Fair People: Tyke Frost, Caledonia County Fair

09/13/05 12:00AM By John Dillon
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(Host) Over the last week in our series on Fair People, we've heard many voices from the young woman showing her heifer in Cornish to the demolition derby driver in Rutland.

Today in our conclusion, we have the story of Tyke Frost, who drives a team of six Belgian horses at county fairs all over the east. Frost learned his horse-handling skills from his father and grandfather.

We found him at the Caledonia County Fair in Lyndonville.

(Sound of horse reins and hoofs)

(Frost) "I'm Tyke Frost. We have a six-horse hitch. We represent the Fernald Lumber Corporation from Nottingham, New Hampshire. We spend about 200 days every year on the road traveling to fairs, festivals, parades. Everywhere there's people having a good time we're likely to show up."

"The hitches are a wonderful American tradition, although there's not a whole lot of us left any more. Probably the glory days of the hitches occurred from about the late 1890s to the 1930s. And during that period, a draft horse hitch was considered to be the best way to promote or advertise a product or a company. And every American company that was anything at all was represented by a draft horse hitch, even to the point where products were named for the hitches. Examples of that would be the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, named for their blue ribbon horses. Genesee had a 12 horse ale, and they were represented with a 12-horse Belgian hitch."

"This is Viceroy. He's a big horse. He weighs 2,390. He stands 18.2, that six foot two at the shoulder. He's my troublemaker. But he's always up and ready to go. The horse in front of him is Chief; he's a young horse, he's only three years old. But Chief is a laid back. He needs to be inspired and pushed a little bit."

"I'm going to swing them around so we can get into position here to harness. Okay, Mark!"

"I haven't found anything I really don't like about this job. I used to watch my Dad and my Granddad drive. And I'd think if I could do that, I would be on top of the world, and nothing could be grander or greater than doing that."

"But aside from that, the horses have taken me places that I never would have visited without them. And I've met people that I never would have met without them - incredible, wonderful, wonderful folks."

"A couple years ago I was in Maine and the crew said there's a fellow here we'd like you to meet, Tyke. And I went over, there's an elderly gentlemen. Shook hands with him. And the crew said, this fellow used to drive a six-horse hitch. And I said there's no doubt about that, he just crushed my hand."

"He was a gentleman in his 90s. And he rode on the wagon with me. And when we left Maine, he came by the tent and he said I want to thank you for the opportunity. He said my wife died 18 years ago, and he said the day I rode with you is the best day I've had since my wife died. And when you have an opportunity to touch people, to me it's very rewarding."

(Grandstand announcer: Here they are, ladies and gentlemen, the pride and joy of the Fernald Lumber Company, the Fernald Lumber Yankee Hitch .)

"(Frost) I guess I never wanted to do anything else. See, we get paid to go to places other people pay to go. How bad a job can that be?"

Host) Our story on Tyke Frost was produced by VPR's John Dillon.

The production engineers for Fair People were Sam Sanders and Chris Albertine.

Caledonia County Fair
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