Valley Life » Historical Horseplay with One Spade

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Photo by Elise Modrovich
Reid Hopkins, left, and Forest Manning Jr., right, take a 'Fresno Scraper' around the arena. Hopkins explained that these scrapers were historically used to dig ditches and maintain roads in the valley.
On Tuesday, July 25, the Kern River Valley Historical Society welcomed the One Spade Youth Packers (OSYP) to the Kernville Rodeo Grounds for a demonstration and history lesson as part of their yearlong 50th anniversary celebration. Also on hand for the event were members of the Sheriff's Activity League (SAL), American Legion Riders and Auxiliary Chapter 711, the Rotary Club of the Kern River Valley and interested members of the community.

The Historical Society's mission is to promote and preserve the history of the Kern River Valley, "and they do an outstanding job of it," said Robert Rusby, president of the Rotary Club of the KRV. The recently completed Museum Annex located on Big Blue Road across from the original Museum location is now open to the public. The Annex houses the Ardis Walker Collection, including the newly discovered priceless Fremont Map, the Bob Powers Collection, as well as the Museum's own extensive collection. "We've always had so much to share, but we didn't have a place to make it accessible," says the Museum's curator, Dianne Anderson, quickly adding, "But there's plenty of room for more. We always welcome donations."

After kids from SAL led the gathering in the pledge of allegiance, Reid Hopkins, founder and mentor of the OSYP, took the reins. Literally. Aided by OSYP member Forest Manning, Jr., Hopkins led a mule team that was rarin' to go around the arena hitched to a "Fresno Scraper." Hopkins explained that "all the ditches dug in the South Fork and Smith Ranch were done with Fresno Scrapers, and back in the day, all the roads were maintained with it, too."

Following this lively and dusty demonstration, Hopkins took a break to get his wind back and talk about the OSYP. "Overall, it's a leadership and character development program," Hopkins said. "But it also teaches the kids an understanding and cooperation with the animals, teamwork, and our history." He motioned to the mules and the equipment all used in the days before the advent of tractors and other mechanized farm machinery. "All of this is historically significant." He wiped the sweat from his brow. "And the kids learn how hard their ancestors worked, too."

OSYP'ers Lauretta Pickerell and Jillian Barr brought out "Sadie" and "Maggie," the mule team that led Smokey Bear at this year's Rose Parade in Pasadena. Other members of the OSYP team, including Manning, Ed Bowen, Luke Barr, Kirk "Hoss" Hagle, David Clawson and Leana Virto all pitched in to hitch the mules to a 1916 International Disc, the purpose of which, as Hopkins explained, was to "break up the clods after planting," a vital part of preparing the soil for sowing seeds. Manning then led the team around the arena so the crowd could see it in action. The OSYP group also demonstrated how to do a "Box Hitch" and a "Diamond Hitch," fundamental skills needed when working with mule teams.

The sun was setting on the warm and breezy late July evening, and the appreciative crowd, the kids and the mules were ready to pack it up and go home. All the attendees walked away suitably impressed with the skills and hard work displayed by the OSYP team. "What better way to celebrate our history than watch these kids recreate our history," smiled Anderson.

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