If you take a stroll down the scenic Duke of Gloucester Street, you may see a new face driving the oxen around town. And while he’s new to the Coach & Livestock family, he’s no stranger to Colonial Williamsburg.
Many of you will recognize Cameron Green from Great Hopes Plantation, where he worked as a farmer for nearly a year. That’s where I met him and learned so much about 18th-century farming. You can read more about my weekend adventures here.
Cameron came to Williamsburg from Fort Ticonderoga in his home state of New York in May of 2015. “I was the Assistant Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga and was responsible for their horticultural and military programs,” he told me. “One of my last initiatives at Fort Ticonderoga was launching their own rare breeds program.”
It’s no surprise he would be so great with preserving our own heritage breeds. If you’d like to donate to help take care of our wonderful animals, click here! Just be sure to put in the comments that you’d like your gift to go specifically to the Rare Breeds Program. Every little bit helps us continue to preserve their history and means so much to us. In fact, we were able to acquire Pat and Mike as well as Eddie and Dylan thanks to very special donors like you! Make sure you state in the comments that you’d like your donation restricted to the Rare Breeds program.
Recently, Cameron was named the new Senior Ox Driver. His responsibilities include driving the teams to haul goods, plow, and harrow—among other things. He also takes care of the oxen by grooming them, trimming their feet, shoeing them, and taking care of any injuries. “Most importantly, an ox driver educates people about oxen and the tasks they perform.”
In a typical day, he will work with three teams of oxen—Duke and Dan (11 years old), Pat and Mike (four years old), and our newest team, Eddie and Dylan (four years old)—to haul materials for the different trades in town, clean up pastures, and groom the oxen. And stay tuned, because this summer we will be introducing wagon rides for kids! They will also get the chance to help keep the oxen water troughs full.
Cameron does everything the 18th-century way, using oxen as his power source, to show visitors how these beautiful animals were used. I have a soft spot for them myself. It’s very important to note that when oxen are working, they are not treated as pets. Grooming and petting are rewards for their hard work and petting them while they are working is distracting. So if you see them in yoke, that means they’re on the clock! This is a hard rule for me to follow, trust me. All I want to do is love on them all the time!
There’s no formal schooling when it comes to becoming an ox driver. Cameron says Coach & Livestock has developed its own training by bringing in experts from New England. Director Paul Bennett hopes to one day have a certification in driving oxen just as his coachmen do who drive our carriages. “Training mostly consists with learning from a mentor or multiple mentors,” Cameron said. “I began learning at Colonial Williamsburg during my internship in 2010 and then further gained experience while working with volunteer teamsters from New England that came to Fort Ticonderoga. Over the past year I gained most of my experience while working at Great Hopes Plantation and most recently I had the amazing opportunity to train with Mark Winslow.”
I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out that as with using an 18th-century firearm in the Continental Army, driving oxen is no easy task for us left-handed folks! The driver stands to the left of the team and uses the goad in their right hand to give the commands.
Cameron left me with these great words of wisdom when it comes to oxen and driving them: “Driving oxen can be very rewarding, especially when the driver and the team just click and set into a groove. In my opinion it’s a relationship built on trust, in which the oxen learn that the driver is not going to ask them to do anything unrealistic, and where the driver realizes the potential of the team. I am no expert on oxen, and fully admit that learning will continue for my entire career. With different teams, aging oxen, and new tasks, comes new challenges…challenges that can be rewarding for both the teams and the driver.”
Give Cameron a big wave when you see him in town!