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Moving to The Valley for the most important reason

Shenandoah Valley, sunset

The beautiful Shenandoah Valley at dusk.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I loved where we lived. We had spent our entire adult lives among the world’s largest Amish population in Holmes County, Ohio. Why would anyone want to leave that serene setting for the Shenandoah Valley?

Since we had visited The Valley several times in the last two decades, we could have provided numerous viable answers to that question. The picturesque mountains, the agrarian culture, the abundant natural beauty and recreational options, the rich history, the lively arts and educational opportunities all would have sufficed as legitimate reasons for new retirees to live in The Valley.

To us, however, those were all secondary benefits. Our move to Rockingham County was inevitable for one perfect, personal reason. Like so many retiring baby boomers, we wanted to be near our grandchildren in our senior years. We wanted to be close to them in their active formative years, and assist their busy household however we could.

little league baseball, grandson

Our grandson the pitcher.

We observed that we weren’t alone in relocating for that familial reason. We discovered many others either already had moved to the area or were going to do so. Grandchildren were important to them, too. That alone affirmed our decision to move.

Ironically, my older brother and his wife did the same thing for the same reason only in reverse. One month later, they moved from Williamsburg, Virginia to the exact same county we left in Ohio.

Before we pulled up roots, however, our daughter and her husband assured us that The Valley would remain their home no matter what path their careers took. With that, we moved to The Valley last May.

However, the planning and preparations began long before that. Before the move, we delved into the possibility of living in or near Harrisonburg. We spoke with friends who had already done so. Their advice was not to wait too long. The grandchildren grow up fast.

We researched the cost of valley living and discovered it was a bit higher than what we had experienced in Ohio. Housing was especially a concern. Our ever-alert daughter found a house in our price range that looked promising. Our real estate agent set up an appointment.

We liked the house and the location. We quickly agreed on a price with the owners. My wife signed the papers in a parking lot on the trunk of the realtor’s car late at night. Having gone home for some required monthly meetings, I signed electronically online, a new experience for me.

canning peaches, granddaughter

Our granddaughter helped with the canning.

We were in shock though. In our 46 years of marriage, my wife and I never had been spontaneous buyers. Here we were making the largest purchase of our lives only 48 hours after having seen the home.
Moving wasn’t an easy decision by any means. We thought long and hard about it. All the rest of our immediate family lives in Ohio, including our son. He gave us his blessing to move.

My wife and I were born and raised in Ohio. We spent our careers in public education there. We both served with several community organizations over the years. It wasn’t easy to let go of all of that.
To soften the change, we decided to deliberately take our time moving to the Shenandoah Valley. As quickly as we bought the house, we didn’t move in until 18 months later. My wife and I worked diligently for a year and a half to prepare for the move.

I’m glad it took us that long to transition from one place to the other. We didn’t want to merely cut and run from the people and place we loved. That interlude gave us the opportunity and space we needed to adjust to this major, life-changing decision.

Shenandoah NP, hiking

The exploring grandson.

We met with the local mover that we hired. A sincere young man, he clearly knew his business. We found the combination of his expertise and experience immensely helpful in deciding what to take and what to leave. Our Harrisonburg home was considerably smaller than the one in Ohio. We were downsizing after all.

We spent much effort sorting and packing clothing, furniture, and household goods. We found homes for family heirlooms that wouldn’t fit in our smaller Virginia home. We donated many items to a local thrift store. We also met with family members and close friends before we exited, often over meals. Relationships are worth more than any material item.

Between purchasing the house and moving in, we rented it to a family for a few months. After they left, we hired contractors to update the landscaping and the house. We wanted to put our own personal touches on the place to make it our own. The contractors were glad to have these small jobs during their usually slower winter season.

We’ve more than enjoyed our time in The Valley so far. We’re pleased that we took our time. Not everyone has the luxury of a slower moving transition like my wife and I did. But if you can, the benefits of taking your time can make it more than worthwhile. That’s especially true if you get to regularly enjoy your grandchildren.

grandkids, breakfast

Breakfast out with the grandkids.

