June 04, 2014 | 10:47 AM
From the beginning of the haypress demonstrations at O'Bannon Woods State Park, Novy Hubbard has been an integral part of the operation.
On May 24, Hubbard led his Texas Longhorn Lester around the haypress for the final time, in front of a packed barn full of onlookers and admirers.
Before the demonstration began, Hubbard and his daughter, Sheri, both of Lanesville, received a standing ovation and a commemorative plaque.
Just before Hubbard started walking the ox, audience member Sue Cline said the love affair between Hubbard and his oxen began when he saw some outside the window of a Bob Evans restaurant 40 years ago.
Hubbard said one day he'd like to have some oxen of his own.
"And now, 40 years later, 12 steers, too many parades to mention, 10 years here running the haypress at O'Bannon Woods, he's hanging it up," Cline said. "We wish to say thank you for all that you've done ... all the good times you've shown us and letting us look at your oxen with the big horns. For a big man with a big heart, thank you."
Also before the demonstration began, Jarrett Manek, the naturalist at O'Bannon Woods, recognized the "Tuesday guys," a group of volunteers who help make the park what it is today, and gave each a commemorative plaque.
O'Bannon Woods State Park is home to the only restored and operational haypress open to the public. When it was restored and placed on the property about 10 years ago (it was originally located closer to Leavenworth about a mile up from the mouth of Blue River), the only thing missing was the oxen to run the thing.
"You can't just go down to the local feed store or Walmart and buy an ox," Manek said.
That's where Hubbard came in.
Hubbard had oxen and had no problem letting them, and himself, take part in the haypress demonstrations. And he's been doing it ever since.
Manek said very few people can work Texas Longhorns because they're an aggressive bunch.
The park has since purchased its own oxen, first Andy, who was 18 when he was donated in 2003 by a couple in northern Indiana, then Forest and Gump, to run the haypress. Forest and Gump, along with Manek and, from time-to-time Hubbard, will continue to run the haypress operation.
Haypresses were popular in the 1800s in Southern Indiana. At this particular press in its original position in Leavenworth, the hay would be pressed then sent down a chute to barges on the river for shipment to wherever it was needed to feed horses, oxen and donkeys in a growing, young nation.
The haypress starts with the well-trained ox going in a counterclockwise direction pulling the sweep, which raises the weight. After workers fill the back of the haypress with hay, the weight is dropped, compressing the hay to be baled. The free-fall weight weighs about 250 to 300 pounds.
Manek said the dropping of the weight is one of the most unique sounds anyone will ever hear.
Hubbard is selling all of his oxen in an auction on Saturday, June 21. The auction, which will include five full-stock Texas Longhorns, will be at his residence at 2727 Highway 11 near Lanesville and will begin at 9 a.m. Other items to be sold include a conestoga wagon, farm accessories for oxen, horse and tractor, truck camper, five-wheel trailer, two farm trucks (Ford F-350), sleds, ox dump cart, Fred Flintstone cart, yokes and bows, antique farm accessories and a 1950s tractor. For more information about the auction, call auctioneer Doug Harrit at 1-812-944-0217.