June 2008
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Fifth Annual Plow Day: A "Peaceful" Way to Work

by Suzy Lowry Geno

"It’s just such a peaceful way to farm," Mason Brown explained.

"It shows how hard people had to work in past times but this is just so much nicer without all the engine noises. You could walk behind the mules or horses and think."

 
Harold Rosser prepares to host his Fifth Annual Rosser Plow Day at his family’s Horton area farm on April 26th.  
Mason, a 12-year-old Susan Moore sixth grader, was just one of a couple of hundred folks who enjoyed Harold Rosser’s Fifth Annual "Plow Day" at his Lena Road, Horton-area farm the last Saturday in April.

Mason, and lots of other kids like him, are part of the reason Rosser enjoys hosting the annual Plow Day. It’s not really an "organized" event, but everybody who wants to show up with teams of mules or horses are invited to participate.

But a big part of the day, in addition to the eight teams who recently participated, is the "armchair" farmers who sat on the tailgates of their pickup trucks or brought folding lawn chairs to sit at the edge of the fields so they could smell the freshly turned soil.

Harold and his wife, Liz, moved to the family farm about 11 years ago. The farm was "home" to Liz’s parents, Condy and Edna Jackson, for more than 80 years with Mrs. Jackson passing away in April of 2007 at the age of 97.

While Harold graduated from J.B. Pennington High in Blountsville and Liz from Susan Moore High, both in Blount County, back in 1952, his job as a "strategic executive" for Reynolds Service Corporation selling and "seeing about" maintaining backhoes, bulldozers and other heavy equipment took them away from the farm "physically" as they lived in Jefferson County. But the old saying is true; you "can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy," Rosser explained.

Harold’s grandfather, D.E. Rosser known all over the area as "Prof" Rosser for his teaching at schools throughout Central Alabama, owned the Rosser Dairy on Highway 26 between Blountsville and Royal for years. There he helped in the milking of 40 to 50 cows by hand every day, and then continued helping out his family when milking machines were bought in the late 1940s.

But mules were in play even then.

 
  Three-year-old Jerome Bailey, and his dad, Jerome, Walnut Grove, made friends with 1,600 pound Bill and Bob at the annual plowing and old time day held at Harold Rosser’s Horton area home. Bill and Bob are owned by Jimmy Cambron of Ragland.
"Grandpa owned 20 mules; ten teams," Rosser explained. "He had ten renter houses and he furnished each sharecropper with a good team of mules. The family sold that farm operation in 1959 or 1960."

But Harold and Liz just couldn’t stay away from mules though! They bought a team of mules in 1973 to pull a wagon on trail rides and rented a farm in Pinson along Alabama Hwy. 75 just to house them! They’ve had mules in one form or another ever since.

Rosser likes mules’ basically even temperament.

"They’re just more sure-footed than horses," Rosser felt. "And when a horse gets spooked about something, he stays spooked. But when a mule gets frightened, he’s over it in a few minutes and just goes on."

Mules and a couple of teams of massive horses were more than willing to begin turning the rich brown soil in Rosser’s field.

 
Jimmy Cambron, Ragland, uses Bill and Bob to plow about four acres at his home to grow, corn, peas, beans and tomatoes for his extended family including ten grandchildren.  
Blountsville’s Earl Young has owned Tom and Bob for about eight years and said his team is now "strictly for pleasure" but "I’ve plowed many a day growing corn, cotton and hay when I was growing up."

Others who brought teams included Dale Green, from Nectar; Earl Allison, and Roy Green and his wife. Ray Stevens, from Ashville, brought a pair of Belgians, and Tracy Jimmerson also demonstrated horses.

There was no admission charge for the day and never any specific program.

"We just have a lot of fun," Rosser explained. "There’s so many of the older folks who bring their grandchildren and I can hear them turning to them and explaining this was the way they worked when they were younger on the farm. This may be the only time they’ll ever get to share that with them. This was a way of life and we don’t want to loose that."

And, of course, then there are those like Jimmy Cambron, who brought Bill and Bob, each weighing more than 1,600 lbs. While Jimmy said, "I just love messing with them," Bill and Bob also have a more practical place on Jimmy’s Ragland-area farm in St. Clair County.

He uses the team to plow and work four acres of corn, beans and basically "any other kind of vegetable" to feed his extended family, including 10 grandchildren ("with another on the way!").

 
  Mason Brown, 12, Snead, examines old farming implements as he talked about the olden days of "hard work" but "peaceful" working conditions.
Bill and Bob spent much of the day giving wagon rides to young and old alike.

There are others in the area who only use mules to log, farm and do all sorts of other chores so they are not tied to foreign fuels and feel the animals are less damaging to the environment as they plod sure-footedly along.

In spite of their reputation for being occasionally stubborn, Rosser said he really hasn’t seen that in the many mules he’s owned through the years.

"If you treat them right, they’re basically pretty contented, happy animals," he said. "These look like they’re smiling most of the time and I believe they are."

While there were many tall-tales told of mules in times gone-by (like one mule who would open the corral gate, tour of the neighborhood and then be back at the barn in time for suppertime each night), nearly all the stories were tinged with a hint of fondness for a simpler time when a family’s winter food depended heavily on their mule or team.

 
Earl Young, Blountsville, drives Tom and Bob as he demonstrates his riding and breaking plow.  
But Susan Moore’s Calvin Tuck ended the day on a light-hearted note when he said of Rosser’s Annual Plow Day, "This is just the sneakiest way I’ve ever seen to get a field plowed for free!"

Suzy welcomes ideas for her Simple Times column, including alternative ways of farming, alternative fuels and any other ideas to simplify our lives and farms. She can be contacted at her Blount County farm by phoning her at 205-446-1469 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.