This story appears in the current edition of Valley Living.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

Neva is my wife

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In honor of Father’s Day and catalpa trees

bloomingcatalpabybrucestambaugh

Blooming Catalpa Tree. © Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

I made a very revealing, personal discovery today. The 2014 calendar is identical to the 1947 calendar.

I know that’s not earth-shattering news. But it was for me. And it all started with me taking a photo of a blooming catalpa tree yesterday. I remember a story my late father once told me, one I have written about before, and will never forget.

Whenever the catalpa trees bloom in northern Ohio, Father’s Day is near. I had never paid much attention to that until Dad related his moving story.

On Sunday afternoons, my mother’s parents took turns visiting their three married daughters, all whom lived in Canton, Ohio. But on Father’s Day in 1947, Grandma and Grandpa Frith went to each of their daughter’s homes to visit. While sitting on our my parents’ front porch, Dad eyed a blooming tree down the street, and asked my grandfather if he knew what kind of tree it was. Grandpa Frith told Dad that it was a catalpa tree. Some people refer to it as the cigar tree, in reference to the tree’s long, green fruit pods.

The next day Grandpa Frith went to a job site where he was working as an electrician. He had turned off the power to do his electrical repairs when someone came along and turned the power back on. Grandpa Frith was killed instantly.

In retrospect, Dad said Mom, Aunt Gerry and Aunt Vivian were ever so grateful for that last visit they had with their father. They even wondered if it wasn’t simply meant to be.

I was born that December, never having met my grandfather.

Knowing that this Sunday, June 15 is Father’s Day, the exact same day as 67 years ago, seeing that blooming catalpa tree had even more meaning for me than ever before.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Spying on the NSA

nsastationbybrucestambaugh

The NSA listening station near Sugar Grove, West Virginia.

Today bloggers around the world are protesting the unreasonable intrusions into our private lives, all in the name of national security that the NSA does daily to both U.S. and world citizens. I clearly understand that “they” have an important job to do in tracking down terrorists.

I communicate regularly with friends around the world via this blog, on Facebook, and by emails on personal matters with them. Not one of them is threatening to any government, anywhere. In fact, as a Mennonite, I am a non-violent person, and most of my writing is about or for citizens of the Amish community. We are people of peace, but we also want and enjoy our privacy as well.

Last fall, while visiting in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I ventured up to Reddish Knob, a lovely location along the Appalachian Mountain range. From my vantage point, I noticed some large disks and several buildings in the valley to the west. I was told that was one of the NSA’s listening locations, near Sugar Grove, West Virginia.

Of course I did the obvious. I took some pictures of the facility. In effect, I was spying on the NSA. I’m sure I wasn’t the first, and clearly I gained nothing but a chuckle from the juxtaposition.

I understand that the NSA has a job to do. However, I hope that our right to privacy is soon restored since my friends, followers, and I have absolutely nothing to do with violence.

Grace and peace to all.

Bruce

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The Kennedy assassination: Recollections of a 15-year old 50 years later

I was in junior English class in the early afternoon of November 22, 1963. Jean Wood Giltz, our teacher, was in the midst of projecting one of her mesmerizing English lessons when, without any announcement, the room’s loudspeaker came on. She stopped her lecture and stared at the brown box high on the wall by the classroom door.

The class, 30 or so pimpled pupils, sat attentively in straight rows of desks and chairs so common in that educational era. We seemed as mystified as our astute instructor, who had the largest vocabulary of anyone I had ever met.

It was clear that the voice coming across the public address system was being piped through a radio. The announcer was describing details of a scene that made no sense. The students looked around in dismay, not that we were irritated that the lesson had been interrupted. But this noise was annoying, not only to us, but to Mrs. Giltz as well.

After less than a minute of this rattling on by the reporter, Mrs. Giltz asked Jimmy, a student who usually slept through her class, to go to the office to have the speaker system turned off. She figured that someone in the principal’s office had hit the wrong switch.

As Jimmy reached the door, the announcer said, “And repeating, the president has been shot.” The class immediately went silent. Without being told, Jimmy made a slow U-turn, and returned to his seat. He listened to the report trying to piece the fragments of information together like the rest of us. Mrs. Giltz slumped to her chair behind her big wooden desk.

