Job choice: A farrier?


By Dr. Vivian Blevins - Contributing columnist



With the internet, today’s students have a host of resources to use in selecting a vocation with the knowledge that they will probably switch careers several times during their work life as they change and the world of work evolves.

I send my college students straight to the internet and to TypeFocus where they can complete a lengthy questionnaire based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which reveals their personality traits and careers that mesh with their strengths, values, interests, and skills. From there, I send them to the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s latest report, again on line, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which gives them an overview of that job’s requirements, labor demand, and pay levels.

Dick Vondenhuevel, 69, of Sidney, will soon celebrate his 50th year as a farrier, a job he loves and about which he says in regard to plans for retirement, “I am one bad horse away from going to the nursing home.”

A farrier shapes and fits horseshoes and cleans, trims, and shapes horses’ hooves. Maybe you grew up calling these individuals blacksmiths, and perhaps you studied Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Village Blacksmith”: “The smith, a mighty man is he/With large and sinewy hands, And the muscles of his brawny arms/Are strong as iron bands.” At 6-foot 2-inches and always wearing cowboy boots which add 2-plus-inches, Vondenhuevel fits Longfellow’s description.

Vondenhuevel says, “When I was a kid in Lexington, Kentucky (born in Sidney but went to 12 schools in 12 years as his father milked herds of cattle at one place and another), I bought my first horse, Padre Bob, a Buckskin Quarter horse gelding from John Botkins. Paid $200 for him and earned that money by working on a farm.”

He hated school and after graduating from Fairlawn High School, he spent 12 weeks in August of 1969 at a horseshoeing school in Sturgis, South Dakota.

“The school was tough and getting into the business and staying in the business is even tougher. I’ve had teeth knocked out and all my fingers and toes broken. And it’s hard on the back.”

To him, however, “Horses are a dream and those who own them think of riding in the wind or winning the Kentucky Derby. We also dream of stuff we’re gonna do with our horse or what our horse is gonna do.”

Vondenhuevel currently owns two horses: Chief Macintosh, a Leopard Appaloosa, and Sergeant Jim Jordan, a registered thoroughbred yearling, 15 months old, and the kind that runs in the Kentucky Derby, a horse he plans to sell or race.

He’s proud of the horse he worked with, “Let’s Call It Even,” from Red Lion, Ohio, which won the Ohio Governor’s Cup last year.

Occasionally, he loses sleep when he has a job coming up and such was the case recently when he had an appointment with Candy, a mule at the Johnson Farm and Indian Agency. She had kicked him before and had quite a reputation for “acting up.” He says a fly bite or other unexpected incidences can make an animal cranky. But that appointment came off without a hitch.

Vondenhuevel has sand in his boots, and his work has taken him to places he would never have gone otherwise. It all started with his favorite uncle, Rich Sherwood, “a little bit of a gypsy” who traveled extensively with his work and remembered his nephew with post cards. Also, the family lived on Marian Long’s farm, and her wealth allowed her to travel. She, too, sent him post cards as well as letters.

With the ability to self-schedule, he has traveled extensively: the Great Smoky Mountains, the Allegheny Mountains, West Texas, Australia — from Tampa Bay Downs to Cedar Valley, Ontario, Canada.

Once he saw an old post card from the 1950s with a photo of the Palo Duro Canyon and thought, I’d love to ride there. So four years ago, he did.

Back to the postcards and letters. Vondenhuevel writes five to 10 letters a day, and I’m fortunate enough to get one from time to time. I met him a few years ago when he thought I might be interested in writing the story of World War II veteran T D Ulrich being blown up by Nazi forces while working in the engineering room on a minesweeper, The USS Salute. I was, so Vondenhuevel brought him to a restaurant parking lot in Miami County, and I interviewed Ulrich and wrote the story.

With belief in God and the power of prayer, Vondenhuevel writes to those on chemo, kids with Down Syndrome, the disabled, sending inspirational messages to persons he might not recognize if they walked up to him.

As Longfellow writes, “Thanks to thee my worthy friend/For the lesson thou has taught/Our fortunes must be wrought.”

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By Dr. Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College, and to work with veterans. Reach her at 937-778-3815 or vbblevins@woh.rr.com.

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College, and to work with veterans. Reach her at 937-778-3815 or vbblevins@woh.rr.com.