Charles Scott Harkey
February 29, 2004
Conducted by Joe Liles
The snaking horses were better than mules. A mule had a small foot and it he hit a soft spot you couldn’t drag him back in there. Now, you know in the woods, you’re going to find soft spots. But a horse has got a big foot and would go right through it. She might be up to her belly, but she’d go through it and then turn right back around come back out.
Now, if I saw a pretty snaking horse, if I didn’t need it, I would buy it and bring it home and put it in the pasture. I had a man that broke ‘em for me. A lot of times I would keep two snaking horses in the wood. I’d work one a little while, then let it cool off, and I’d get the other one and work it.
I once bought a horse that never had a bridle on it. It was born in the pasture and raised in the pasture. I reckon it took us three hours to load that horse on the truck to bring it home here from over in Wake Forest. Now, I had a man that worked for me to take care of my horses. That snaking horse man knew how to handle a horse. I never seen him whip a horse. I never seen him hit it or anything like that. He talked to the horse. His voice was real low and you wouldn’t even hear him. In less than a week’s time, that man had that horse down to one line, snaking logs! That was one of the smartest horses I ever had.
Now you know you use two lines to train a snaking horse, one line on each side of his head. But after that horse is fully broke, you don’t even need a line, you would just talk to the horse, and he would do what you wanted. You would have that snaking horse in a horse collar and a harness, and this was connected to what you called a trace. The trace was hooked to a set of snaking tongs. The snaking tongs had a sharp hook on each end. When the horse pulled the trace tight, that would make the tongs stick into the log so you could pull it right out of there. When you got the log to the log pile, you could holler out to the horse, “Little bit!” and he would move that log six inches. Or you could say, “Touch it!” and that horse would stand still and just move his body forward a little. This would move the log two or three inches. You had to be exact in this because you were putting these logs in a tight pile. You had to have ‘em stacked just right so they would be balanced. You would put a chain under the logs and lift ‘em up onto the log cart.
I went up one morning to Mr. Chappell’s up here, and he had two of the prettiest iron gray horses you ever seen. One of ‘em was a great big one. I said, “I’ll take the big one.” Well, when we was bringing that big horse out of the barn, the horse man that worked with me said, “Boss man, if you’ll buy the other horse, I’ll make a good snaker out of him, but this horse that you want, I can’t do it.” I asked him what was the matter with the big horse and he said, “The head ain’t on that horse right.”
The honest truth is that I went back there several times and Mr. Chappell said, “I don’t know why you didn’t take that big horse.” I told him that my snaker said he couldn’t make a snaker horse out of him. Mr. Chappell said, “I don’t know how many times I have sold that horse to saw mill fellers, and they bring it back every time!”