The announcer went on reporting this breaking news from Dallas. Someone had shot the president and that he had been taken to a hospital. Little else was known.

As abruptly as the broadcast had been turned on to every classroom in the school of 1,200 students, the live feed was suddenly stopped after about 20 minutes. The principal’s voice replaced the reporter’s.

I don’t remember his exact words, only the message. Because of the national tragedy, school was being dismissed early. We went to our lockers, and filed out quietly to our buses. No one said a word.

When I left the school, all I knew was that President Kennedy was critically injured. We boarded the buses and headed out. Because I lived less than a mile from the school, my stop was the first. I rushed into the house, a small brick bungalow in Canton, Ohio, and turned on the black and white television. I tuned to Channel 3 to watch Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Our family watched them faithfully as if they were relatives to be respected.

In that short timespan from school to home, the announcement had been made that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America, had died. Huntley and Brinkley were visibly moved, and I cried, too. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to kill the president. He had projected so much youth and hope for the future. He loved the press, and held frequent press conferences, which were more like classroom discussions. He laughed and smiled, and tossed the football with family members. He had two small children and a beautiful wife who was shyly gregarious, unassuming, but confident and classy in her demeanor and dress.

I was crushed. We all were, even my father, who didn’t vote for Kennedy because he was a Catholic. Our cousins were Catholic and we would gather with them for Thanksgiving the very next Thursday. Yet Dad didn’t like the president because he was Catholic. I never understood his thinking in that regard. Never.

Initially, I was home alone. The rest of the family filtered in, my younger brother and two sisters from school and Mom and finally Dad came home from work. My older brother was at college. We were glued to the TV for any breaking news, just the way we had been a year earlier. We had watched together as the young president described the Cuban Missile Crisis to the country.

As scary as that event was, this was much worse. With the death of the president, it was as if the life had been sucked out of all of us.

We watched as Air Force One landed in Washington, D.C. later that evening. The casket was awkwardly lowered from the plane to a waiting hearse. I remember how Jackie had to literally jump down to the tarmac from the truck lift that carried the body of her husband. I thought that so thoughtless of those who were responsible for watching over such a graceful and gracious woman.

The shock of the assassination wore on us all. Without the instant communication of today’s world, we were dependent on the trusted news people of the time to keep us informed. Details of the shooting, the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin, and the funeral arrangements kept us in front of the TV. Commentators openly discussed how it was possible that Oswald could have done such a thing. Eyewitnesses declared there was a second shooter from the infamous grassy knoll. Everything was confusion.

The events of the next few days unfolded on the screen before us. A balm seemed to settle over the entire nation. Things got really complicated, confusing, suspicious, surreal, even though I didn’t know that word at the time. We watched live as Jack Ruby stepped right in front of the TV cameras and shot Oswald in the stomach as if it were a Hollywood movie. How did that happen? Why did that happen? How did Ruby get into the police station? Why did the police make Oswald so public, having him walk that gauntlet in the open?

The entire affair got more and more murky. What was going to happen next? I don’t remember being so much afraid as numbed by this ugly chain of events. Indeed, the lingering question was, “Were they connected?” I was a sad and confused young man.

Monday was a national day of mourning, with the funeral services, the walk to Arlington National Cemetery and the burial. Two images are forever fixed in my mind. One was little John-John, the president’s son, stepping forth and saluting the passing flag-draped casket pulled on a horse drawn caisson. The other was the line of world leaders walking along, heading the parade of mourners. I particularly remember Charles de Gaulle, the President of France, towering above the others.

Finally, it all got to me as an immature, naïve teenager. I couldn’t take the emotion of it all anymore. I called a few neighborhood friends, and soon we had a pickup game of touch football going in a neighbor’s field. It felt good to again feel good, to forget the troubles and trials of the world, and just play with kids your own age. The game meant nothing, and yet it meant everything. I don’t recall who won or what the score was. I just remember the relief of being young again with no cares in the world. And for the record, none of the dozen or so guys on the field with me even mentioned the events of the last few days.

