Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


On Being Henry

When I developed Double Rafter Cattle Drives, I purchased a chuck wagon which we moved from camp to camp on a flatbed trailer. When guests asked the whereabouts of our team, we suggested they were suffering from strangles, but were expected to be under harness the next year; an excuse which only works for one year. Between seasons I acquired a mule team.

Amos and Andy were a mid-sized, black team and the $2400 package deal included two running-age mules, harnesses complete with sleigh bells, and a 45 minute crash-course in harnessing, hitching and driving…crash-course being an incredibly descriptive term. In my early years of mule skinning, my learning curve was nearly vertical and just when I thought I had seen it all, I saw something new; eventually deciding rough stock rodeo events are pony rides compared to the thrill of a wagon run-away. The old adage, “the empty wagon makes the most noise” is unbelievably true as wooden wagon wheels rocketing down a gravel road behind a run-away team make an incredible racket. In spite of all my harrowing run-aways, had it not been for my cattle drive endeavor, this important piece of my western heritage could have been lost. As with mule skinning, the art of driving an ox team is also disappearing, which is sad because it too played a critical role in our nation’s history. Here is how.

America would not be all she is today, had it not been for an ox drover named Henry. Previously tempered by the Battle of Bunker Hill, Henry left his day job as a book clerk to serve in General George Washington’s Continental Army; a relationship which matured into a lifelong friendship. It was the winter of 1776 and the siege of Boston found General Howe and the British forces confined to Boston Harbor while General Washington controlled Dorchester Heights, the high ground above the harbor. After securing His Excellency’s permission, Henry organized a small group of volunteers and trekked 150 miles north to Fort Ticonderoga, a formerly British stronghold now held by American patriots. Using ox sleds, Henry and company lugged 50 British cannons and nearly 60 tons of ammunition the 150 miles over the snow covered countryside back to General Washington. Re-read that sentence because it brings me to my point.

The magnitude of Henry’s accomplishment is noteworthy not because of the distance or conditions under which he drove his ox sleds, but because he was a volunteer commanding a volunteer force. Our war for independence could have collapsed even before we declared our independence, had it not been for patriots like Henry Knox. Colonel Knox and his artillery played key roles in nearly every battle from 1776 to the final surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781, and he was just a book clerk from Boston who had a passion for liberty. Our nation was founded by ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things and she will be restored to her greatness by the same. As 2015 begins, resolve to be this generation’s Henry Knox. Be the patriot who goes above and beyond the call of duty to restore our great republic.


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