Exhibit of antique plows unearths farm memories

April 14, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Spending his youthful years operating a plow behind two horses on rocky terrain for hours on end is among the memories Donald Kuhn was enthusiastically sharing Saturday at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum.

The museum featured plows in an exhibit called "From Oxen to Deere - A Short History of the Plow and Plowing."

Besides plows and tractors, the museum had craft demonstrations and other exhibits of rural life in Washington County.

But it was the plows that captured Kuhn's attention and engaged him in a lengthy conversation with plow exhibitor Clifton Muritz.


As a youth, Kuhn, 81, of Wolfsville, Md., would plow the family's farm with two sorrel Belgium horses pulling an Oliver plow.

"In smooth ground, you could take your hands off for a little while and it would go just right," Kuhn said.

"Is that right?" asked Muritz, 60, of Leitersburg.

"Yes sir. I did it. Just for curiosity," Kuhn said.

Kuhn and Muritz were watching a videotape displaying a horse-drawn plow at work.

Kuhn said his lead horse, Bess, would turn at the end of a furrow and come right back into the furrow heading the other way, without being led.

"Whoa haw" would get Bess to turn left and "Gee yea" would get her to turn right, Kuhn said.

From the age of 10 to 18, Kuhn plowed the family's fields each year to plant corn and potatoes, mostly.

Kuhn said he tried to plow in the spring before the ground got hard because it was already full of rocks.

Bess helped Kuhn keep the plow from getting caught in rocks.

"She could detect the rock there. She would stop automatically," he said.

It would take him and two horses a week to plow the family's biggest field, an 8-acre field.

Today, that would take a couple of hours with a tractor and a four- or five-bottom plow, Muritz said. That's partly because horses have to rest.

"The tractor, he can just keep going," Muritz said.

Muritz's personal plow collection was on display outside the museum. He had five horse-drawn plows, including an Oliver, and one light plow that could be hitched to an old Fordson tractor.

"I like to preserve the past," Muritz said.

Oliver plows were popular in this area, probably because the heavier plow worked well in rocky ground, Muritz said.

He also had a Vulcan hillside plow that, when you raised the handles, the mouldboard and share would flip to the other side. The share is part that gets the most wear because it is the point that digs the dirt up.

"It's interesting to look at this stuff. It brings back memories," Kuhn said.

Plowing all day with the horse-drawn Oliver was hard work, he said.

When Kuhn returned home in November 1945 after serving in the Air Force during World War II, he found his father had bought a $750 Ford Ferguson tractor.

The job was "much easier" with the tractor, he said.

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