Ready for the election to be over

Sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for this election to be over. Even if I were a hermit, I think I would have gotten robo phone calls and unsolicited political mail and email this year.

These elections, especially the ones with national implications, seem to be getting worse each round. The rhetoric, promises and character assassinations get sharper and sharper. As much as I love democracy, I am more than ready for this nonsensical noisiness to end. All the nasty, negative political ads, especially the ones on TV, make you yearn for the days of the Veg-O-Matic commercials.

It didn’t used to be that way. Back in the days of smoke filled rooms and paper ballots politics were politics. Elections were elections. We weren’t blasted at every turn with extreme commentary of distorted and misapplied sound bites or publically aired criticisms that border on slander.

I remember when my father took me along when he voted in the gym of the elementary school where my brothers and sisters and I attended. It was a simple ordeal. Dad signed in, was given a paper ballot, walked to a vacant voting booth draped with red and white striped curtains, and marked his ballot. After doing so, he folded it and placed it in a box or can at the exit.

The precinct workers didn’t blink at allowing me to tag along with Dad. That wouldn’t happen today. They understood his desire to show me first hand how the process worked, how to properly exercise his citizen’s right and duty to vote. His modeling worked. I have voted in every election I could since I registered at age 21, the legal Ohio voting age then.

Mom and Dad by Bruce Stambaugh
My late parents, Marian and Richard Stambaugh, both modeled what it meant to be an active citizen.

My parents also did their civic duty by working as precinct workers. Dad was a precinct committeeman. My wife’s parents also served as poll workers.

Dad actively campaigned for particular people he wanted in office. I even volunteered to post campaign signs for him. In recent years, both my wife and I have served as poll workers. In fact, my wife will be a precinct judge in the Nov. 6 election here in the world’s largest Amish population. And yes, many of the Amish vote, even for president.

As a teenager, a metropolitan newspaper hired me each election to check particular precinct tallies, which were simply posted on the door of the polling place. Long before the computer and Internet age, hand-tabulated results were phoned in from a phone booth to gauge trends and declare winners and losers.

Today, things are so much different and sometimes difficult.

Concerted efforts have been made to insure that voters are who they say they are, despite little evidence of past voter deception or fraud. Fortunately in most cases, those attempts have been overturned by the courts. Professional political pollsters churn out poll after poll, week after week to tell the public what they are thinking. Politicians and their teams of advisors live or die with every revelation. News media lead with the poll results.

Kettle of vultures by Bruce Stambaugh
I couldn’t help thinking about the negative politics being conducted in the current presidential campaign when I recently saw this kettle of Black and Turkey Vultures circling overhead.

Being inundated with constant slanted political rancor has its ugly consequences. Heated discussions transpire on social media, and the “conversations” can get ugly and are not very social at all.

That said I realize there is no going back in time. Heaven forbid we return to those days of smoke filled room decision-making. Instead of paper ballots and canvas curtains, we now have programed cards and touch screen voting. But still we vote.

I am extremely thankful for the exemplary lessons my folks provided in what it means to be a citizen in this great country. Each of us simply needs to do our part in making this convoluted world a better place. To do that, we must keep moving forward.

I hope that means in part that the mailed partisan circulars will greatly decrease and the annoying phone calls will soon cease.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Retirement: What’s that?

Bob Akins by Bruce Stambaugh
Bob Akins has worked at Briar Hill Stone Co, Glenmont, OH for 65 years.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Bob Akins loves to go to work. He supposedly retired in 1990, but Bob is a man of routines. Work was an important one, so he kept at it.

The 84-year old Killbuck, Ohio resident arrives at Briar Hill Stone in Glenmont every workday at 5:30 a.m. sharp and finishes up at noon. As of September 4, he started his 66th year at the stone company.

“I enjoy working there,” Akins said, stating the obvious. “The company wanted me to keep working.”

Just a few moments with the knowledgeable Akins gives a hint as to why Briar Hill wanted him to stay around. A shiny semi-tractor trailer pulled into the sandstone company’s yard. In one glance, Akins knew where the truck was from, what the driver would be hauling, and where the stone would be delivered.

Think that might be obvious? Think again. Akins had never seen the truck or the driver before. He just knew what shipment was due to go out that particular day. In this case, the load of custom cut sandstone was heading to Saskatchewan, Canada.

Bob Akins with stone by Bruce Stambaugh
Giant brownstone slabs are Briar Hill Stone’s signature product, used in construction around the United States.

