In this household, pink is the “in” color

Baby Maren by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Forget what the color coordinating gurus in New York City and Paris have to say. Pink is the in color, at least at our daughter’s house.

Her daughter, Maren, our three-year old granddaughter, has her own fashion priority, especially when it comes to color. There is only one. Pink.

Our daughter doesn’t say much. Then, again, what can she say? Her daughter is as independent as she was at that age, and just as blonde.

As soon as our daughter and son-in-law knew that their third child would be their first girl, I distinctly recall that pink clothing for her daughter was discouraged. I think there was a serendipitous association of pink with prissy.

Well, three years later, guess what? Maren’s favorite color is pink. Pink may have been her first spoken word. Maren just loves everything pinkish.

Pink balloons by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren loves everything pink.
That really shouldn’t be any surprise at all. When she was born three years ago in Austin, Texas, Maren was a pink bundle of squealing joy. Everything about her was pink, her hands, her feet, her tiny toes, her long, skinny fingers, her lips, her nose, and her rosy ears. Her face was pink until it changed to red when she wasn’t real happy or necessitated a diaper change.

I have a picture of Nana holding Maren wrapped in a white baby blanket with blue and pink strips. The sign attached to her hospital nursery crib with her name and birth statistics was printed in black letters on pink paper. A delicate pink rose even adorned her mother’s hospital room.

The sleeper Maren wore home from the hospital was infused with dainty pink flowers. The decorations, wall hangings and fabrics in Maren’s room were brown, silver and, yes, pink. The baby blanket Nana made for her was brown and pink. A pair of pink cowgirl boots sat upon her pink-trimmed dresser. The girl never had a chance.

Second birthday by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren with her pink Razor.
Less than a year later, the pink Texan became a pink Virginian when her family moved to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Maren celebrated her first birthday with a pink barrette atop her towhead.

For her second birthday she wanted a Razor scooter just like her big brothers had. She had conditions of course. The wheels and handlebars had to be pink. What option did Nana and Poppy have other than to gladly comply?

If there was any doubt about Maren’s color preference, it evaporated when Nana recently took her shopping for her third birthday present from us. Maren wanted a CD player, a pink soccer ball, or a pink bicycle helmet. She got all three, plus a pair of pink polka dot shoes.

Pink helmet by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren, ready to roll with her pink “Barbie” safety helmet.
What really got me though was that the pink helmet had “Barbie” scrolled across the front if it. And this from a girly little girl who wears only pants. Maren likes dresses, and they don’t have to be pink. She just doesn’t wear them.

Like most grandfathers, I enjoy teaching the grandchildren their colors. They must tire of me always asking, “What color is this?” Not Maren. For her, everything is pink even if it really is red or green.

If the sunrise in the near future comes up all pink, don’t blame New York or Paris. You’ll know that Maren’s birthday wish came true.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Inspired at the produce auction

Colorful lineup by Bruce Stambaugh
The lineup of produce waiting to be auctioned was colorful in more than one way.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For inspiration this time of year, I love to frequent the local produce auction located just two miles north of my home. It’s a carnival, traffic jam, town hall meeting, commerce hub and art museum all rolled into one.

I like to arrive midmorning just as the auction is about to begin. When it’s peak harvest time, the place is abuzz. Men, women and children seem to have caught the same exciting spirit.

Produce trucks by Bruce Stambaugh
Trucks of all sizes back up to the loading docks to both deliver for the auction and to load produce purchased.

Vehicles of all sorts line up to empty and to load the produce and associated items. Box trucks, pickup trucks, and pickups with flatbed trailers, tractor-trailer trucks, tractors with loaded wagons, horse drawn wagons, vans, cars, carts and bicycles all congregate at the Farmers Produce Auction west of Mt. Hope, Ohio.

Their drivers are there for one of two reasons. They arrive to sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers or to buy them. A few of us, of course, show up to simply admire the proceeding. The exuberant energy and shining beauty are both contagious.

Lining up by Bruce Stambaugh
The drive through auction creates an unusual traffic jam.

Amish men and teenagers steady their team of horses, standing patiently in line under the strengthening sun. Most have traveled miles with their cargos of colorful produce, neatly packaged and ready for the sale.

