Editor’s note:  My job allows me to visit places and see things that not everyone knows about.  While at the Alvirne Farm with fifth graders a couple of weeks ago, I met “the boys” and “teamsters,” Molly Wilson and Pat Berrigan.  Going back to visit on a rainy Thursday I captured some photos and Molly provided some words about the team.  Following Molly’s words there is a short history about steer in the American farm.

The Biggest Babies on the Farm

by Molly Wilson

Indy noses up to the camera while Pendant looks on

Steer power, a form of old school power that few people even think of doing in the modern day and age.  Many people are amazed with what these two animals can do when they work.  Indy and Pendent, IndyPendent together, are examples of this old school power that has been left in the dust since the tractor and diesel engine came around.  Kept at the Alvirne High School Farm in Hudson, they are the most amazing animals you will ever meet.  Intimidating when you see the horns and sheer size of them, weighing in at 900 pounds when they are only 11 months old on June 1.  They weren’t always that big, when born a baby cow, a calf, weighs about 150 pounds.  Indy was born on the farm and his mom, Angel Ann, is still there, however, Pendent was bought to be a good match for Indy.  You want the steer to be close in age, so they will be close in size and have close pulling power.  We are lucky to have steer that are only three days apart in age from each other; Pendent was born on July 1, 2008, and Indy was born July 4, 2008.  That is how they got their name IndyPendent.  In fact, their colors are red, white, and blue, and if you put both their ear tattoo numbers together you get 1776, Indy’s being 17, and Pendent’s being 76.  Yes, this was all done on purpose. 

When they are born though, they have no horns and are as cute as can be.  Now “the boys,” as they are affectionately called by their two handlers, Pat Berrigan and myself, have horns that are 6-inches long on each side.  These big boys don’t eat as much as you would think, comparatively to their size; they go through only a bale a day, eating half for breakfast and half for dinner.  And as for grain they get only four scoops all together throughout the day, two in the morning and two at night.  Hopefully they will reach their full potential at 3 years old and end up being 2,000 pounds each.  Indy and Pendent do everything together, from eating to sleeping to working to playing.  They aren’t that hard to keep either.  They require hoof trimming once a year if their feet get long, food, water, and a shelter. 

Training, however, is a different story; they are different from any other animal and have different commands.  To them, stop is “whoa”, moving left is “haw”, right is “gee”, and to get them to move forward is “step up”, and to backwards is “back up”.  Once they know something though they will not forget it easily, and can be trained to do just about everything.  Indy and Pendent at the school are being trained to pull, and overall obedience for the Hillsborough County Fair they will be attending with me.  There are a few people who have made this dream a reality for Pat and me.  Working steer need constant training by people who are willing and able, at a school farm it has to be the students’ initiatives that start it off, but the teacher is the one who made everything a reality to this wild dream.  That teacher was the current Farm Manager Ms. Jessica Edwards.  She introduced the fair showing to students last year and that is the reasons there will be students going this year.  She took us to see the calf that would turn into the big steer that you see today, Pendent.  So don’t be afraid to come down and see and pet the steer.  They are amongst the friendliest cows on the farm and just love to see people.

An ox, to early American farmers who used the beast, was a mature, castrated male belonging to the domestic cattle family, or genus Bos, most likely trained (like draft horses, some never got trained) to work, and at the end of its life inevitably used for meat.

A steer, by contrast, is also a castrated male of the genus Bos, but is a younger animal that may not be trained, or may not be strong and mature enough for hard work.  In the United States a steer is not considered an ox until it is four years old, by which time it is considered large enough and mature enough for any work required of it.

Indy, Pendent, and their handlers, Pat Berrigan and Molly Wilson.

In Australia and elsewhere, an ox is a called a “bullock.”  Same beast, but a different culture.  New England teamsters sometimes call oxen “bulls,” even though the animals have been castrated.

To be culturally and historically accurate when defining an ox, we must use the “right” definition as provided by the Random House Dictionary, which says that an ox is “The adult castrated male of the genus Bos used as a draft animal and for food.”

Although, by United States standards, this definition is correct culturally, historically, and scientifically, it has its problems.  Only two species in the genus Bos used for work are called “oxen.”  Bos indicus (Zebu-type cattle with humps) and Bos taurus, the European breeds (no humps).  Other species in the genus Bos, such as yaks, may be worked, but are not called “oxen.”

To define the word “ox” as encompassing all animals in the bovine family would include a lot of species that are not even domesticated.  And it would include both males and females.  This might be acceptable in some broad, casual context, but not if scrutinized by ox teamsters and agricultural historians in the United States.  Most oxen weigh about the same as a mature bull of the same breed, but the ox grows taller and leaner in the neck and chest.  The following breeds and crossbreeds are most commonly used as oxen in the United States today:

The Holstein is the most popular dairy breed in the United States, therefore is easy for a teamster to find in most areas.  Holsteins have an agreeable disposition and as oxen they get quite large.  The breed comes in many color patterns, most commonly black and white, but sometimes red and white.

  • Color:  black and white or red and white
  • Average mature weight: 
    • Ox:  2,500 pounds
    • Bull:  2,300 pounds
    • Cow:  1,500 pounds
  • Temperament:  Docile

The bigger the baby the wetter the kiss.

