A skidder sits idle as Mike Sproul prepares to lead his team of steer into the woods, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Waldoboro, Maine. He uses the animals to twitch logs a couple days a week and uses heavy machinery the other days. Buy Photo
"It's just a hobby," says Mike Sproul, a seventh-generation farmer who logs, plows fields and competes at fairs with Bright and Star, a pair of 3-year-old Red Durham steers. The animals will classified as oxen when they turn 4. Buy Photo
Mike Sproul ducks under a beam as he leads Star out of the barn, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Waldoboro, Maine. Some of the dozens of ribbons he's won in pulling contests at fairs are displayed above. Buy Photo
Mike Sproul leads his Red Durham steers, Bright and Star, across the road at his farm, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Waldoboro, Maine. Sproul is the seventh generation of his family to work the land on his family's 220 acres. Buy Photo
WALDOBORO, Maine — Logger Mike Sproul leads his 2,400-pound team of steer into the woods, passing by a skidder parked on the edge of a field. The heavy machinery could twitch more logs in less time — but it has never won him any ribbons. So today Bright and Star, a pair of three-year-old Red Durhams, get to go to work.
Sproul’s family settled in here in the 1700s. He’s the seventh generation to work the family’s 220-acre farm. A distant relative served as a bodyguard to George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Sproul says working and training the steer is just a hobby. (They’ll be called oxen when they reach age 4.) This winter he used them about twice a week. He figures that’s just enough to stay in shape for the eight or nine pulling contests they’ll compete in at fairs later this year.