Kingfisher Man Can Train Anything – To Drive

The Breda News, reprinted from the Okarche, Oklahoma newspaper, September 1970

In 1963, Joe Mueggenborg [son of Henry and Dora Boes Mueggenborg, grandson of Anna Nieland Boes] of Kingfisher, Okla., passing through Poteau, saw ox teams being used to pull logs.

Joe was fascinated. He knew that ox teams had been used in the early days of the west, to pull wagons and plows, but he had never seen any working before.

Joe thought about it. He reckoned that if folks at Poteau could break and train oxen, he could, too.

Now, seven years later, he has experienced the fun of breaking teams of Brown Swiss, charolais, Texas Longhorns and buffalo. He has hitched them to covered wagons, and driven them in parades all over Oklahoma and southern Kansas, winning many trophies and a substantial amount of cash.

Starting with a pair of Brown Swiss weighing about 1,000 pound each, Mueggenborg had the help of a friend, Joe J. Reherman. On his subsequent breaking operations, he had some help from his sons, too, but did most of the training himself.

On the first go-round, he could shout "gee" and "haw" at the animals, and that helped them know what he wanted them to do. Then in 1965, he underwent throat surgery, including the removal of his vocal chords. Since then, he has done his breaking without benefit of voice. It hasn't been easy.

The "two Joes" had the Brown Swiss team well broken in time to drive them in Kingfisher's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1964. A huge crowd witnessed this parade, and the oxen were a hit. From that time on, there were lots of invitations to participate in other parades. The "Joes" were glad to go, but first they took time to shave off uncomfortable four-month whiskers grown for the Kingfisher celebration.

In 1965, Mueggenborg bought two Texas Longhorns at a Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge sale. "They were a mess," Joe recalls, but he stayed with them until they were 100 percent broken. Their last public appearance was in the Chisholm Trail Museum dedication parade in Kingfisher, last April.

In 1966, Mueggenborg sold his Brown Swiss team at $900 on the Oklahoma City market. They had become too big to haul around and to handle. They made a lot of hamburger.

The Texas Longhorns have since been sold to Kenneth Hill, northwest of Kingfisher. They were getting pretty hard to handle. Last year, at an Edmond appearance, they got loose and took a corner off a house and wrecked a clothesline. If Vince Mueggenborg, who had been holding them, "had not ducked, he would have had his head sheared off by the clothesline," said Joe.

He purchased three buffaloes at the wildlife refuge in 1968, and broke them to drive. "But," he warns, "never trust a buffalo." He had a team of them hitched to a wagon in his pasture in May 1969, when the bull broke loose and ran away. It was four days later when Joe found him on an Indian allotment five miles southwest of Kingfisher. The animal had jumped cattle guards and fences, and swam Dead Indian creek, (then 20 feet deep) with his harness on. Joe engaged local cowboys Sam Trent, Bill Dean and John Harrison; they brought the buffalo bull out of the bush in a hurry, over fences and all, with his harness dangling. Trent got skinned up a bit in the operation.

"It beat any rodeo I ever saw," said Joe.

Currently he is putting finishing touches on training a young Charolais team. It's a job requiring infinite patience. First the animals must be taught to lead. Then they are hitched to a sled, which is safer then a wheeled vehicle for training purposes. Pulling a wagon comes last.

Ox yokes are a bit hard to find, so Joe made his own, (three of them). He fashioned them from cedar longs obtained from Clifford Leitner, Kingfisher, and Fred Taylor, Oswego, Kans. A hatchet and pocketknife were the basic tools used.

Joe, now 67, retired from active farming in 1966, but has continued to raise chickens, turkeys, peacocks, ducks and some game chickens. He also has a milk cow and some pigs and sheep. Kindergarten teachers each year bring their pupils from town, just a mile away, to view the fowls and animals and to take rides behind Joe's unusual teams.

Joe and Mrs. Mueggenborg [Teresa Ann Schaefer] now have bought a home in Kingfisher, and will move there about Oct. 1. They have lived on the farm since they were married 44 years ago. The farm will be operated by a son, Vernon (one of nine children in the family), but Joe expects to continue training oxen there and perhaps have some other animals and birds.

He is tied to the place with a lot of memories dating back to 1920. G.P.Krittenbrink, who was living there then, asked Joe to help him clean a nearly dry cistern. Krittenbrink let Joe down into the 16-foot cistern on a rope, and at the bottom he was surprised to encounter a five-foot copperhead. Joe won the encounter, killing the snake.

He farmed there with horses and mules, first with his father, the late Henry Mueggenborg, and then for himself, until buying his first tractor in the early 1930's.

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