Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Other Horsey Set

We've just returned from a long weekend at our cabin in Knox County, OH. The weather was mostly cool and drizzly, but the sun peeked out occasionally.

Knox and the neighboring counties of Ashland, Coshocton, Holmes and Wayne are home to many Amish. You often encounter their slow-moving buggies on narrow dirt roads or on paved 2-lane roads, where cars zip past them at 50 mph. Five hitching posts stand outside the Holmes County Courthouse in Millersburg. The sign says "Horses Only."

We saw this lineup of buggies in Berlin, OH, where we always stop at a bulk-food store owned by old-order Mennonites. The buggy without the legally-mandated "slow vehicle" triangle belongs to a member of the conservative Swartzenbruber group.

As part of Appalachia, eastern Knox County has some hills to reckon with. We recently found ourselves creeping up a steep grade behind a buggy carrying the parents and 3 or 4 kids. From what we could see, the horse had extremely slender ankles. It seemed to be struggling. Then, as it neared the crest of the hill, it sped up! Our Knox County neighbor, David, said, "Oh, that's a pacer."

We're from the city. "What's a pacer?"

 David replied, "That means it's not a trotter. It puts down both hooves on one side at the same time."

On Monday, we stopped at the Amish farm where we buy eggs. We saw a half dozen magnificant draft horses on the way up to the house. "Percherons," I said. My husband confirmed it with the egg lady.

My husband was impressed. He later asked, "How did you know that?"  
"You just pick these up things," I said, airily.  I like to read the horse ads in The Vendor, a biweekly newspaper for "plain folk everywhere." Phrases like "a good boys' horse" or "nice horse for taking girls to Singing" intrigue me. I reminded him of the time some other Knox County neighbors, "English" like us,  fell in love with a horse named "Dutch." They had gone to the auction not intending to buy, but soon found themselves bidding against a couple of Amish men for a beautiful Percheron. They won the bid. The minute they got home with their prize, the phone was ringing. It was the Amishmen, offering to board the horse for free in exchange for letting him "stand at stud, " as they say.

After buying our eggs, we went to the Amish bake shop for apple dumplings and a carrot cake. In the adjacent field, a straw-hatted Amishman was stuffing long stalks into a wooden contraption while a horse walked round and round it in a circle. We asked the bake shop girl what they were doing. "Pressing sugar cane, " she said. 

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