(From general news sources of the day and issues of The Draft Horse Journal.)
It was a tense time for our country as the days dwindled down to a precious few with a full plate of worries besides getting ready for the Thanksgiving turkey and Santa Claus. As mentioned in the previous column; Cuba, next-door-neighbor to Florida, had recently fallen to the forces of Fidel Castro. By late October, 1983, President Reagan had had enough already and sent a force of about 1,900 marines to storm the shores of a small island in the Caribbean called Grenada. The mission was to restore democratic institutions and defeat what Reagan called "Cuban thugs." Almost needless to say, Reagan caught plenty of heat, both here at home and abroad, but he stuck to his game plan and delivered the message–stay out of this hemisphere. Even his old friend, Maggie Thatcher–prime minister of Great Britain at that time, went "tut, tut, tut, Ronnie."
In late January of '84, Reagan announced that he would seek a second term. He is the only president I ever saw in person and I'm 80 years old. I was just a kid at the time I saw him, about 10 years old, I suppose. Reagan wasn't a heck of a lot older, in his early 20's probably. He was a very popular sports announcer for WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa, at that time and he was invited to my hometown, Gowrie, Iowa, to be the Grand Marshall of a parade, MC a shindig at the town park bandshell and umpire a baseball game. That sort of thing. Gowrie kind of went all out for Ronnie "Dutch" Reagan. I think he really wowed the young ladies. Our preacher had three sons (good guys all) and two good-looking daughters. One of them (Ruth Laverne, I think) was designated to show him around town and get him here and there for his appointments. To use the sports analogy, her job was to run interference for him and get him there on time. I'd never heard of the word charisma at the time, but he sure enough had it.
Dutch Reagan's day in Gowrie was a big event with me, although I don't recall voting for him. He may well be the last president who was a good horsemen. His interest was mostly in the saddle-types, I admit, but horses are horses, whether they be the saddle-type or the pulling-stuff-around-types. Some memories stay with you–young Dutch Reagan's 4th of July in Gowrie did. There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.
And now for a quick look at The Draft Horse Journal of 25 years ago.
I'll rerun that cover picture ... I don't think we've ever had a better winter cover. The man with the lines is Lyle Getschman from Baraboo, Wisconsin ... one of my favorite states. (I've got at least 30 favorite states.) Here is the copy we had about our cover just 25 years ago.
ON OUR FRONT COVER ... is Lyle Getschman, Rt. 2, Baraboo, Wisconsin, out for a winter spin behind a pair of his Belgians.
Lyle, who admits only to being "50ish," is the manager of a Tool & Die company in Baraboo. But, like many of his generation, he grew up on a farm and drove horses daily as a youth. Lyle says, "My father loved horses and kept seven or eight at all times. Even after he got his first tractor, we had at least four horses for field work. There were tractor jobs and there were horse jobs. Dad had me behind a gentle, dependable team when I was just a boy and I never got over my affection for them."
And this was not just any old farm Lyle grew up on. It was owned by John M. Kelly, the Ringling lawyer who did so much to bring about the Circus World Museum. So Lyle grew up on a farm that had all sorts of circus keepsakes and memorabilia hidden around in the sheds and outbuildings. Kelly would even give the Getschmans tickets to the Ringling shows when they were playing in that area.
That introduction was followed by a full page of pictures of their Belgians spreading manure, discing, the new foal crop and almost needless to say–pulling "The Golden Age of Chivalry" wagon in Chappie Fox's famous Circus Parade. We understand that the Circus Parade will be reinvented in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this next July 12, 2009. That is good news indeed.
The feature article was a very long-winded article by myself on the George Dix family in Ohio and his famous stallion at that time–Don Degas. I didn't farm out that stallion feature. I wrote it myself because I was totally enamored by the Percheron breed, the Dix family and the horse. A few years earlier while I was still secretary/manager of the Waterloo Dairy Cattle Congress I was visiting with Bob Dix, who was by then a field man for the Ayrshire Cattle Association. We watched the Ayrshires but talked about Percherons. I asked Bob why he had switched from Percherons to Ayrshires. He said, "There wasn't much choice–the handwriting for the horse was on the wall."
Maybe someday Lynn will choose to rerun that old article in a stallion issue. I had my turn in 1985.
It was a good-sized issue (188 pages) and also featured a close-up look at four Iowa horse farmers. Pete McDonough from Schaller; Jim Kruger from Aurora; and Bob and Charles Lantow from Nashua. My tour director and companion on that trip was another wonderful old horseman, Bill Woodring. Bill went to a lot of places with me and they were all business trips!
The draft horse, consigned to history by most folks, was staging quite a significant comeback in the mid-'80s. That issue, Winter '84-'85, was a great walk down memory lane for Jeannine and myself. We were showing a few Percherons at the time and I asked Howard Johnstone, our old friend from Kansas–Belgian breeder/sale manager and all around great guy, to make a logo for us to take to a few fairs we exhibited at. Here is what Howard came up with–we got the idea from the old Cricklewood (Indiana) ads in the '30s and '40s. Changed the "Cricklewoods" to "Telleens" and nobody arrested us for theft.