An icon passed from this earth last week, an icon from my childhood.
I remember, as a child, attending the Great Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport and all the fun that entailed (that’s another blog to write). But every year we looked forward to the day and night that the great draft horses would come to perform. We watched first the halter classes and guess at the horse with the best conformation. Later we enjoyed watching the draft pulls, where the horses competed at pulling weights. We’d cheer and yell to help them pull ever heavier weights until finally the winner emerged.
Then at night came the big attraction. All of the various companies entered the hitch classes. First it would be a buggy with one horse, then a two-horse hitch with a wagon. Finally it was the big hitches, the four and six-horse hitches. We sat in the stands judging our favorites and condemning the others. We’d cheer and clap to signify our favorites and complain when the true judges picked someone different.
Well, one of those competitors was Dick Sparrow of Zearing, Iowa. He was one of the favorites every year. He drove palomino Belgians that were always matched to perfection. The rig would shine in the stadium lighting and the harnesses glistened. The sound of those large hooves pounding the earth shook the entire stadium. Sparrow was most famous for his 40-horse hitch which travelled around the country for special exhibitions. It is said that when he drove that bunch he had 5 reins in each hand!
Last week we lost Dick Sparrow. It seems like a part of my life has died along with him but his family continues the tradition. They continue to raise the best of horses and are most gracious to visitors to the farm. I’ve even read that they are big on training future draft horse drivers. Many of his sons and daughters are still in “the business” showing and raising draft horses around the Midwest. The Sparrow legend lives on.
For more information see the Des Moines Register’s coverage at:
They also have a blog with more information about Sparrow’s life: