Delta Dreaming: Horses and Wagons

Life must have been calmer in the Delta back in the day. We can’t imagine a world without the sound of automobiles rushing people to places to which, many times, they don’t even want or need to go. It would seem odd to us if the only sounds of travel were the creaking of a wagon and the crunchclopping of horses’ hooves on gravel roads.


In places throughout the Delta, the small farming communities, now bypassed by history, are scattered at almost equal distances. I have often wondered if the spatial locations were determined by the distance a wagon and team could travel in and back in one day. It would provide an interesting topic for study.


Larger towns had wagon yards with barrack-type facilities for overnight stay. My daddy once told me about the first time his daddy took him to Pine Bluff from their farm near the little hamlet of Kedron, Arkansas. He told how another young boy he met was on his first trip and, during the night became frightened and confused. His fear of asking for help resulted in a predictable and embarrassing “accident.” What a way to form your first impression of the “big city.”


From the photo below, we can see that hitching a wagon to a team was not an easy task. Mark Twain wrote a hilarious spoof on the process. But I am told that the farm women of the Delta could accomplish it with no problem.


As I say, those were different times. As a boy idling away the long summer days on the porch of our family grocery store, I could still see the wagons that shared the highway with motorized vehicles. There was one man, a solitary creature, who drove his horse and wagon to the city each Saturday morning. After a little too much of urban temptations, he would fall asleep across the wagon seat about the time they crossed the Bayou Bartholomew bridge. His horse would come clopping by the store, his head nodding a counter-rhythm, stoically taking his companion home. We never tired of the sight.


Yes, those were different times.



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