As the company’s customer service representative, Akins has enjoyed his part-time labor for 20 years instead of working the full day like he did for 45 years at Briar Hill. With this much experience and his superb loyalty to Briar Hill, he’s entitled to a little rest.

Akins’ loyalty doesn’t just lie with his job. He and his wife, Janet, have been married for 60 years.

“I wanted to date Janet for a long time,” he said. “She finally agreed one New Year’s Eve.”

Akins in part attributes his strong work ethic to his hard childhood.

“My father died when I was nine months old,” Akins said.

Born and raised in Blissfield south of Killbuck in Coshocton, County, Akins still owns his home property there. Akins has lived in Killbuck for more than 60 years.

He graduated from Warsaw High School, now River View. He continued his education taking various courses through work.
Akins started at Briar Hill in 1947 as a production control clerk. He held that job for a decade before switching to the mill department, focusing on stone samples.

In 1960, he worked in sales, shipping and inventory control, and held that position for 21 years. He served as assistant sales manager for two years before being promoted to sales manager. He was in that important position for four years. Akins became customer service manager in 1988. He continues in that capacity today, just on a part-time basis.

Ask Akins anything about Briar Hill products, and he has an immediate and succinct answer. That could be one of the reasons the company wants Akins around.

Glenmont OH by Bruce Stambaugh
Briar Hill Stone has several stone quarries located in the hills around Glenmont, OH.

He cannot only explain the difference in the stone products, but how they are produced, where they are most used and sold. When it comes to Briar Hill stone, Akins is a walking dictionary.

In addition to his work, Akins put his experience to work for the community. He is past president of the Killbuck Chamber of Commerce, past chairperson of the Killbuck Early American Days homecoming, past financial secretary of Killbuck United Methodist Church, and was a former director of the Wayne-Holmes County Home Builders Association.

Akins is a member at Killbuck United Methodist Church. His hobbies include collecting coins, bottles and antiques. He also enjoys attending arts and crafts shows, and traveling with his wife.

As for his job, Akins sees no change in exercising his determined daily work ethic.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Frogs or birds? The choice was easy

Garden pond by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

Well it happened. I finally had to remove the giant green frogs from my little garden pond. The reason? I found another dead songbird by the pond. The perpetrator left the evidence in plain sight and never bothered to leave the scene.

After what had happened this summer, I had no choice in the matter.

In July amid the hottest, driest weather of the summer, the grandchildren were here visiting from Virginia. They always ask to feed the goldfish in our garden pond.

Girl on grindstone by Bruce Stambaugh

As we approached the pond with fish food in hand, I spotted something rather suspicious. The largest of the green frogs that inhabit our pond was resting atop a balled up, wet and obviously dead House Finch on the rock pile near the little waterfalls.

The frog must have felt guilty because it jumped into the pond as soon as it spotted us. I let the kids feed the always-hungry fish while I investigated the crime scene. Of course, Davis, the inquisitive six-year old, wanted to see what I was looking at, too.

Cooling off by Bruce StambaughOnce I realized we had a killer frog on our hands, I diverted the kids’ attention by playing ball in the side yard. When I went to get the dead bird, it was gone. Had the frog come back for its dinner?

A few weeks later, I found a second House Finch floating in the pond. I contacted a naturalist friend about my discovery. She had heard of bullfrogs catching birds, but not green frogs. Either way, her conclusion was the same as mine. The big green frog was trouble.

Since the grandkids loved looking for the frogs as much as they did feeding the fish, I hated to transplant the amphibian. I decided to keep a close eye out for more evidence. I found it on September 25.

Bird and frog by Bruce Stambaugh
The dead American Goldfinch told me I needed to remove the largest frogs from the pond.

This time I discovered an American Goldfinch left on the sandstone grindstone where the grandkids stand to feed the fish. Just like the others, the Goldfinch had clearly been drowned with evidence of attempts to swallow it. Just inches away, minding its own business, the green frog sat unsympathetically on a soft patch of grass. At least I thought it was a green frog.

That was the last straw. I watched for an opportunity to catch the two largest green frogs and relocate them to a neighbor’s farm pond. I caught the docile female right away. The bigger male was a bit trickier. You know how men are.

Finally, I saw my opportunity. The wily frog was hiding beneath the floppy leaves of one of the hosta plants that border the pond. In a sneak attack, I captured the frog and quickly placed it in the minnow bucket with the other frog.

Mute Swan by Bruce Stambaugh

As I prepared to release the pair of frogs at my neighbor’s pond, a rather large Mute Swan swam straight for me, hissing all the way. The larger of the two frogs was more than happy to hide in shallow water. The female was content to enjoy the grassy shoreline.

I didn’t bother to say my farewells. I was patient catching the frogs. The agitated swan was another story. I didn’t want to painfully pay for my efforts with a nip by the aggressive and territorial waterfowl.

If this greedy green frog attempts to swallow one of these big birds, I think it will be in for an enormous surprise. And I think I’ll write a book.

Upon further investigation, others more knowledgable on frogs than me identified the culprit that I had photographed as a bullfrog, not a green frog. My mystery was solved, and my frog facts greatly improved. The book’s plot just took a turn.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Leaves may change, but appreciation for them does not

Rural leaves by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I was a youngster, each fall my father would pack the family into the old jalopy and head to Holmes County, Ohio from Canton to view the leaves.

The trees were gorgeous, the pastoral vistas delightful. It was like stepping back in time once we crossed the county line. I suppose some people still feel that way today.

Amish country by Bruce StambaughLike my father, I loved coming to Holmes County. The colorful leaves, the tangy Swiss cheese, the horse and buggies, and the images of a simpler life left a lasting impression on me, even as a juvenile.

The air was crisp and clean, the views splendid, the people quaint. With Mom a landscape artist, Dad kept pointing out scenes she could paint, as if Mom needed any help noticing.

Before entering the county seat, Millersburg, we always stopped at the same place. Dad would pull off to the side of the road by the golf course so we could all admire the giant, vibrant sugar maple tree that stood on the course near the highway. It was a stately fixture to be sure, aglow with yellow, orange and red leaves. Against the manicured green fairways, it was a picture of beauty.
Bucolic by Bruce Stambaugh
Dad would pull out his pride and joy eight-millimeter movie camera and film away. He loved to show the home movies over and over again at family gatherings. I don’t need to view the old footage to recall the moment. The memories are as vivid as the leaves on that old maple.

Perhaps that’s because irony of irony I ended up spending my adult life here. I pass by the memorable spot frequently. The natural beauty is a nice reminder, especially in autumn.

I don’t have to pile in the car and drive 35 miles to see the living artistry. I just have to look out the window. With the leaves at their peak, the real life painting outside our door is ever changing.

Fall sky by Bruce Stambaugh

Of course, I do like to tour the hills and valleys of our county to take in the complete show. I have my favorite routes.

I especially enjoy traveling around taking digital photographs on partly cloudy days. One minute everything seems dull, then the sun breaks through, and I can’t snap the camera shutter fast enough. My father would probably tell me to get a camcorder.

I love the brilliant fencerows dotted with burgundy ash, yellowy white oak, crimson red oak, sunny sassafras, and red, green, yellow and tangerine sugar maples. The hardwood rainbows highlight emerald hayfields and stands of brittle corn shocks.

White farm by Bruce Stambaugh

I also enjoy occasional drives through the heavily forested Killbuck and Black Creek valleys. The steep hillsides are loaded with the same mixed hardwoods as in the eastern end of the county.

White clapboard farmhouses and weathered barns, surrounded by lush green lawns, lay at the feet of the dappled hills. More often than not chocolate soybean fields fill in the narrow bottoms.

By Millersburg by Bruce StambaughEven with that much splendor, I still return to the side of the road by the golf course. Though the old tree my father loved is gone, time has matured others nearby.

Buoyed by the beauty and the memories, I snap a few shots of the delightful scenery. I am keenly aware of being in both the present and the past. Like the changing seasons, the ebbs and flows of life’s ironies have that everlasting effect.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Adoptions bring joy and miracles

Yoder family by Bruce Stambaugh
Amy and Joe Yoder with their four adopted children, Hayley, Sophia, Matthew and Cameron.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Joe and Amy Yoder of rural Sugarcreek, Ohio wanted to start a family. When they were advised that pregnancy might be a questionable option for them, they had a lot to think about.

In the fall of 2003, they chose adoption. They could not know how much that decision would positively impact their lives and the lives of others. All the way, they sensed God’s leading.

Joe and Amy had decided on an international adoption. Only two months later, little Matthew in Guatemala entered their lives.

“The entire process was tedious,” Amy said. “There was major paperwork, and lots of bureaucracy to work through there.”

They applied in January and were approved in April. But they still couldn’t get custody of Matthew until October.

“We couldn’t have done it without the support of Millersburg Mennonite Church,” Amy said of the church they attended then. “They really chipped in and helped us raise funds to defer expensive adoption.”

