into the britchen rather than using the back of his horns against the yoke. We also needed to come up with a back pad with loops to hold the shafts of the cart up. This we robbed from an old horse harness. After lots of tweaking and hunting for bits of hardware and leather, Farmer Wayne and I were ready to do a test drive. Jiggs was our guinea pig. He is generally the more laid back of the two, so it seemed like a good idea to use him for our first try.
He was a little nervous about these new sensations on new areas of his body, but he settled into it quickly. So we headed out for a walk around the grounds.
He did really well. What was really interesting was how Jiggs responded when I asked him to back up. Once he felt how it worked, he really seemed to like that he just had to lean back in the harness rather than push back with his head. All in all, he did very well on his first solo. Another day I will give Buckwheat a try.
This has been a fun winter project and it is great to add to the versatility of our team of oxen. Besides complementing the Ox-cart Man tour, a single ox will be useful for cultivating the gardens where a team would be too wide and for other jobs where less power is required.