Pictures like this of my father and his sister Shirley astride the workhorses helped to provide much of the background for Silent Ties. Many small farms during that time could not afford tractors or expensive equipment. It was not only the cost to purchase, but also the fuel and maintenance of the machinery. Horses were still a reliable resource for the heavy work of plowing, tilling, planting, and harvesting. Even farms that could afford some of the equipment still used horses as a second source of labor. My father told stories of using the well trained horses in the field. A simple whistle called them forward without his grandfather aboard when he was laying fence. Or areas where it was not feasible to use the tractor, the horses could get the job done.
The addition of the workhorses in Silent Ties was used to highlight the economic differences that existed in the rural community; not only between Missy’s family and the other white farmers, but between James and Daddy. They were both son’s of Granddaddy Taylor, but Daddy was privileged to have the best equipment. James was given the old tractor, but without the other attachments and with the cost of operation he was forced to rely on the workhorses. It wasn’t seen by the family as unfair. James was to be grateful for what they were willing to give him and not to expect equality.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana