Little York’s Barging Bull and Diminutive Donkey

by Martin Sweeney

Two interesting articles once appeared in the Cortland Standard regarding the activities of two four-legged creatures in Little York back in 1935.

The first article reported an incident that occurred in June of that year. It seems it was a lively Saturday evening at the Little York Hotel (on what is now Route 281), with the patrons enjoying the music of an orchestra. A bull in a nearby barn may have been aroused from his slumbers by the blare of the music. Having had quite enough, the animal broke out of the barn and went over to investigate. A motorist was passing by and saw the disturbed bovine charging the building. He witnessed the bull making its way up onto the porch of the hotel. Sensing it was the orchestra that was inciting the beast, the man rushed in and tried to stop the music. It was then that a farmer in the crowd managed to get the bull by the ring in its nose. Its owner was awakened, and the barging bull was taken home and tied securely. We do not know the tune the orchestra was playing at the time. If it was “Stompin’ at the Savoy” by Chick Webb or “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Harry Richman, that may explain that the barging bovine merely wanted to demonstrate what a fine “hoofer” he could be.

The second article of June 16, 1935, told the story of a more placid animal. William Isbell, proprietor of the Little York Express, was reported to have no use for a motor truck for his business. Instead, he relied upon “Jack,” “an intelligent, clever and faithful little donkey,” to supply the transportation needed by the Little York Express business. “Jack” was said to be capable of hauling everything from groceries to gravel. The news photographer captured an image of the diminutive donkey carting gravel out of a gravel bank.

Isbell maintained “We take orders from anywhere in the state. ANYTHING – ANYWHERE. That’s our motto.” The reporter claimed “Jack” “wagged a couple of ears affirmatively” at this remark.

Isbell continued to say that the donkey’s real fun was in the fall. This was when Isbell and some friends went off to the North Woods at Mud Lake, near Redwood, New York, for the hunting season. For several years, the hunters had been hiking every autumn through the woods for five miles, with their luggage on their backs, to reach the camp. But that problem was solved when “Jack” came to work for Isbell. Thereafter, every fall the Little York hunters loaded “Jack” onto a trailer, and when they arrived at the North Woods, he carried all the gear in and out of the forest.

Interestingly, no one had to accompany “Jack” along the wooded trail. The hunters would simply load him up at one end of the trail, give him a goodbye slap on the rear, and off the donkey would go. In due time, “Jack” would make his way out of the woods at the other end of the trail. “He never fails,” boasted Isbell. In fact, when the men have good luck with hunting, it is “Jack” who brings the deer out of the woods. On one day, he brought out two on the same trip. And that is why he and the other hunters professed they could not part with the donkey for all the monetary value of the express business of Little York. If they did, “Jack” would make an ass out of each of them.

Source: A cache of articles and photos from the estate of Jean Anderson Stoker donated by her daughter Tacie Anderson to the Town of Homer archives in July of 2023. The material dealt with Little York and had been collected over the years by Jean and her sister Marilyn Anderson Lansing. This historian is most grateful. Another hamlet in the Town of Homer, East Homer, has a pretty sparse file. If anyone from East Homer has a comparable collection on the history of that community, please consider donating.

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