A Friend Needs Our Thoughts and Prayers

by Lynne Ober

More than a week after a serious car accident involving two cars, one driven by Hudson resident Rhona Charbonneau, Charbonneau remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA.

The vehicle driven by Charbonneau was hit as it crossed Main Street in downtown Nashua.  Rhona was originally taken to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center for evaluation and then air-lifted to Mass General Hospital where she endured a nine-hour surgery to repair her broken back and her broken neck.  According to family members, a rod was placed in her back and she has movement in all of her limbs.

However, Rhona is facing more surgery and a long rehab process.  While her condition is stable, it was also still critical, and doctors were monitoring her improvement before setting dates for the follow-on surgery.

Rhona was a fixture at many community events and had a ready smile for all.  Everyone in Hudson knew to call Rhona if they had a problem.  She has a depth of knowledge that she freely shares with one and all.  Rhona has long given of herself and her time to the residents of Hudson.  She was a long-time selectman, served one term as a state representative, before serving a number of terms as state senator.  When she finally left the Senate she ran for county commissioner, a position that allowed her to work with Hudson and the other towns she served.  Many areas in those towns benefited from county grants.  Go to Pelham and see the skate park or to Library Street School and see the playground.  Those, and other projects, received funding when Charbonneau was county commissioner. 

Although she cannot have visitors, nor can she have flowers while she remains in the Intensive Care Unit, cards can be sent to her home (2 Old Derry Road, Hudson, NH 03051) or to Continental Hair Academie (102 Derry Street, Hudson, NH 03051).  Family members are taking the cards to the hospital and reading them to her, which she acknowledges with a squeeze of their hand. 

A Penny Saved Is…

Alexander plays with a small portion of the pennies

When Grandpa started collecting pennies about fifty years ago, no one would have guessed the problems, and amazement they would bring to three year old Alexander.

David Christopher passed away last month.  Alexander, his grandson, inherited $614.58 all in pennies.

David filled two six-gallon water jugs to the brim with pennies.  It was impossible to lift them and hard to make the opening big enough to get the pennies out.  Mom and Dad used a crow bar and whatever other tool they could think of to get those pennies out of the jugs.  Slowly, very slowly, mom and dad managed to release the pennies into bowls, pots, pans, and whatever else was accessible to a point, at least where the jugs where light enough to lift.

The question then arose… where do we bring 385 pounds of pennies?  After many phone calls and conversations with different people, it was discovered that the Granite State Credit Union at Alvirne High School was the only place in town that had a coin counter and would not charge a fee to count the coins. 

A quick phone call to Petra Provencal, Branch Supervisor of Granite State Credit Union at Alvirne, made by Alex’s “Auntie Ra-Ra”, who is acquainted with Petra through her husband, a Hudson firefighter like Alex’s “Uncle Gug”, confirmed that the pennies  could be brought there.  When Petra asked how many pennies we were talking about, “Ra-Ra” said “oh about 400 pounds.”  Petra (title) said, “Ok sure, bring them on over and the students can put them through the coin counter for you.”

Tuesday morning dawned and an excited Alexander helped load the car up with the pennies (the tires went down just a bit), and it was off to Alvirne.

Mom, Auntie, and Alex went into the bank, met with Petra, and as she looked at them with empty hands she asked, “where are the pennies?” She was told, “No really, there are a lot of pennies; we weren’t joking.  Can someone help us bring them in?”  Petra sent out seniors Brianna Martin and Ryan Carpenter to bring the pennies in with the help of Uncle Gug and a dolly as the fifty year old treasure made it’s way into the Granite State Credit Union.

After Petra and the other stuents Meghan Barry and Christine Belles looked astonished at the amount of coins, Provnecial gave Alex a quick lesson on how the counting machine works.  She helped him pour in the coins, and even let him push the button to start the machine.  He got to watch them go round and round, and then he was shown how they seperated and fall into bags below.

Research shows that approximately 160 pennies equals a pound depending on the year of issue.  Grandpa was an avid coin collector, and you can bet no coin went unturned.  Each was examined prior to making it’s way into the bucket after it was established to have a value of no more than one cent. 

Everyone and anyone who knew Dave, knew him as a jokester with a big heart.  He loved Alexander, as he did all of his grandchildren.  Alex’s mom and dad are convinced that Dave was enjoying the last laugh watching them struggle to turn his passion and Alexander’s treasure into a foundation for his future.

The smile on Alex’s face proved the saying true….  “find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.”  Thanks Grandpa, I love you!

St. Francis Students Visit State House

The students at Saint Francis of Assisi School in Litchfield recently visited the State House and the New Hampshire Historical Museum.  These third and fourth graders enjoyed the tour of the State House.  They were in awe at seeing the actual flags that went into battle.  They enjoyed seeing what it was like to vote on something.  They also had the experience of meeting Governor Lynch!  He spoke with them for a few minutes, which was very nice.

At the Historical Museum, students got to see an actual wigwam, dugout canoe, and a host of other actual artifacts from the Native Americans.  Students got to see an actual corset and were very surprised to learn that men during colonial times wore them as well!

All in all, it was a fantastic culminating activity to our New Hampshire history.  Mrs. Jones, third grade teacher, and Mrs. McNeill, fourth grade teacher, would like to extend a sincere thank you to all the people at the Historical Museum and State House who made this fantastic field trip happen!

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