The Home Fields
By John D. Fogg
'Recollections Of A Salt Marsh Farmer'
Edited by Eric N. Small -- 1983
In the old days of that salt marsh cutting, the hay was very important to everyone who owned pieces of the marsh. Just cut over your line and you would son find out what they thought and how much they valued that hay.
Now it was the same in some way with the home fields. The farmer boys were not allowed to run their saddle horses in the hay fields. I used to hear folks tell how the boys had to go with their horses up in Grandpa Fogg's pasture to do their performing. There was a clearing in about 1200 feet from the road where they could have or do anything they wanted. It was a good sized place high and dry even after a rain. The water would run right off, that's why nothing was growing up there, hardly good grass.
They had a ring the size of a regular circus ring on the south side of that knoll near David Chase's fence where there would be good shade from the trees in his pasture. They came from far and near to get in on this. It must have been an era of saddle horses for it seemed like all the boys had a saddle horse. The story goes that Grandpa Fogg "David" started that ring when he was a boy with his brothers, and neighbors used it until my father and his brothers and neighbors took over.
Father used to tell what good times they did have. They would go up most every weekend in the summer. If it was a hot day there was plenty of shade from Chase's trees. This David Chase was Forrest's father. Forrest was my age or near. They said that ring was made by the horses when running in a circle and in leaning they would throw the loam all to one side. They kept it watered down when it got dusty. There was a river nearby.
I used to see that ring when I was 8 years old when getting the cows down from the meadow at night. They had a short cut down through that clearing. That's when I started asking questions.
That era of saddle horses went out just before my time for the nearest to a saddle horse I ever got was when riding the plow horse to cultivate. It was bicycles for us boys in those times.
What I wanted the worst way was to raise a pair of steers to be harnessed and driven like horses. But when I asked my father about it, he said we didn't have the room. So I cleaned out one of the calf pens to show that we did have room, but that didn't work either.
I wouldn't give up completely and years later I harnessed the bull "Tom" up with Jack. Jack was a horse that would work just as the other, slow or fast, he seemed to like it either way. They made a perfect pair, on a plow near trees where the pulling was hard, and on a harrow or a cultivator like you see in the picture. They were too slow in a mowing machine, but put Jack with Dollie the Jack walked as fast as she would. We used Jack and Tom the bull for two springs or until time to go on the marsh.That's the way I was going to drive the steers if I could have had them.
Now, see how fast things can change. When the farmers stopped selling milk, they stopped cutting the salt hay which they thought so much of at those times. The same with the hay fields, see how soon they grew up to trees and brush or being layed out in house lots. That's what I despise - brush and trees growing in hay fields.
This is what I am so glad to know about the marsh. Unless it is filled, it can never grow up to trees and brush to obstruct the beauty of the marsh rivers. The migrating birds can always have a place to feed with all those minnows in the salt ponds.