That was eight years ago. Matthew is a growing boy and enjoying being in third grade. He also watches over his brother and sisters.

That’s right. The Yoders have adopted three other children, all from Ohio, in the last three years.

Cameron is three. Hayley is two, and the latest addition to their family, Sophia, is 3 months old. If there is such a thing, she was a surprise adoption.

When Matthew was three, Joe and Amy decided to move ahead with adopting another child, only this time doing a domestic adoption. After interviewing several adoption agencies, Just three months after applying they received a call to adopt Cameron. That was 2009. A little more than 10 months later, the adoption agency called about Hayley.

Even after the first three adoptions, Joe and Amy said they felt like God was leading them to being foster parents. On June 28, that changed. Their social worker called. Amy said she thought the call was for an Amish neighbor couple that they were helping with the adoption process.

But no, the social worker told them they had another baby if they wanted it.

“Sophia was ready to leave the hospital,” Amy said, “and they didn’t have a placement for her yet.”

Knowing that each adoption, whether foreign or domestic, is costly, the Yoders hesitated, too.

“I asked the social worker how much money and how soon they needed it?” Amy shared. Having already adopted through the agency, Amy really knew the answer to the money question.

“She told us we needed $20,000 by Saturday,” Amy said, “and this was Friday afternoon.”

The Yoders said that they prayed about it all night. By morning they had their answer.

“For some reason, we had a real peace about the decision,” Amy said, although they had no idea how they would come up with that much money on such short notice.

Yoder children by Bruce Stambaugh
Hayley, 2, Sophia, 3 months, Matthew, 8, and Cameron, 3, gathered on the living room couch long enough for a photograph before running off to play.
They agreed to take Sophia on the condition that they would pay half of the money up front, and the other half in a week. The social worker agreed.

On Monday Amy was sitting on the front porch with the four children when she received another call from the social worker. It was more good news. But Amy couldn’t believe the message.

“Don’t send us anymore money,” the social worker said. “It’s all taken care of.”

Joe and Amy had no idea what had happened. The agency wouldn’t say. The Yoders simply consider it all a miracle, the process, the money, and of course Sophia.

But wait. There is yet one more miracle, according to Amy. The final adoption always takes place exactly six months after receiving the baby, which would be Dec. 31, when the courthouse in Columbus would be closed.

“Somehow,” Amy said, “we were told that the courthouse would be open for us.”

Their appointment to officially adopt Sophia is 3 p.m., New Year’s Eve. It will likely be one more joyous celebration in the Yoder household.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Politeness among 100,000 people

By Bruce Stambaugh

Living in rural Holmes County, Ohio, I normally am not part of a group that tops 100,000 people. A recent Saturday afternoon, however, found my son, Nathan, and I in just such a crowd.

For both of us, it was only our second time watching an Ohio State University football game in storied Ohio Stadium. We had gone to our first contest 25 years ago. We considered it an honor to be able to go again. For what we observed, so did everyone else.

Ohio Stadium by Nathan StambaughThough the forecast wasn’t the most promising, I expected we’d see a decent game and enjoy a lively half-time show. By kick off, the skies had cleared to a pure blue with only a few puffy white clouds zooming overhead at game’s end. The weather wasn’t the only pleasant surprise.

Given all the focus on Buckeye football in Ohio, I was expecting a rousing if not a raucous crowd decked out in scarlet and gray in the fabled horseshoe stadium. They indeed were colorful, but mostly because of their home team garb.

Something else impressed us besides the sea of scarlet. Although they won, what caught our attention certainly wasn’t the lackluster play of the Buckeye team, though their overmatched opponent gave a spirited effort.

My son and I were both amazed at the demeanor of the packed house. The crowd was exceedingly polite. From our seats in the first level near the middle of the north end zone, we had a very good view of most of the proceedings.

These were loyal Buckeye fans to be sure. We had walked through parking lot after parking lot of tailgating parties prior to the game. People were having a genuinely good time. Youngsters tossed footballs. Young adults huddled together laughing and talking. Older generations watched over the grilling of brats and burgers.

The throngs of people funneling to the entrances were equally congenial. People patiently lined up. Ushers were courteous and helpful.

Prior to finding our seats, we watched the boisterous student cheering section clamor down the sloping ramp to the field. The famous OSU marching band closely followed them. The students were painted and dressed for victory, the band energetic to the point of periodic chest thumping. They were pumped.

Script Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
The Ohio State Marching Band and the Alumni Band played out four script Ohios simultaneously on the field.
Save for one couple that sat a few rows in front of us, no one seemed to have partied too hard or too long. Fans were there to watch their team and the band. And that’s exactly what they did.

