Get a Horse!
As mentioned in previous articles, family genealogy is more than names and dates. Family stories, whether they are closer to folklore (Hungry Sam) or nearer to fact (One Silver Dollar), add spice to the enjoyment of one’s family history. Family stories as told by older family members are just as important as “who begat whom and when”; and they need to be recorded so that future generations can enjoy and learn from them.
William Jacob Roat was born in 1872 and died in 1932. He was married in 1902 to Kathryn Jane Hagenbuch, daughter of Hiram and Mary Ann “Lindner” Hagenbuch. Kathryn was born in 1879 and died in 1961. She and “Will” had one son, Paul, who was married to Lulu Belle Mast.
Paul and Lulu had no children. Paul was also a farmer and was an Allis Chalmers tractor dealer. Kathryn “Hagenbuch” Roat’s brother was Percy Hagenbuch (b. 1880) and, therefore, a brother-in-law to Will Roat. For more information on Percy Hagenbuch, see A Boy Becomes a Genealogist.
The following story was told by Bruice Hagenbuch to Mark Hagenbuch in 1970:
Uncle Will Roat was one of the first farmers in the area of Limestoneville to own a tractor. Now, Uncle Will was always sort of an irritable fellow – never really knew how he and Aunt Katie got along because she was such a sweet aunt. Anyway, back then in the early 1900s sort of like today, the Hagenbuchs had adjoining farms. The road to Uncle Will’s farm was also connected to Uncle Perce’s farm.
It wasn’t that Uncle Perce was against modernization. He saw the possible worth in tractors. But, he was a good man with horses. So, unlike Uncle Will, he wasn’t yet ready to buy a tractor.
It’s important to note that the other part of this story has to do with how Uncle Will and Uncle Perce got along. Uncle Perce got along with everyone but wasn’t against egging someone on who might be in a bad mood most of the time. And speaking of bad moods, well, that was Uncle Will.
One day, Uncle Will drove his new tractor down the connector road. In the distance, he could see Uncle Perce headed straight towards him with a team of horses pulling a wagon of straw. Of course, knowing Uncle Will’s demeanor and also knowing the road was a bit sunken, you would think that Uncle Perce would pull off to the side and let Uncle Will pass.
Although Uncle Will was proud of his modern equipment, he also understood its shortcomings. He knew that it would be easier for Perce’s horses to continue around him than it would be for him to go off the road with the tractor.
Well, the two of them came right up on each other head-to-head, or rather horse-to-tractor! Uncle Will had a few choice words for Uncle Perce, telling him to get off the road so he could pass. But, Uncle Perce just smiled and told his brother-in-law that he had just as much right to the road and wasn’t about to go around. At that point, to add insult to injury, Uncle Will’s tractor stopped running – dead!
Uncle Will jumped off the seat and, although he must have known something about mechanics, he didn’t know enough to tinker with the right mechanisms to get that tractor started. Later on when this story was told among the neighbors (always with a lot of laughs), there was also the possibility that the tractor had run out of gas. That could never be proven. If it had, that would have been an even greater embarrassment to Uncle Will and a greater sense of enjoyment for Uncle Perce!
Perce watched Will tinker around, trying to start that new machine. He probably even smiled and chortled a bit as wrenches banged and tires were kicked in anger. But, the tractor just wouldn’t start and so it wasn’t moving. The road was blocked, horse head to tractor engine. Uncle Perce let his team of horses munch the grass at the side of the road. He may have wiped them down for a bit as the sun rose overhead and the air grew closer.
During this wait, Perce just bided his time, talked to his horses, sat down and watched Will fret and fume, fanned himself with his straw hat, walked around the tractor, and grinned a lot. No one is sure how long it took Uncle Will to finally suggest to Perce (not ask, not beg) that he might hitch the tractor to the team of horses and pull it back to the farm. No one knows what the exact words were. But finally Uncle Will’s attitude changed and Uncle Perce’s smile got wider. He agreed to pull off the road, turn the team around, and pull that tractor for his, now humbled, brother-in-law.
Within a short time, Uncle Perce was sitting on that tractor seat with a team of horses hitched to the unresponsive machine, reins in hand, while Uncle Will stood beside him on the axle working the steering wheel. The horses plodded along pulling the tractor, Perce, and Will.
Once at Uncle Will’s farm, the horses were unhitched, and he began tinkering again with the tractor trying to start it so as not to lose complete face to Perce. Not a word of thanks was heard from Uncle Will, just grumbling until Perce walked up to him, stuck out his hand, and told Will he was glad to help.
Now, Uncle Will wasn’t a mean man; it was just his nature to be grumpy and unemotional. So, finally he looked at Perce, who still had that big smile on his face, and grasped his hand. Will softened his countenance a bit and told Perce, “Thanks.”
Perce, having to get in the last word, replied with something like, “Tractors need fixin’. Horses don’t!” It’s also been said that as he turned to walk away, he mumbled that next time Will should make sure the tractor was filled with gasoline, since a team of horses can always find a mouthful of grass!