Title: Endangered Things ~ Iowa
Blog Entry: Darwin Brink cuts alfalfa with his team of Percheron horses at his farm near Bronson, Iowa, on June 25. The draft animals perform most of the work on the farm Endangered things work horses Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal BRONSON, Iowa | In an age of farm equipment with GPS and high-speed wireless, Darwin Brink takes an old-fashioned approach to agriculture. He hitches up Lacy and Camille, his two Percheron mares, and heads to the fields. Brink, of rural Bronson, Iowa, does almost all the farming on his property with the gray draft horses -- hauling manure, raking hay, planting seeds. “It’s so perfect to go out in the morning,” said Brink, 83. “The tug chains rattle and the meadowlarks sing, and that’s all the noise you hear.” Percherons are strong draft horses originally bred in Perche, a former province in northern France. Most, like Brink’s, are gray or black. At around 2,000 pounds, the animals were used extensively for pulling stage coaches and heavy loads. “Percherons were really popular before the tractor,” said Teresa Stull, of the Percheron Horse Society of America. Mechanical devices changed that. Jim Stuart, of the Iowa Draft Horse and Mule Breeders Association, estimates about 50 Iowans still do most of their farming with draft horses. Most of the 175 families in the group are draft horse enthusiasts. "There’s a lot of guys with a team on the farm that will work them if they have time," said Stuart, who does 90 percent of the work at his New Virginia, Iowa, farm with draft horses. "But, you know, it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s 40, 50, 60 people that do like I do." Brink knows how to farm with heavy equipment. He did so for years. But he just likes his horses better. “You’ve got to like them or you’ll never get along with them,” Brink said. “And you want to be firmly patient.” His affinity for horses dates back to his childhood. His family, like many, had lots of horses to do the farm work. His daughter, Dawn Kinney, said she and her dad used to “walk beans” on horseback, chopping out offending plants from between the rows. Brink’s love of horses has been passed on to his grandchildren. A grandson, Brandon, bought Percherons from Brink. Abigail, his granddaughter, trained Camille and Lacy to carry a rider by boldly climbing up on their broad backs. “My dad says he’s going to his grave with his horses and his show wagon,” Kinney said. On a recent morning Brink cut hay in a field behind the home where he lives with his wife, Norma. Lacy to his left and Camille on the right marched dutifully and solidly down the field while the mower clacked and whirred, the alfalfa falling to the ground. “They can do it all,” Brink said.
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