8/9/09, Muir, MI - As you leave the town of Muir, headed north on Hayes road, you pass the houses and barns of a lot of old family farms. When I was a kid, there was livestock in each of the barnyards. Passing the sheds and barns, you would see men working on the farm equipment. In the fields farmers would be cultivating their corn or haying the fields.
Today, most of the houses are occupied, but the livestock is gone and nearly all the fields are sown with no-till corn and soybeans. Six miles down the road, you come to one old family farm. There are still a few feeder calves and a couple of gray Percherons grazing in fields near the house.
This is the home of my granddad, Jake Sheaffer. Born here in Muir in 1912, he bought this place 1942. Initially farming with Percherons, he later farmed with tractors but kept the horses. Itís hard finding a Percheron breeder today that doesnít have a horse carrying bloodlines from Jakeís horses. In the 50ís and 60ís, when there were less then 100 colts being registered each year, some of those foals were either Jakeís or his father Lawrenceís.
Jake has always bred good, old-style horses. He has concentrated on breeding horses with good feet, solid, well muscled legs and a nice temperament. Up until a few years ago, there were a dozen brood mares and their foals in the fields. In the stalls you would find a couple of large stallions. But alas, everyone eventually slows down, even Jake. Today, he still does his chores every morning and night, but heís down to just a couple of horses on the place. But that wasnít enough, so he had to feed a few calves too.
Jake judged horses for a lot years, but quit because he doesnít agree with the new ďexpected normĒ of shoeing horses for show with leathers (pads under the shoe and over the sole). I agree with him on this. Putting leathers on a horse with healthy feet is only a fashion statement, detracts from the health of their feet and denies them the sensory feedback from their frog. Itís sort like telling a young girl to only wear high heals because it will make her look good.
Tomorrow morning, the lads and I are hitting the road for about a week and a half. Iíve decided to wander aimlessly for a while. Iím going to start out generally going north, but Iím going to leave the map tucked away and just pick my route and direction of travel by whim and fancy. Iíll try and make it back here to Jakeís in about a week and a half for a reunion with my brother and sisters. If not, well they have cars and we can meet most anywhere. I just love the irresponsibility of it all!