The assortment of trucks carries interesting payloads, too. The season’s last sweet corn and melon, huge boxes of the season’s first pumpkins, bright red and yellow peppers, and flat after flat of budding burgundy, gold and crimson mums are just some of the offerings.

Produce auctioning by Bruce Stambaugh
Buyers and sellers alike gathered around the auctioneer as bids were taken.

The syncopated rhythm of the auctioneer echoes from the open-sided building, announcing the sale’s start. Buyers quickly abandon the food stand and squeeze in to catch any bargain they can. The pace is quick, and if you snooze you lose. People pay attention.

The buyers themselves are a joy to watch. Young and old, male and female, they represent their own produce stand, local restaurants or a supermarket chain. This is their livelihood. They are daily regulars, and the astute auctioneer knows them well. A wink, a nod, a twitch and particular hand gestures signal bids and it’s on to the next lot.

Two auctions by Bruce Stambaugh
So much produce arrives each day that two auctions, one inside, one outside, are held at the same time.

Soon the drive through auction simultaneously begins outside. Double rows of boxed and packaged produce or flats of hundreds of flowers are sold straight from the wagon or truck on which they arrived. They pass by the canvas-covered auctioneer’s stand two-by-two until the last one is through.

Sellers know they have to be on time. Despite the disjointed configuration of vehicles, the sale runs efficiently, making buyers and producers both happy. To be first in line, one driver arrived at 6:15 a.m. for the 10:15 a.m. sale. That’s the dedication of effective and productive commerce in action.

Sold produce by Bruce Stambaugh
Amish teens help move the sold produce to staging areas until the buyers claim their purchases.
Hand-printed tags on the purchased commodities tell the tale. The number in black indicates the producer. The red number is the buyer. As soon as the lot is sold, young men and boys transport the goods with tow motors to designated stations where the merchandise is parked until claimed. Once the buyer is all in, the purchased containers are loaded into his or her vehicle.

By lunchtime, teamsters mull their successes on the slow, rattling ride home. Truck drivers secure their load, and head to their predetermined destinations where the fresh goodies will be sorted, washed and prepared for consumption.

The fascinating organization, the polished production, the gregarious people and the artsy produce combine to create one rousing show. What an inspiring performance to start the fall.

Loads of produce by Bruce Stambaugh
Growers are taught how to package their produce to ensure both quality and higher prices.
Rows of produce by Bruce Stambaugh
The produce is neatly lined up in rows as it arrives to be sold at the auction.
Double rows by Bruce Stambaugh
The outside auction is done by selling the produce in double rows that slowly pass by the auctioneer’s stand.
Decorative produce by Bruce Stambaugh
Seasonal decorative produce like these gourds and pumpkins add to the auction’s peak season success.
Amish worker by Bruce Stambaugh
Besides the Amish farmers, the auction employs several Amish men and women to help with the sale.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A most unusual birthday gift

The donkey by Bruce Stambaugh
Robert Troyer, Millersburg, OH, received this unusual birthday gift from friends.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Out of town friends of Robert and Edna Troyer of rural Millersburg, Ohio kept promising him a donkey. When his birthday arrived this summer, he finally got it, sort of.

Around the time of his July 25th birthday, a group of friends from Ottawa, Ohio came to visit. Robert, 67, and Edna, 66, were sitting with about a dozen people in a circle on their concrete driveway when some of the visitors excused themselves to check on the “donkey.”

Robert and Edna are Amish, and their “English” friends thought they could use a donkey even though the couple owns a business, not a farm.

“I was a little suspicious,” Robert said. “I got curious when people started to disappear.” In fact when Robert went to see what was going on, he was politely told to sit back down.

Cement pad by Bruce Stambaugh
The “donkey” was delivered to Robert Troyer on the cement driveway in front of his home.

Soon, the oldest in the group, Leo Schroeder, came riding down the drive on the “donkey.” In truth, the contraption was a jerry-rigged bicycle and hand push lawn mower. To add to the joke, Schroeder wore Robert’s straw hat for effect.

And what an effect it had, too. Everyone burst out laughing.

“You can actually ride the thing,” Robert said, “but it doesn’t turn very well.”

A rotary blade mower head serves as the front wheel with its handle attached to where the front bicycle wheel should be. The rest of the “donkey” is a regular push pedal bike.

