My Years as a Horse: Hauling Logs Manually on a West Virginia Farm

The author recalls the work he and his brothers put in hauling logs by hand on their West Virginia farm in the 1940s and the appreciation he developed for the lark's head knot.

| January/February 1980

Though I've never been trained in Eastern religion, I'm a firm believer in reincarnation . . . because I actually spent many of my younger years as a horse!

I was converted from boy to beast during my family's own little energy crisis in the mid-40's. Back then, we got all the "home power" for our West Virginia farmstead from one of the small natural gas wells that pocked our remote valley. One fateful morning, however, that well ran out . . . and our lights, stove, and heater just up an' died. Of course, electricity wasn't available in our rural area, so my father had a choice to make: either move the family out, or start moving wood in.

Now if your notion of a wood-fueled household is based on less-than-personal experience, you may think that wood gathering is simply a matter of stepping out the back door—to a neatly stacked log pile—and picking up a convenient armful of billets.

Unfortunately, that's not "the way it was." My father, three brothers, and I had to make weekly forays into the hills to cut trees and snake the felled timber out through thick and bumpy woods. At that time, most folks used a draft horse to haul their timber. However, such a beast cost too much in feed to pay its own way (at least on our modest farm), so my father hired a neighbor with a steed when the time came for hauling logs.

But then—on the day that changed my life—the Morris mastermind took an especially long look at the four husky sons he'd been afattenin', realized that perhaps he could quit wasting money on rented horsepower, and—in less time than it takes to say "the tinkling of the trace chains"—put all four of us youngsters in harness!

That's when I became a horse.

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