|Brandt Ainsworth's Hickory Bows- with bark.|
Never was the answer given instead of a solid reason, but alongside one. Duane Westrate is a first-rate horseman, and while he's reluctant to change things, that's not because he's a Luddite; He's got a process that works, and change-for-change's-sake doesn't fit with his worldview. Brandt Ainsworth, who was visiting as the lead instructor for the class, used the phrase in a similar way, more like: "It's done this way because it works to do it this way," rather than: "We do it this way as an homage to the past, and now please don't step on my leather shoe buckles or knock over my whale oil lamp."
In a nutshell, if you're going to change, do it for a good reason.
|A crop is durable. And will stand in the snow.|
This leads to a thorny problem I'm wrestling with: a crop or a goad. I've always used a nylon "crop" (Buggy whip, lash, etc.) because Dulcy used one and she taught me to drive oxen. They're readily available, cheap, and durable (I haven't bought one in a couple of years), but they lack a certain style, they can be inaccurate for correcting an animal, and they're a bit manic in their motion. A goad stick lacks the reach of a crop and the ability to crack in the air but possesses a steadiness and authority that's hard to deny.
Ivy Pagliari, Tillers' on-staff oxen teamster, spent a little time in New England this winter and came back with a nice, White Oak goad stick. She commented on how well it was working for her and so I spent all of Sunday using it with a single ox and with the yearlings.
|Frank, Sparrow, Ivy, Goad|
The jury isn't back yet, but I may switch to a goad stick for an extended time. Woodworking writer Christopher Schwarz advises that when you build a workbench, you should spend a full year working at it before you change a thing about it. Then you'll know what works and what doesn't. I like my crop, but don't love my crop.
What to do? My grandfather didn't drive oxen. Stay tuned, I guess.
|A twisted goad I'm working on. Steam-bent Ash|