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Jimmy High's boyhood in Salthouse
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Man's work at age eleven

When I look at boys of the present age and compare them with those of my childhood, I feel a sense of alarm. I was entrusted at the age of 11 with a team of horses and a wagon, driving them over bridges with no side-rails and laden so heavily that the wagon would sway with the load. I used to sit sideways on the shaft-horse, trotting across the fields or marshes, and the faster they went the better I was pleased. I should explain to those of my readers not versed in the ways of farming that there were no reins to the front horse. He was governed by touches of the whip, or by various calls. They all were trained to this language and, only the bad ones amongst them would cause any trouble by refusing to acknowledge this language and, more often than not, temper was the cause of their troubles. I remember having a young colt amongst the team one day, and this colt was not used to the language.  When I shouted for him  to go  forward  he  came  round  to  where  I  was  walking  beside his shoulder.

 

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 I was not expecting this, and consequently he trod on my foot. I can never remember how I got out of the way of the team when this happened.

It was a boy's job to cart water from the water pit to the stock-yards. This was done with a water-tank on wheels pulled by one horse, a rotary pump being out of the question in those times. The water had to be drawn up by the old-style pump. I used to ride on the horse's back and guide him into the pit, and back the tank up to the deep part so it was not so far for me to lift the jet. A good horse would pull this load out of the pit but another would refuse, and that meant getting another horse to pull with him to shift the load. This meant, with the procedure I followed, that I either had to sit there till someone came to find out what had happened to the water-cart, or get wet in going for help. I have had the latter experience.

   
   a horseless watercart  

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© Gillian Read
Keeper of her grandfather's autobiography.
No reproduction without her permission.

Val Fiddian 2005