SLAYTON - Amid the screeching sounds of an elevator carrying oats up the belt and the occasional snort from the horses as they circled around a shaft that powered not just the elevator’s motions, but a wagon hoist as well, stood farmers enjoying the reminders of farm days gone by.
The scene played out on the Murray County Fairgrounds in Slayton Saturday morning, as nearly a dozen teams of work horses - Belgians, Percherons, Shires and Quarter Horses - demonstrated the use of antique farm machinery. The farming demonstration was part of the Murray County Classic Draft Horse Show over the weekend.
“I can just barely remember the draft horses and the horse power working,” said 76-year-old Jerry Fleace of rural Round Lake, after demonstrating a hay tedder and using his team of quarter horses to provide the horsepower for the elevator and wagon hoist.
“I like to work the horses and teach them different things to do,” Fleace shared. The hay tedder he demonstrated Saturday morning actually belongs to the Murray County Museum.
“It’s supposed to fluff the hay up,” Fleace explained of the antique farm implement. “It works good for grass hay, but you wouldn’t want to use it for alfalfa - all you’d have is stems.”
The Fleaces - wife Gwen was walking around taking pictures during the show - also brought their own antique spring wagon made by Deere & Weber.
“That was kind of used like you’d use a pickup now,” Jerry Fleace said of the wagon that dates back to sometime shortly after 1913. “They took eggs and grain, milk, flour - they’d take it in in trade.”
The Fleaces said visiting with the people and trying out the old machinery is their favorite part about participating in the farming demonstrations.
“I like to watch the grandparents with the little grandchildren - the grandparents say they used to use this, and the grandchildren just take it all in,” said Gwen.
Doug Bunting of rural Delhi has participated in the farming demonstration at Slayton for the past five years. He brought with him his team of Belgians, which were used to pull a disk (no digging was actually done) and then, after Fleace had gone through with the hay tedder, demonstrated the dump rake by picking up the cut grass and dragging it next to a century-old stationary baler.
“(I like) just getting out and hooking old machinery to the horses,” Bunting said. “It’s really interesting to see how it works and be able to use it.”
Bunting’s Belgians participate in about four or five county fairs each year, and as many parades.
Among the more unusual pieces of equipment pulled by the horses during the show was an Emerson Clod Breaker Packer, owned by Jim Post of rural Lake Wilson. The implement was actually from the Worthington area, and was used - back in the day - to pulverize or break up the sod after it was plowed.
The oldest implement demonstrated was the stationary baler, owned jointly by Brian Crowley and Travis Spartz. The baler came out of the grove of Crowley’s landlord about eight or nine years ago.
“He was telling me … they used to combine the flax straw, pile the straw into piles and then you’d come along and pitch all of it (into the baler),” explained Crowley, adding that there was a flax straw buying station in Windom, and the bales were hauled there. Bales made from the baler were tied by hand with wire - twine wasn’t used until about the 1950s.
Spartz said the baler, along with the grain elevator and threshing equipment, will be demonstrated again during the Murray County Fair in Slayton in a 1 p.m. show on Aug. 16.
Spartz is one of the individuals who coordinates the farming demonstration during the Murray County Classic. He said the show typically features an array of implements, from plows, disks and planters to seeding equipment, grain carts, sod busters, manure spreaders and mowers.
“Kind of any equipment that anybody has, they’ll bring them,” said Spartz. “We’ve had potato planters in the past. The tedder’s from the museum, the Moline drag cart is from the museum. The museum’s been very good about letting us borrow some of that.”
Spartz said he likes the farming demonstration because it’s filled with the nostalgia of what his grandfathers and great-grandfathers farmed with and all of the work it required.
Bound for the Rose Parade
While Saturday morning’s farming demonstration featured the work horses, the Murray County Classic’s big draw was the afternoon draft horse show on Saturday and Sunday.
Among the horses in the show were some Shires that will make their way to Pasadena, Calif., at the end of this year to be showcased in the Tournament of Roses parade on Jan. 1. The horses are owned by Houston and Judith Haugo of Sioux Falls, S.D., and their Dakota Thunder Shires. They are trained and cared for by Joe Biren on his rural Iona farm.
“The owner has always wanted to go to the Rose Parade with his horses,” said Biren on Saturday.
There was a three-part application process, and then a video application had to be submitted for the horses to be considered in the parade.
Biren said they just learned last week that the horses were selected to participate.
The Tournament of Roses parade consists of a 5.5-mile parade route through Pasadena. Biren said the horses will need to be in line by 4:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day for the parade.
“We will be taking probably nine horses,” said Biren, adding that only six of them will actually go through the parade. The horses, ranging in age from 4 to 9 years, will be pulling their Dakota Thunder wagon through the route.