Ben Franklin said that to call an American an Englishman was like calling an ox a bull — he appreciates the compliment, but he’d rather have back what is rightfully his.
If you understand what has to be removed from a bull to make it into an ox, you understand.
Ben probably never commented about what the feeling is for horses that are called an ox, but presumably they would not appreciate it — especially if they were NOT geldings!
At any rate, this past week the Tribune sort of called horses oxen in connection with the early farming monument that was initiated by late historian “Jiggs” Schulz.
The Breaking the Sod monument will feature an early farmer and horses, not oxen, but who cares?
Historians, that’s who.
Oxen played a crucial role in the very early history of this region.
This was an important point on the Santa Fe Train, which was a commerce trail and which brought freighters through this region. They would routinely stop here because there was reliable water and forage for their oxen.
Because they were traveling such long distances over such a long period of time, oxen were preferable to horses, even if they did not move fast. They moved cheaply.
Later, when farming began in earnest in this region, the area was served by the railroad. You got freight here the same way you got it 20 miles outside of any big city in the nation. You got it by railroad.
If you wanted horses, you could get them, along with everything you needed to maintain them.
By the time the sod was being broken out, the farmers were using horses.
That is why they are the appropriate addition to this monument.
The point is, there’s a reason for it and it’s a reason that Jiggs understood precisely. He understood the different roles these two creatures played in the development of this part of the nation. Their stories are tied up in our story, and it’s important because it impacts where this region’s culture came from.
It is part of who we are as a people, and Jiggs understood that a strong people are impacted by their past, and so must learn it and learn it accurately.
That is why it makes a difference whether the monument has oxen or horses, because we should know where we came from as a community.
Oxen still played a huge role, but that is probably best left for another monument.
— Chuck Smith