Today is Sunday, April 30, 2017

Parting the Canebrakes

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As I have repeatedly told you, some stories must be told in their entirety, not just snippets of the story.

Long gone are the valued historians such as Dixon Lanier Merrit, G. Frank Burns, Herman Eskew Jr., Richard and Virginia Lawlor, Ellen Taylor Schlink and J. Bill Frame.

Development of agriculture

The story of the development of agriculture in Wilson County might be told in terms of legumes - from wild pea vines to button clover.

When the pioneer settlers came, they turned their cattle and horses loose to fatten until frost on lush pastures of wild peas.

Then the animals took to the all but endless brakes of tall cane, which furnished both winter feed and winter shelter. The cane persisted as a prime source of winter pasturage almost until the 20th century. It still persists in isolated, stunted patches.

But, somewhere far back, the wild pea disappeared. Nobody knows why or even exactly when. Nobody knows even exactly what it was.

There followed for more than a century a struggle for another perennial legume that might be reaped where it had not been sown.

There were endless trials of imported peas, of numerous clovers - red, white, Alsike, crimson, the sweet clovers and many, many near relatives of the true clovers alike, crimson, the sweet clovers for a persistent self-seeding leke.

Most succeeded measurably and for varying periods, but none was very long persistent.

Then with seeming suddenness, button clover was here. No man planted it, no man knows whence, how or exactly when it came.

Not until after 1930 was it recognized - growing wild on rocky wastes within the town of Lebanon - as the seeming end of the long quest for a persistent, self-seeding legume.

Geers and the Hals

Two events occurred in Wilson County, unrelated at the time.

One was the birth of Ed Geers and the other was a bay horse, brought into the county in the spring of 1850. Each was to make the other famous, and each was to gain everlasting place in the history of harness racing.

Edward Franklin Geers was born Jan. 25, 1851, three miles west of Lebanon and the Lebanon and Nashville Turnpike.

Beginning in 1872 at the Wilson County Fair, when he drove "Little Dave" to victory in three minutes and four seconds, until 1924 when he died of injuries sustained in a race in Wheeling, W.V., Ed Geers blazed a trail of victories unsurpassed by any harness racer.

He watched the speed of trotting and pacing horses increase from a mile in two minutes and 30 seconds to a mile in less than two minutes.

Modest and unassumingly quiet to the point of shyness, he was the sulky behind many of these fast horses during the years when harness racing was a national pastime.

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