Fair People: Frank Bruce, Bondville Fair

09/10/05 12:00AM By Susan Keese
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(Host) One of the oldest fair traditions is the ox pull. It's easy to imagine Vermont's first settlers, who had little else, vying for bragging rights over whose animals could draw the biggest load.

Frank Bruce is a retired farmer from Wallingford. He judges ox pulls at several Vermont fairs. We found him near the pulling track at the far end of the Bondville Fairgrounds.

We continue our series on "Fair People..."

(Bruce) "My name is Frank Bruce and I'm the judge of the ox pull. I really have draft horses but I come down here to help the Bondville Fair out and the next thing I knew I was running the ox pull. I do Rutland Fair too. I do the horse ox and pony pull, and I don't get paid for it, I just volunteer."

(Loudspeaker) "Okay, we're gong to get the ox pull underway "

(Bruce) "They used to do a lot of farm work with oxen. When I was a young boy, seven or eight years old, they had a lot of oxen back then. And oxen went out like horses did when tractors come. They found out oxen were too slow and then they used horses. And then they find out they were too slow and now they use tractors -- and bigger and bigger.

"Everybody likes to see ox pull. A lot of people say they are dumb but they're not too dumb. They know who owns 'em and what they're saying to them.

"We got some black ones over here that probably weigh close to sixty-hundred, the team, and they'll be driving them with just a stick.

"They are cattle, you know. They were born a bull and they're castrated and they're steers then, oxen. A lot of 'em castrate 'em and raise 'em as steers for meat. But these guys have trained them to pull on a boat.

"That's a stone boat sittin' right out there with a hook on each end. We'll put blocks on that and they got to pull it six feet. They'll have a chain down between 'em and they'll have a man hook it on that hook."

(Sound of oxen being chained.)

"Hup, hup - you got it, full pull."

(Bruce) "And we'll keep loading the boat and loading the boat and the last team that moves it the farthest will be the winner."

(Loudspeaker) "Okay we just added another 880 pounds to the boat, that brings it to 4,080 pounds...."

(Driver, straining) "All right, get in there. Bill Bart, get in there."

(Loudspeaker) "Sixty-two inches and the winning team right there!"

(Sound of applause.)

(Bruce) "I enjoy it. You see a lot of people, you know. You'll see them now and you won't see them till a year from now. You know, there's a lot of nice people around fairs, especially with the horses and the oxen."

(Host) Our story on Frank Bruce was produced by VPR's Susan Keese.
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