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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Elmer R. "Dick" Sparrow, 1929-2010: Zearing farmer hitched up 40-horse team

REGISTER FILE PHOTO
Dick Sparrow of Zearing guides a 40-horse hitch of Belgian draft horses in 1973. Each horse weighed about 2,000 pounds.
By DANIEL P. FINNEY • dafinney@dmreg.com
December 26, 2010
Elmer R. "Dick" Sparrow, a Zearing farmer who in the 1970s revived the spectacle of driving a team of 40 horses, died Thursday. His family said the cause of death was leukemia. He was 81.
Sparrow rose to national fame in 1972 when he hitched and drove 40 Belgian draft horses in the Fourth of July Schlitz Circus Parade in Milwaukee. More than a million people watched Sparrow's feat of strength and manual dexterity in Milwaukee, with more watching on television.
A repeat performance in Zearing on Labor Day that year - with Gov. Robert Ray beside Sparrow in the driver's seat - drew 50,000 to the Story County town of about 500.
"The first time I took the lines in my hands I never felt anything so awesome in my life," Sparrow told the Chicago Tribune in 1972. "It's a little like holding back a locomotive under a full head of steam with me at the throttle."
Sparrow was born and raised on a Zearing farm where horses had been raised since 1872.
One of three children, he learned how to lead horses through farm gates at age 3 and by age 4 could ride the farm's Percherons by himself.
READ MORE AT:http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20101226/NEWS/12260328/-1/statewrestling/Elmer-R.-Dick-Sparrow-1929-2010-Zearing-farmer-hitched-up-40-horse-team

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