About 20 years ago, the group was looking for a harness shop. One of the group members needed harness items for some ponies.

Originally the group consisted of seven couples. In their search, they stopped at a home near Walnut Creek and asked about a harness shop. They were told to keep driving north on state Route 515 to Indian Hill Harness, just north of Trail. They found what they were looking for at Robert’s shop, and they have been friends ever since.

“Robert was a work,” Edna said. “I waited on them and they later told me that they took to us because I was handicapped.”

Edna suffered a spinal cord injury when she was 18.

“I fell through a hole in a barn and onto concrete,” she said. “I was paralyzed at first, but later could walk.” Edna said that as she aged and after an unsuccessful knee surgery, she needed a wheelchair full time.

“They are all members of the Farm Bureau,” Edna said of the group of friends. “They meet here in February, July and August.” Edna said that none of the group farms anymore, but they stay interested in farming.

Harnesses by Bruce Stambaugh
The harnesses are just a sample of some of the custom horse harnesses Robert Troyer makes.

Robert and Edna, who have been married for 46 years, have become such close friends with the group that they go on overnight outings with them, including to other states.

“One of the members even bought a big van so I would be able to accompany them,” Edna said. “It is just he and his wife, so he didn’t really need a van.”

With their gregarious and easy-going personalities, it is easy to like both Robert and Edna. They said they enjoy sharing their hospitality with others.

When she learned that one of the group members likes pineapple pie, Edna baked one for him.

“He liked it so much,” she said, “he ate the whole pie in one day.”

Edna said that the group has even hosted them in Ottawa, located in western Ohio. She and one of their friends, Sharon Lammers, even share the same birthday, August 16.

Edna keeps busy painting scenes and decorating cups, glasses and wooden plaques with flowers and birds. She said she taught herself to paint, and her paintings are available to purchase at Behalt!, on County Road 77 near Berlin.

Robert said most of his business is supplying the Walsh Company in Brookfield, Wis. with fine show harnesses. He had worked for Mast Leather in Walnut Creek, Ohio until Walsh bought the business in 1990, the same year he started his harness shop.

Edna appropriately summed up why their friendship with the group has lasted so long.

“Despite your situation,” she said, “you have to keep going. Life is too short.”

Paintings by Bruce Stambaugh
Edna Troyer’s paintings are available at Behalt! near Berlin, OH.

This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Fall is upon us in every way

Pumpkins and buggies by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Officially it’s still summer for a few more days. Reality says otherwise.

Fall is upon us. The signs are everywhere. They have been for sometime now.

Warm, pleasant days give way to cooler, quiet evenings. Only a few remaining crickets and an occasional Screech Owl break the night’s silence.

The morning wake up call suddenly switched from a chorus of American Robins to cheery Carolina Wrens. The effect is still the same.

Morning fog by Bruce Stambaugh

Dense fog quickly lifts from valleys, giving way to white cottony clouds highlighted pink, peach, gold and gray by the strengthening sun. Morning mists betray the garden spiders’ artsy trap. The miniature droplets soon yield to the day’s brightening warmth.

While most show a slight tinge, some entire trees have already had their leaves turn a dull orange or dirty yellow. No doubt the stress of this summer’s oppressive heat and extreme dryness forced this premature metamorphosis. Some leaves seemed to go green to brown overnight. The deepening blue sky offsets these anomalies, making them almost acceptable.

Tinted tree by Bruce Stambaugh

Fall is not a time to quibble. It’s a time to appreciate, to work and to reorient yourself and the world as we have come to know it.

Dewy web by Bruce StambaughScholars head to school, each in their own way. Young boys, red and white lunch buckets swaying by their sides, walk in groups, tan straw hats bobbing rhythmically. Smart girls wearing pastel dresses glide by on mute bicycles. They left home later than yet arrived simultaneously with the boys.

Bumblebee painted buses inch past the pedestrians until the next stop. Somewhere behind sheer curtains, home-schooled children take it all in.

The hum of school seems to settle society, put it back in sync. Family vacations end. The students, though not likely to admit it, enjoy the familiar routine, save for a handful of frequent flyers who already know the path to the principal’s office.

At the produce market, giant pumpkins now outnumber the red, plump tomatoes and the ubiquitous zucchini. Despite the protests of the regal morning glories, crimson and gilded mums are the flowers of choice and the season.

