Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › The Front Porch › In Memorium › Have a Happy! Big John (Hurley) passes to the big woods in the sky!!!
- January 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm #44412
I met this man when I was 15, he had just returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam. He was a highly intelligent and passionate man, who never recovered from his war experiences.
In those early years, he kept himself sane (and out of trouble) by living on the side of a mountain in a tar-paper shack with his horses, cutting firewood from tree-tops left after ski slopes had been cleared for Sugar Bush.
In my 20’s I reconnected with him, and worked as the forester on a woodland that he had become caretaker of. We worked together for 25 years, while the property grew under his management to eventually contain 1400 acres where we did all the harvesting with horses, Kubota with Farmi winch, and a tractor-drawn forwarder. He had a sawmill, dry kilns, and made his own Bio-diesel for the tractors.
Benji was a strong supporter of the Northeast Animal-Power Field Days, and MOFGA LIF. He was a pioneer in his own right practicing ecological forestry out of a sense of fierce responsibility. He also developed a micro-digester to produce his own Bio-diesel, for which he received a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
He was an old-school horseman, a rough-hewn woodsman, a frugal penny-pincher, and mean as a bitch-bear backed into a corner, but he loved to hold our kids on his lap while he howled his deep booming belly laugh.
He will be missed…. Have a Happy, Big JohnJanuary 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm #76843mitchmaineParticipant
it sounds like he made a good life for himself after his early years. any more stories you can remember about him would be greatly appreciated.January 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm #76845EliParticipant
Sorry for your loss. RIP Big John may you find peace in heaven you have been through hell. Thank YouJanuary 19, 2013 at 10:39 am #76841
@mitchmaine 39183 wrote:
it sounds like he made a good life for himself after his early years. any more stories you can remember about him would be greatly appreciated.
He is the only horse-logger I know who actually rode a “sluiced” sled. It ended with horses straddling saplings, broken harnesses, and him with a broken tooth. He would always point to the tooth and proclaim the responsibility of the teamster to “give it all you got” in the interest of the partnership with your horses…..
There was no easy way for him. If it was too steep for stones to rest, he would work it. If there was some way to make the trip twice as long as necessary, he would take that route. If it was too heavy for a man to lift, it was all he would focus on, until he got it moved.
One time he visited an acquaintance who had a vicious German Shepherd. The dog lunged at him growling and snarling. Benji roared back, and the dog turned, tail between its legs, and ran into the woods, not returning until he left…..
We were hunting for partridge one day, walking along a woods road through a stand of popple saplings. A bird rose on his side, and flew across in front of us toward my side of the road. From the hip he let fly, boom, boom, boom….. branches busting loose in all directions, but the bird flew on unscathed. He howled a great HA>>>HA>>>>HA>>>>>HA>>>. Full of the joy of the challenge, and the release of power. But there was something else there in his eye too. A twinge of desperation, a barely visible inability to even consider holding back for a better shot. He turned and said to me ” Shotgun was my favorite weapon in Vietnam.”…….
CarlJanuary 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm #76844mitchmaineParticipant
you did it again carl. you have a way with words for sure. its a gift and thanks for sharing more. i noticed on his obituary he and i are only three days different in age. we share nothing except the same space in time, although it made me curious about him and your text made me wish i had got a chance to meet and know him a little. thanks carl.January 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm #76842
@mitchmaine 39187 wrote:
…..and your text made me wish i had got a chance to meet and know him a little. thanks carl.
Mitch, about 8-9 years ago he came with me to LIF. We brought my bobsled, and demonstrated it with Donny Webb’s team. He was a very large man.. 350# & 6′ 5″…. with a bit of a toothless grin, and dressed in work clothes that were not done with their shift…. if you know what I mean.
I don’t recall if you were there, but the first time I read your name on here, I thought it was familiar, figuring I had met you there that year. I know I met Elmin, and Pete Stratton, and most of the others that year.
Anyway, I just thought you may actually have crossed paths with him.
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