Once the game was over, however, I dreaded going home. I knew it would be back to reality. The days of Camelot were over. It was a hard reality for a teenager to accept, and one I have endured but never forgotten for half a century.

Bruce Stambaugh
© 2013

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Early detection is critical for prostate cancer

By Bruce Stambaugh

I remember the exact time and place when I got the phone call that said I likely had prostate cancer. A biopsy three months later confirmed the preliminary test.

I wasn’t surprised by the news, but I was disappointed. I had hoped to avoid the disease that was in my family’s medical history. My father died of prostate cancer, and a year and a half before my diagnosis, my older brother had had robotic prostate cancer surgery to remove the cancerous prostate.

With this background, my doctors kept a close watch on my situation. When my Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) began to rise, my urology appointments went from annual to semiannual.

blueforprostatecancerbybrucestambaugh

Each September, the lamp in my office shines blue in honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The PSA test, which requires a simple blood draw, has been the standard for monitoring a man’s prostate health. September is designated as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and having a baseline PSA score is an essential guide for healthcare providers to know their patients’ situations, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“Early detection is important,” said Dr. Timothy Coblentz, a urologist in Canton and a native of Holmes County, Ohio. “Men who are caught early with prostate cancer have very good cure results.”

Dr. Coblentz said the PSA screening is especially important for men ages 55 to 69. He said men with high risk factors of family history and race should also be screened beginning no later than age 40.

“There is no doubt that screening for prostate cancer saves lives,” Dr. Coblentz said. His practice is part of the Canton Urology Group, which hosts a prostate cancer awareness meeting on the second Tuesday of each month.

Luis Lacourt of Massillon, Ohio coordinates the group. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 42, or as he puts it, “About 25 years before the average age of diagnosis.”

Lacourt also had a family history with the disease. His grandfather, father and uncle all had prostate cancer. At the urging of his father, Lacourt asked his family doctor to begin PSA testing to establish a baseline.

At age 40, he began seeing a urologist, who happened to be Dr. Coblentz. When Lacourt’s PSA score doubled in a year, the red flag went up. A biopsy confirmed his prostate cancer in May 2012, and a month later he underwent successful robotic prostate cancer surgery.

Lacourt, now 44, is a guidance counselor at Perry High School in Massillon. He is also an ordained minister.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Lacourt said. “It became clear to me that prostate cancer awareness was something I could share as a positive influence to help others.”

With the assistance of a urology nurse with Dr. Coblentz, Lacourt began the monthly support meeting, which is open to all who have had or currently have prostate cancer. He said the emphasis is on sharing and learning, and recognizing that prostate cancer awareness is important.

Lacourt’s proactivity about prostate cancer began immediately after being diagnosed. He organized a Prostate Cancer Awareness night at a high school football game last October.

Early detection of prostate cancer was critical to me. Knowing the disease was in my family raised my risk of having it. However, my baseline PSA level was much higher than my brother’s. His spiked significantly in one year, the biopsy was done, followed by the surgery.

My PSA went up gradually. When it exceeded the standard threshold of 4, my testing and the exams increased, though I had no symptoms that anything was amiss. On May 12, 2011, I had my robotic prostate cancer surgery, and have fortunately since been declared cancer free.

supportgroupbybrucestambaugh

Having a support group to get through the various stages prostate cancer is important both emotional and physical health.

More than two years post surgery, I am doing very well, partly thanks to a support group of other men who have or are fighting the same fight. Kim Kellogg of Millersburg, Ohio invited me to the group. Kellogg was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year to the day ahead me.

“Having an advocate and being an advocate to others is really important before and after treatment,” Kellogg said. “Stay positive, be vocal, ask questions of the doctors and others who have had prostate cancer.”

Being able to share with a small group of others with prostate cancer has made the physical and emotional recovery from the robotic surgery much easier than trying to go it alone. Our group meets about once a month.

Statistically, one in six men get prostate cancer and 30,000 men die in the United States each year from the disease. Those figures alone drive prostate cancer awareness. Excellent resources about prostate cancer can be found from the Blue Cure Foundation and the One in Six Foundation. Both foundations provide excellent information on prostate cancer prevention, and resources for those diagnosed with prostate cancer and living with the disease.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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The secret to great ice cream is no secret at all

d&bburgersbybrucestambaugh

One of the food trailers from which Dan and Anna Bowman serve their delicious ice cream. The Bowmans are Amish, so no pictures were taken of them.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When Dan and Anna Bowman crank up their ice cream machine each year in June, it doesn’t take long for a line to form. Their ice cream is that good.

The Bowman’s operate under the business name of D and B Burgers, Fredericksburg, Ohio. Don’t let the name deceive you. They serve up lots more than tasty burgers. Their menu includes offerings for breakfast and lunch, and of course, fresh and delicious soft serve ice cream.

When asked what the secret was to their yummy ice cream, Dan didn’t hesitate to answer, though what he said may come as a surprise. His modest answer reflected his daily demeanor.

“We use the same commercial ice cream mix as several others in the area,” Dan said. “Fresh and clean is a very good combination for good tasting ice cream.” By that he meant that he keeps the soft serve ice cream machine cleaned on a regular basis.

“You can’t keep ice cream mix in too long,” Dan said. “You can only go about two days before you have to sanitize the machine.”

twistandshoutbybrucestambaugh

The twist soft serve ice cream cone is a hit with the Bowman’s customers.

Dan said that if the ice cream sits in the well of the machine too long it gets gritty and sour. To ensure freshness, he even cleans off the dispenser to eliminate any chance of anything less than fresh being dispensed.

To keep it clean, he and Anna completely take the machine apart to clean, a process that takes an hour. The machine gets thoroughly cleaned with the manufacturer’s recommended cleanser, rinsed, dried, and reassembled.

Dan and Anna sell three flavors of soft serve ice cream, chocolate, vanilla and twist. They serve their ice cream in cake cones, cups and sundaes.

“The raspberry sundae is the favorite of customers,” Dan said. Of course, the topping is homemade by Anna.

Again, they said there is no secret to that success. Freshness makes the difference here, too.

“I just add a little sugar to the berries and turn on the blender,” she said. They offer red, black and purple raspberry.

Dan said there are four or five ice cream mixes that he could choose from in the area.

delicioussundaebybrucestambaugh

Anna’s homemade raspberry sundae topping is very popular with customers.

“I use a mix from a local dairy for consistency and freshness there, too,” Dan said. He buys the mix through the Country Mart in Mt. Hope, Ohio. The mix is a liquid that is poured into the vat of the tabletop ice cream galvanized machine.

“We have people tell us that our ice cream tastes better than others,” said Anna. “But we use a commercial mix just like the others.”

Dan said censors on the machine tell him when the ice cream is getting low.

“That’s why we never run out of ice cream,” Dan said. “It only takes about five to 10 minutes before the ice cream is ready to be served.”

Dan said they average about 25 gallons of ice cream per day during the peek time of June to October. Dan and Anna’s stand, which he affectionately refers to as the wiener wagon, can be found at the Mt. Hope Auction during special events like horse sales. They also do some special sales and auctions.

pouiringthemixbybrucestambaugh

The ice cream mix gets poured into the machine, vanilla on one side, chocolate on the other.

The best chance to catch Dan and Anna is at the Farmers Produce Market on State Route 241 a mile west of Mt. Hope June through October when ice cream is served beginning at 10 a.m. The stand, however, opens around 8 a.m. when buyers and sellers start to arrive. D and B Burgers serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches, side dishes, donuts, cookies, candy and hot and cold drinks.

The produce market is affiliated with the Mt. Hope Auction, and Dan and Anna provide food there February to November. During the summer months, the auction runs four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

“We are very thankful to Steve and Jim Mullet for allowing us to operate at their sales,” Dan said. “My business would not be without the Mullets.”

D and B Burgers operation has been operating for 13 years. They now use two food wagons. One is stationed at the produce market most of the year.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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All about Amish buggies

buggylineupbybrucestambaugh

An assortment of buggy styles were tied up at a local auction barn.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Amish buggies in Ohio’s Amish Country may be all black, but they definitely aren’t all the same. The nondescript, unobtrusive color merely keeps them uniform and modest.

Even if they all are black, a closer look reveals that there are many differences in buggies. These variances are especially true for buggies owned by younger Amish men. Particular attention is paid to the kind of accessories included on their buggies. After all, a buggy can last for 30 years if it is well maintained.

buggyshopbybrucestambaugh

An Amish bench wagon stood outside an Amish buggy shop near Berlin, OH. The wagon is used to carry the church benches from one location to another. Since the Amish do not have church buildings, they take turns hosting church for the 100 or more members and their children. Shops like this one are cleared out and cleaned in preparation for church service.

At least two-dozen buggy shops are sprinkled around the Greater Holmes County area. That way the Amish do not have to travel far to order a buggy or have one repaired. That concept is maintained in all aspects of the Amish lifestyle.

Demand for new buggies is high. Most buggy shops reported a year’s wait for a new buggy. Depending on the size of the shop and the kind of buggies being built, buggies are produced at the rate of no greater than one per week. Buggy repairs are worked in accordingly. Should a buggy be damaged in an accident or lose a wheel, for example, it would receive priority status.

Most buggy shops are family operations. A father and his son or sons may run the shop, assisted by an apprentice or even wives and daughters. This way the trade can be passed from generation to generation.

buggyworksbybrucestambaugh

Amish buggies are built one at a time. The buggy in the foreground still needs to have its black vinyl coated cloth skin attached, and painting completed.

Because each buggy is custom-built one at a time, assembling a buggy is a prolonged process, taking as long as a year to complete. To build a sturdy, useful buggy, shop owners and workers need a variety of skills. They must be a carpenter, welder, upholsterer, painter and mechanic all in one.

According to Menno Schlabach, owner and operator of M & S Coach near Berlin, buggies start with a wooden base. Reinforced with metal braces, a wood framed structure is attached. The sides and tops are covered with a grained, vinyl coated black cloth.
“With 150 church districts in the area, customization of each buggy varies a great deal,” Schlabach said.

buggydashboardbybrucestambaugh

This wood inlaid dashboard is typical for young Amish men to have installed in their first buggy. The levers that operate lights and even a hand-powered windshield wiper fit through the cutout holes.

Indeed, it is the customization that allows the customer to put personal preferences into the new buggy to give it character. That process also slows the construction. With all the various options, Schlabach said it takes an average of 150 hours to build a new buggy.

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A worker installed a window in the door of a new buggy.

Some buggies have curtain doors that roll up, while others have sliding doors on the side and a hinged door in the back for easier access. Other buggy accessories include shelves for storage, switches, battery compartments, mirrors, window sizes and shapes including the choice of glass or Plexiglas or no glass at all, shapes and cushioning of seats, manually operated windshield wipers, brakes, upholstery and a variety of lighting options. Even the materials of the wheels and shafts vary.
Dashboards seem to be the telling tale of the owners’ preferences. Some are intricately made using inlaid or exotic wood. The dashboards are mounted on the inside of the front piece of the buggy. They generally house switches for exterior and interior lights and turn signals.

buggylightsbybrucestambaugh

Buggies in the Greater Holmes County, Ohio area are usually well-lighted and marked with a slow moving vehicle reflector, reflective tape, and rear amber blinking light.

Even the exterior lighting is customized. Just like cars, buggies have headlights and taillights. Most also have amber warning lights on the top rear of the buggy. Running lights along the sides of the buggies help drivers see at night. Marker lights positioned on the front and sides of buggies are other accessories that give the buggy its individual distinction. Only buggies owned by Swartzentruber Amish, the lowest Amish order, still use kerosene lanterns for visibility.