Field corn by Bruce Stambaugh

Despite the drought, farmers are smiling, assuming they indeed have crops to gather. They live for the harvest. It’s their bread and butter, their paycheck, their livelihood. They relish the work and consider comparing their bushels per acre numbers as an exercise in status. If their neighbor needs help, however, they’ll be the first to respond.

Kitchens fill with the aromas of snappy salsa, and pickles and vinegar. Canning shelves are replenished with jars of winking peaches and cherries, sandwiched by rows of golden corn and tart applesauce.
Peach salsa by Bruce Stambaugh
Life in the fall in the rural Midwest in mid-September is as fulfilling as it gets. Pride and gratitude are the human harvest for rural folks. No blue ribbons, even if bestowed, can provide the same satisfaction. Those ancillary awards politely confirm what we already believe.

Where coloring stands of hardwoods mingle with fencerows and cornrows, life is good. We acknowledge our connection to creation and to one another. We also sense the real and urgent necessity to care for mother earth as we prepare for whatever winter brings our way.

Fall is upon us. Stop, look, listen, inhale and enjoy. The rest of life will take care of itself. It is an equal opportunity seasonal transition we all need whether we know it or not. I humbly thank autumn for the abundant and timely cues.

Amish scholars by Bruce Stambaugh

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Celebrating something good out of something bad

Blue men by Bruce Stambaugh
Kim Kellogg, Randy Murray and I meet monthly as a support group following our treatments for prostate cancer.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We were rowdy without realizing it. What would you expect from three baby boomer couples?

About every month I meet with two other long-time friends for breakfast. Besides our age bracket, we all have something very special in common. All three of us are prostate cancer survivors.

Randy is a pastor. Kim co-owns his own business with his wife. Through a crisscrossing, intertwined past, we have known each other for most of our adult lives. It was the cancer, however, that brought us even closer together.

Blue light by Bruce StambaughWe jokingly call ourselves the Blue Men’s group. Blue is the official color for prostate cancer, juxtaposed to pink for breast cancer in women. There’s no joking about either.

We meet at a local restaurant to share. Finding others who have gone through the cancer experience is critical to full recovery, especially emotionally. We are our own support group.

We were all diagnosed within a year of one another. Like so many other cancer patients, we had the same disease in the same location. However, we all had our differences, and each chose, to use the term loosely, a different route for treatment.

Randy had radiation treatments and has stayed cancer-free. Because his cancer had escaped his prostate, Kim’s options were not as simple. He had chemotherapy, radiation and Lupron shots. He has just recently been given better news regarding his long-term recovery, and has good reason for a much more optimistic outlook than he did only a few months ago.

Based on my situation and diagnosis, I chose robotic prostate surgery. I was in the hospital one day and out the next. My PSA tests continue to be immeasurable, just like my compatriots.

We meet to share our progress, and to encourage one another. All three of us are in long-term marriages, and cancer, no matter which kind, affects the spouses, too.

We have been meeting for two years now. Because our spouses are such an integral part of our recovery, we annually do a nice dinner out with the wives. We did so recently, and this time we had even more than our trio of good reports to celebrate.

Happy couple by Bruce Stambaugh
Mr. and Mrs. Stambaugh.
On this particular occasion, we were exulting with Randy’s wife, Amy. Like too many other women, Amy has breast cancer. She just recently completed a lengthy series of challenging radiation treatments. Amy said she was really rejoicing because she now had more hair than I do. That wouldn’t take much.

Her journey isn’t over. But it was a joy to sit around a table and laugh and share instead of worry and dread the unknown. By communing together, we lifted each other’s spirits in a way that none of us could have alone.

My wife and Kim’s needed support, too. As faithful wives, they have had to endure the consequences of both treatment and recovery. They also cared greatly for Amy, with whom they could easily identify.

There is nothing good about cancer. There is no good cancer. There is only cancer.

This night, in this restaurant, gathered with comrades in loving arms and warm hearts, we were as one. Around that dinner table an unspoken common spirit of celebrative unity reigned. Gratitude overcame dread. Communal relief replaced disquieting uncertainty. Laughter was our dessert.

Finally, something good had transformed out of something really bad. We only hoped the restaurant staff and other patrons understood our irrepressible joy.

Amish sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012