yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee
People of Action - 1969

From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Brewer Printing Company, Jackson, Tennessee, n.d.).  Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of the late Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

Herbert Powers

By Lillye Younger, Sun Correspondent

Oxen Pull Past Into The Present

DECATURVILLE, Tenn. — The Old West comes alive on Sunday afternoons when Herbert Powers, 69, hitches his yoke of oxen to a covered wagon and offers joy rides to young and old alike.

"When I was a boy of six, my dad gave my older brothers a yoke of oxen and my job was to open the gap and lay down the fence for them to go through," Powers recalls. "I always wanted to drive them. but my brothers said I was too little. From that time on my desire has been to own a yoke of oxen."

He raised and trained his own steers — Buck is a black Angus and Bald is black with a white face.

Powers began training them when they ,were two months old. "First I roped them one at a time and then I put halters on them and taught them to stand," he says. "I made a two-wheel cart from an old cultivator and hitched them to it one at a time. They ran away at first."

The big problem was trying to find an oxen yoke. "I'd forgotten how to make one, but finally I got an old one and made one by it."

"When I put the yoke on Buck and Bald they were very unhappy and turned it a time or two. There is danger of choking when oxen turn their yoke."

A yoke is made with two loops which fit the oxen necks and a center book which holds a chain for snaking logs or attaching the wagon tongue. A cowbell in the center of the yoke rings with each step of the hoof.

"Oxen are easier to break than mules," Powers says.

He made the bows for the wagon and a daughter covered it. A cedar water bucket and a gourd placed at one end of the wagon adds to the setting.

"The oxen-drawn covered wagon created a lot of excitment at the county fair when it appeared in the parade," he remarked.

Last spring Powers harrowed his son's garden with his team of oxen. They are trained to do farm work and snake logs as well as to pull the covered wagon. Buck and Bald are a year and-a-half old.

Powers has reclaimed the spirit of the pioneer days not only with his covered wagon but he also has a bull-tongue plow more than 100 years old and a 110-year-old grubbing hoe which belonged to his grandfather.

The retired farmer spends much of his time whittling out miniature ox yokes with his pocket knife.

He and Mrs. Powers have four daughters and a son. They live eight miles west of Decaturville.

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