The style of buggy is determined by its purpose. A two-wheeled cart is the simplest of all buggy types and is used for quick, local trips. The hack is the Amish equivalent to a pick up truck. Sometimes called buckboards, a hack is a four-wheel buggy that is designed for hauling livestock and other bulk items. Some driver compartments of hacks are covered, while others are open.
The most common buggy type is the surrey. They are built with a bench seat and a storage area in the back that also has an option for two small flat seats along the insides. The side seats can be removed to increase storage. Usually children use those rear seats.

buggyshaftsbybrucestambaugh

Most parts of buggies are made locally, including these shafts that connect the horse to the buggy. The shafts are made and bent at a specialty shop near Mt. Hope, OH.

Surreys come covered or open. Covered buggies are called top buggies. The family version of a surrey has two bench seats and four openings for access, plus some storage space in the rear with a door or curtain that rolls up.

buggywheelbybrucestambaugh

The Amish like to keep things as local as possible. The wheel, spokes, axel and brakes were all made within 15 miles of this buggy’s owner’s home.

The newest buggy version is the mini-surrey, which can actually hold more passengers than a regular top buggy. Affectionately called a minivan by some Amish, the mini-surrey serves the same purpose. The side seats behind the front bench comfortably hold two adults or several children on each side.

The cost of new buggies varies depending on the type and size of the buggy and the kind and amount of accessories included. A new cart could cost $1,500 while a new, well-equipped mini-surrey could run up to $7,000.

With a horse for an engine, the buggy’s driver steers with a set of reins instead of a steering wheel. Still, the purpose of a buggy is the same as a motorized vehicle. It transports its passengers from one place to the other, just at a much slower speed.
Buggies may be black. But they are an important element that helps keep the Amish culture moving in every way.

amishminivanbybrucestambaugh

The newest style buggy seen is the Holmes County area is the Amish mini-buggy, affectionately called the Amish minivan.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Ohio Society of Bluebirds conference sets attendance record

thirstybluebirdsbybrucestambaugh

Eastern Bluebirds frequented a backyard water feature during a cold spell in Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Marcella Hawkins of Glenmont, Ohio has a passion for Eastern Bluebirds. That passion became productively evident Feb. 23 at the Ohio Society of Bluebirds (OSB) annual conference in Wooster, Ohio. Hawkins is the executive director of OSB.

From the record number of people who attended the conference held Feb. 23, Hawkins is not alone. More than 300 bluebird enthusiasts participated in the all day event, held at the Shisler Conference Center on the campus of the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center.

doorprizesbybrucestambaugh

Adrienne Hopson-Gaston of Mansfield, Ohio surveyed the door prizes available at the Ohio Bluebird Society conference.

The day was filled with exhibits, vendors, speakers and presentations, with only a few breaks. Experts and amateurs alike shared their research and experiences regarding some aspect of bluebirds, their predators and habitats.

Darlene Sillick, a conservationist and birder from Powell, Ohio, related her years of experiences with the Ohio Wildlife Center with owls. She explained that owls could turn their head 270 degrees because they have 14 vertebrate, twice the number of humans.

Sillick said owls depend on their keen sense of hearing and large eyes to track prey. She shared that it is the force of the owl’s talons that kills its prey.

Sillick introduced Matthew Wiese of Dublin, Ohio. Wiese, 17, did a nest box project on Safari Golf Club for his Eagle Scout badge. Wiese said he put in a total of 319 volunteer hours in planning, mapping and checking the numerous bluebird boxes he installed. He also learned to band the hatchlings in several of the boxes.

jasonmartinbybrucestambaugh

Jason Martin, head of Cornell’s Nest Watch project, answered questions from participants.

Roger Downer of Wooster, a retired entomologist from the OARDC, gave a presentation on moths. He said the important connection between moths and bluebirds are the caterpillars that serve as a food source for the bluebirds. Those that survive become moths, which other birds also use as food.

Chuck Jakubchak of Strongsville, Ohio gave a pep rally style presentation about how birds know when to migrate. In the case of Eastern Bluebirds, he proposed three scenarios. He said studies show that some bluebirds migrate to the southeastern states with habitat similar to what they have in Ohio. Others only partially migrate, going to warmer but closer states where they compete for food with non-migrating birds.

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Volunteers at the Medina Raptor Center displayed several species of injured birds at the conference, including this leucistic Red-tailed Hawk.

