Quest in Roots:
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THE HORSE AND BUGGY DAYS
As soon as the settler could afford it he replaced his oxen with horses. They made transportation much quicker. From the 1880''s until 1950 the horse was important in the everyday lives of the people.
The heavy horses, the Clydesdales, Belgians and Percherons transported the heavy loads by wagon in the summer and wagon box on sleighs in the winter. They hauled heavy loads of grain to the elevators, wood home for fuel and later loads of coal.
Bill McDonald and Cutter The utility weight horses were hitched to the buggy in the summer and the cutter in the winter to take butter and eggs to the local store to trade for groceries. They also delivered cans of cream to the station to be shipped out.
Horses were also owned as a status symbol for their beauty and speed. Ifgoing courting or to some special sports or social event light horses would likely be hitched up such as the Standardbred or Hackney to impress their lady or the neighbours.
Horses were timed on the road. Many a race was held to and from church. A fast horse or team was just as important then as a fast car is today.
The road horses were brushed and groomed until they gleamed. Their manes and tails were decoratively braided and entwined with ribbon or rosettes. The harness glistened with care and polish and was decorated with studded brass or silver.
Ivory or coloured spread rings were added to the reins that separated the team. Sleigh bells were added to the harness in the winter.
The buggies were either topless or topped with a treated fold-down canvas top, much like a convertible. The cutters used in the winter were the same. Ifyou had a large family you would likely own a democrat, a two seater buggy.
To travel in a cutter in the winter you needed protection from the cold. Fur coats, caps with ear flaps, gauntlets and scarves were all worn for warmth. To keep the feet warm there was a foot warmer, a metal container that contained hot coals; or a heated brick was placed under the feet. The legs were wrapped in fur robes. The buffalo robe was the warmest. The family dog was often coaxed along to lie on the feet to keep them warm.
•• Ken Martin and Winter Van Many farmers started to build closed in cutters called jumpers. They were more sturdily built than the cutter. They had a small wood stove in the corner which greatly improved the comfort of winter travel, but iftipped they could become a fire hazard.
Then came the heated van for winter travel. It was usually made with a wooden bottom on runners with a canvas top. It was completely enclosed except for the hole for the horses reins. It had a window in the front and a door in the back. There was a little tin heater in one corner with stove pipes out the top. It had two advantages over the jumper; it could accommodate more people and if it was upset it was safer. The canvas top could be cut for a means of escape if it tipped and caught on fire.
Most children who attended rural schools either walked, road horseback, or drove a horse and buggy.
Jack Elmhurst and Cutter >I- >I- >l- Iremember sleigh rides with runners crunching on the frosty snow and sleigh bells jingling. Many people had strings of small bells on the harness, which jingled with the movement of the horses.
Tearns often had chime bells fastened to the tongue of the sleigh. It was really a delight to hear the bells on the various outfits. As the vans arrived at the school each morning, you could hear the different toned bells coming into town from each direction, and at night the sound drifted away as the children were returned to their homes.
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