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Retired Ohio Farmer Works Six Oxen
In a small town in north central Ohio, Glenn Kieffer has found a way to get his farm work done and at the same time enjoy life.
The 68-year-old retired farmer owns six oxen and works them on four acres of his 180-acre farm near Nevada, Ohio. (He rents out the additional acres to one of his neighbors.)
While the oxen attract much attention because these draft animals are rarely found in Ohio, Glenn says two of his oxen ¨Tom and Jerry ¨ amaze people because of their large size.
"They weight in at about 3,100 lbs. each. Although some teams are heavier than that, I only know of two, and they're in Maine, the heart of ox territory," says Glenn.
"We travel with the team a lot, though, and they're inclined to lose a little weight on the road," he adds. Since acquiring his first team, Glenn has expanded his hobby to include Mutt, Jeff, Amos and Andy.
In addition to his oxen, Glenn is now attempting to purchase a different type of draft animal ¨ water buffalo.
A friend helped him locate a pair, but the future looks grim. To get the team of water buffaloes, Glenn would have to go after them himself. "And they're in India," he laments.
Since it's costly to transport them to the U.S., he says he may delay his purchase, although he still concedes he'd like to work with them.
Meanwhile, since he's not able to procure water buffaloes, Glenn will continue to haul firewood, plow, plant, mow hay, and do other field work with his oxen. He also participates in parades and fairs with his teams.
Glenn points out that, although he uses his oxen in a wide variety of ways, he's "self taught" and doesn't claim to be an expert teamster. He's read many books and has contacted a lot of people, yet he doesn't really drive them "true to style."
By true-to-style, Glenn refers to walking beside his teams and driving them with a whip or goad. However, because Glenn has arthritis, he can't walk beside them comfortably for very long. Instead, he rides on the wagon or cart and drives them with lines. This also eliminates the need for an extra person,which is convenient since Glenn lives alone.
"They work the same as a team of horses. They're broke to gee and haw but don't always mind," Glenn points out.
He and his big friends take in about a dozen or so outings each summer and fall within a 100 mile radius of Glenn's farm. Last fall, for example, he took Tom and Jerry to the National Corn Husking Contest near Ostrander, Ohio. Along with 31 teams of horses, Tom and Jerry pulled wagons for corn husking contestants.
Neighboring communities also have invited Glenn to bring his oxen to their gatherings, where both children and adults are entertained. "We haul the children around in a covered wagon," he says.
Referring to his hobby, Glenn says, "I don't know of anything I've ever enjoyed more." He prefers working with "live" horsepower rather than mechanized sources. "Sure oxen are slower paced but I've got the time," he points out.

Reprinted with permission from Rural Heritage Magazine.

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1987 - Volume #11, Issue #3