Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forum › Draft Animal Power › Working with Draft Animals › Chet Grimes VT PBS short film about a Vermont horselogger
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- February 4, 2017 at 9:34 am #90001
Chester Grimes, made in 1971 by Herb Di Gioia and his partner, the late David Hancock, has not been available for public viewing in years. It tells the story of a 70-year-old logger who still worked in northern Vermont at that advanced age with his team of horses. Di Gioia, who lives in Sutton, Vt. and is well known in the world of film documentary and ethnography, pioneered “observational cinema”
I think it deserves observation for several distinct aspects of horsemanship, technical workmanship, and stewardship. This seemingly uncomplicated countryman demonstrates some valuable traits that I think are worth pointing out.
His humble yet confidently comfortable style of interacting, and working around his horses is a subtle and often overlooked manner that is foundational to the exceptional performance and handle-ability of the animals. At one point, when the horses are getting shod, the blacksmith is overheard barking commands at the horses, which is a common and more noticeable mannerism….. more demonstrative…. and therefore possibly apparently picked up and passed on as “THE” way to communicate to horses. There are several other gentlemen joshing about an unruly mare, and dismissing his claims that he could gentle her in a day to work without driving……..
I have seen this dynamic at work, and for many years I never even noticed the quiet patient men, until it finally sunk in that their horses paid far more attention to them than the others did to the barkers….. this is worth watching over and over again…. These horses are not pre-programmed, they are listening and working with Chet on a moment to moment basis, not just responding to commands.
Also of note is the way the D-ring harnesses are fit to the horses. Britchens are high and tight. When hitched, the pole is high, and there is no slack in the hitch. The log trucker tries to tell him the horses should be hooked longer to use the pole for leverage, but Chet stands his ground. Horses do not turn a sled from the tip of the pole, they turn it at the evener. The pole is for holding-back, and backing.
The way he uses the peavey is instructive too. He puts very little effort into it, using gravity and the balance of the logs to his advantage. Planning will out-perform brute strength every time. Logs are secured using load chains with a large slip hook and a Fid hook. A very effective and once common way to use one chain to hold multiple logs, and variable-sized loads.
Finally, he gets ridiculed by the trucker for cutting poor quality logs. When he says he has good logs still on the stump, he is told that he should cut the good first and not worry about the other guy. His response is that he does care about others who may use the lot in the future. Worst-first forest management in a nut-shell.
Work has a purpose that extends beyond the immediate gain, and it is a stewardship land-ethic worth regaining. It breaks his heart to see the working landscape deteriorating before his eyes. Of course there were always economic pressures that led folks to make poor environmental choices, but there is a truth to the lives that tie themselves to the land and natural functions.
In the face of all that this world has become, I believe it is important to be relearning, and sharing these methods, techniques, and philosophies. Thanks Chet.
February 5, 2017 at 8:07 am #90003
- This topic was modified 1 year ago by Carl Russell.
that is a wonderful video thank you so much for sharing it. Does anyone recognize the smith in the film? Would that be one of the Kritz Brothers?
Ron McCoyFebruary 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm #90006
John Hammond says that the blacksmith was Albert LaLiberty of Island Pond, VT. “He was a southpaw and had the unorthodox way of working on the anvil the same way a right handed person would. He made his own shoes from barstock. He told me he started shoeing in the army during WW1 and opened his shop in 1927. In his prime he and his help used to shoe a rail car load of horses a day from the woods camps in the area. His shop was still going in the early 90’s.”
CarlFebruary 5, 2017 at 9:59 pm #90009
Thank you for the info. I did not know him but in the 70’s there was not to many smiths left shoeing and doing farm repairs. A pretty small fraternity. I did not realize he was left handed but that explains some of what I seen him do. Good shop and good man at an anvil. Thank you again, Carl and John Hammond.
RonFebruary 5, 2017 at 10:40 pm #90010
Thank you Carl for sharing this gem with the rest of us. So many wonderful little details that our eyes pick up just seeing how he works as you pointed out. Thanks again. JayFebruary 7, 2017 at 9:39 pm #90019
That is great, I grew up leaning on tailgates with my dad watching “man meetings” like those in the movie. He seems like my kinda guy!!!February 14, 2017 at 6:03 pm #90042
Great film! Thanks a lot Carl. Let’s pass it on to show as many as possible hiw it should be done.February 17, 2017 at 3:23 pm #90052
isn ‘t it the same in people? Speak soft and quiet and people will listen more intensely …February 4, 2018 at 11:17 am #96027
I watched and shared this film many times. However the free streaming rights for the film have now expired. Might there be a way for DapNet to acquire a copy and make it available online as part of membership? I imagine that as an archival instructional piece it would be well cherished by the Dap community. NickFebruary 6, 2018 at 9:40 am #96028
I agree Nick, you are the third person to recently ask about this film. I know someone who knows the cinematographer. I will try to look into this.
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