Sure there were a few boos at the officials when a call or two went against Ohio State. For the most part, people were just plain mannerly. When the lady sitting beside me accidentally bumped my arm, she kindly apologized. I did the same when I bumped her, too. With that many people squeezed into bleacher seats, a little unintentional elbowing could be expected.

Throughout the game, most everyone was well behaved. People urged on the team by yelling, “Come on boys,” as if they knew them personally. Foul language was non-existent.

The crowd reverently sat for most of the game and enthusiastically stood for the entire halftime show. With more than 400 alumni band members present, it was a special treat to watch four different script Ohio’s simultaneously unfold on the field.

I could readily see why OSU tickets are so hard to come by. Attendance there just isn’t solely for football. It’s a time-honored, refined tradition.

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

Photos courtesy of Nathan Stambaugh.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Viewing the leaves in Ohio’s Amish country

Fall from my backyard by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Ohio’s Amish Country, particularly Holmes County, is a great place to be when the autumn leaves are at their finest. With its many stands of mixed hardwoods throughout the area, the colors can be spectacular if all the conditions are right.

The leaves are usually at their colorful peak by mid-October. Though the summer’s drought may have caused some trees to already change, they seem to be on a normal timetable for coloration. Now through the next two weeks will provide marvelous viewing.

Several great routes can be driven to see the rainbow of leaves. Just consider the rolling hills, rows of corn shocks, grazing cows, romping horses, Amish buggies and silvery streams as backdrops to the main event.

Fall farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Simply traveling the main highways that lead into the Holmes County area and crisscross the county will guarantee beautiful scenery. That’s especially true in the fall.

Trees and shocks by Bruce StambaughState Route 39 cuts Holmes County in half east to west. In many places, the road roughly follows the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin Glacier. To the south, hillsides loaded with maple, oak, walnut, beech and hickory trees are steeper than their counterparts on the opposite side of the road. The glacier filled in the valleys on the north side 10,000 years ago, leaving a gently undulating geography, with rich soil that farmers pamper for excellent crops and lush pasturelands. Stands of woodlots and tree-studded fence lines create magnificent leaf viewing.

Yellow and red by Bruce StambaughState Route 83 bisects Holmes County in half north to south. You will be dazzled by the vistas that change seemingly at every curve. Both north and south of Millersburg, the county seat, the route hugs the eastern edge of the Killbuck Valley. Impressive slopes with ample forests east and west nestle golden marshlands teeming with wildlife in between.

U.S. 62 runs diagonally across the county. From the northeast, pastoral views are aplenty, meandering through Amish farmland on each side. Because the wood industry surpassed agriculture as the number one employer in Holmes County a few years ago, trees are treasured and properly cared for.

Fall scene by Bruce Stambaugh

Follow U.S. 62 from Millersburg southwest toward Killbuck and on to Danville in Knox County and you might think you are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In truth, you are. The road follows the area’s main waterway, Killbuck Creek, and then climbs the hills into the Mohican River watershed.

Woods and hills by Bruce Stambaugh

The lesser traveled state, county and township roads provide equal opportunity viewing when it comes to autumn leaves. State Route 520 from Killbuck through Glenmont’s seven hills and on to State Route 514 especially provides a pretty show if the timing is right.

In the east, State Routes 241, 515, 557 and 643 all are winding, hilly and gorgeous in the fall. Farmsteads with white houses and coffin red barns are the norm in any direction on these roads.

Red barn red tree by Bruce Stamaugh

For those who desire more than just riding and looking, the area has plenty to offer. At the Wilderness Center off of U.S. 250 west of Wilmot, you can hike through prairie grass and virgin forests, and explore an education center, where there is fun for all ages.

Mohican State Park near Loudonville affords numerous trails with incredible overlooks to the steep Mohican River gorge. The greens of the thousands of white pines nicely compliment the colorful mixed hardwood forest.

For bicyclists, the Holmes County Trail offers 16 miles of lovely trials from Fredericksburg to Killbuck. Hikers are welcome, too. The trail runs along the Killbuck through the center of the county until it turns southwest toward Killbuck. The wildlife, birding and leaf viewing can all be consumed simultaneously. A note of caution, however. Horse and buggies also use the trail on one side while bikers and hikers are on the other.

Everyone has their favorite spot to view the changing leaves. You’ll enjoy finding yours.

Fall in Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

This article appeared in Ohio’s Amish Country magazine.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012