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.
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.
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.”
This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012