Draft and a small matter of opinion

The other day Joanna and I drove past a small holding which we know very well. The place reminds us a bit of our own and boasts a large vegetable garden, a layer flock, pigs, feeder calves, and a pair of Oxen. Although I once toyed with the idea of raising draft steers there was, then, little time for it. As we approached the farm I saw the Oxen yolked and hitched to a harrow. It was hot and humid and the biting flies that abound in such conditions formed a cloud around the pair of well-muscled Holsteins. They stood quietly, patiently, only their swishing tails betrayed discomfort. I got out of the truck and saw an electric fence wire. ‘Is it on?’ I yelled. The farmer turned and indicated that it was. ‘I used to raise Milking Devons,’ I said. He looked up from his work, ‘Too temperamental … hard to work,’ was his reply which I took as a sign that he was not averse to my coming onto his property. I walked parallel to the fence looking for a dip in the topography, for there I might find room to crawl beneath the bottom wire. Having negotiated the fence I brushed myself off and approached the farmer who was busy with a hand cultivator. He did not look up. I said, ‘You’re working way too hard.’ He replied, ‘You’re not working nearly hard enough.’ I asked if he would mind if I photographed the Holsteins, he said he would not. I asked if they were well behaved, he said they were. I approached the pair from the front and took a few pictures. Then I walked around back to include the harrow in the frame. As I paused to change lenses the farmer walked along side his team and began to call directions. The pair sprang into action. There were calls to the steer, to the cow, and to both. They were directed to stop, backup, turn to the left, turn to the right, move forward slowly, and to move forward more quickly. It was a joy to watch. When we got home and viewed the images Joanna voiced her preference for the one on the right while I liked the one on the left. To me the blurred image is dynamic, speaks to movement and, perhaps, a little bit of controlled chaos. The only argument Joanna could provide in support of her choice was that, “It was clear and crisp … the other is blurry!” Let me know which you prefer. Click either image in the gallery to access larger views.

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