My mom loved it when my brother-in-law Stuart would hook up his plow team to feed the cows. He would talk to them, “Up, Dolly, up Queen!” One little difference in his voice—a touch softer or louder, clipped or relaxed—meant to side-step or slow down, speed up or pull harder, or “do it now or else we won’t make it to the top of the hill!” Horses like this used to make the world go round.
For generations of pre-industrial farmers, draft horses—“draft” or “draught” comes from the Old English “dragan,” which means to draw or haul—literally carried the weight of progress on their shoulders. They were bred for a combination of traits: tall stature, muscular build, upright shoulders and strong hindquarters for pulling strength, and docile temperament. They were smart, loyal animals that worked fields, hauled hay, pulled tree stumps, and took people to town for flour, sugar, or beans. If you had a horse like this near The Grand, you were considered wealthy. With the advent of trains and self-powered equipment, horses were eventually phased out of most farming operations and transportation needs. That’s why it was a no-brainer to weld this sculpture from parts of the very same early tractors and other implements that replaced the draft horses on working farms. The piece is intended both as an homage to these tireless beasts of burden, and an artistic expression of the history of agriculture.
Eastman’s Corner Farm Market near Kensington, New Hampshire—Black Hawk’s permanent home—can thank several of my scrap suppliers for the unique parts on this sculpture. The plentiful, charred plow discs and the brass bell hanging from the tail were recovered from the ashes of collector George Burns’ charred outbuildings, and dozens of pieces came from Kenney Tomac’s stash. I used these real farming elements to represent the story of agriculture in mini-landscapes on the horse, including a section of rolling hills along the back; the broad prairie horizon on one side of the neck; and an abstract representation of the essential Missouri River, which divides South Dakota’s farm lands in half.