Jakubchak said the bluebirds seen in Ohio during the winter are non-migrating.

“They stay put, perhaps because they have had a successful breeding history,” he said. “But we really don’t know for sure, other than the fact that they choose to stay.”

Jason Martin of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., spoke on the importance of documenting Eastern Bluebirds by monitoring their nesting boxes. He invited participants to join his project, Nest Watch, by keeping track of what is happening inside the nesting boxes.

“Inside the boxes,” Martin said, “is where the action is.” The Nest Watch project began in 1960 and has progressed to online reporting of nesting activity from around the country.

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Noted birder Greg Miller from Sugarcreek, Ohio gave an autograph to Trevor Zook of Mansfield, Ohio.

Greg Miller of Sugarcreek, Ohio closed out the session with a spellbinding account of his Big Year experience. He especially focused on the time he spent as the bird consultant on the set of the movie, The Big Year. He told personal accounts of meeting the movie producers and stars, including Jack Black, who played Miller in the movie.

Allen and Nina Bower of Britton, Mich., received OBS’s Blue Feather Award for their effort in spreading the importance of proper nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds. The group’s Wildlife Conservation Award went to Charlie Zepp of Dublin. Zepp has built more than 6,000 bluebird boxes with wood he gathered from refuge bins at construction sites.

After announcing several winners of donated raffle prizes, Hawkins thanked the volunteers and sponsors of the conference, which was free of charge for those who had preregistered.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Churches ready for another candlelight walk

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Brooke Hershberger entertained participants of last year’s church walk at Millersburg Mennonite Church.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The event has such a straightforward name. Yet, participating in the annual Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is so much more than that.

Yes, it is a walk, unless you choose to drive from church to church. This year six churches within walking distance in and close to Historical Downtown Millersburg, Ohio are set to host visitors on Friday, December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. Millersburg is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 75 miles south of Cleveland or 80 miles northeast of Columbus.

The churches are chosen for the proximity as well as their historical significance, according to Kate Findley, who is the volunteer coordinator for the event, now in its third year.

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Kate Findley (left), coordinator for the church walk, shared about the Presbyterian Church at last year’s church walk.

“We want those who can do so to be able to walk from church to church,” Findley said. “Those who cannot walk are welcome to drive to each church.”

Besides the physical exercise, people who participate in the tour will also learn about the history of each church. Findley said representatives from each congregation would be available to share about their church and answer any questions. For example, some of the church buildings have housed different denominations over the years.

In addition, the various churches in the walk have unique architectural features that people should find interesting. From ornate bell towers to stained glass windows to intricate pulpits, each church has its own structural story.

“This is an opportunity for people who might drive by these churches frequently without ever being inside them to see what they look like,” Findley said.

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Participants in the church walk can view special Christmas decorations and traditions at each of the participating churches.

The six churches included in the candlelight walk include Faith Lutheran Church, 187 S. Clay St.; First Presbyterian Church, 90 S. Clay St.; Grace Pointe Community Church, 164 N. Washington St.; Millersburg Christian Church, 125 N. Clay St.; Millersburg Mennonite Church, 288 E. Jackson St., and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 379 S. Crawford St.

“The walk committee is really excited to have Grace Pointe Community Church join the walk this year,” Findley said. The building formerly housed the United Methodist Church. Findley emphasized that participants can visit the churches in any order they choose. Maps of church locations will be available at each church.

“There is no starting or ending place,” Findley said. “We are encouraging people to participate in the special music and Christmas carol singing after the walk.”

A special music presentation and singing of carols at Millersburg Mennonite Church will begin at 8:15 p.m. Members of Millersburg Mennonite will perform vocal and instrumental pieces as well.

Each church will be decorated for the holidays according to the particular traditions of each congregation, Findley said. Luminaries will decorate the path to each church. Participants are also invited to relax at each church and enjoy the music presented. Participants will also have a chance to taste the culinary skills of the various church parishioners. Refreshments, including homemade Christmas cookies, will be available at each church building.

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“The Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is an excellent time for families to get in the holiday spirit,” Findley said. “It’s fun for everyone.” During the first two years of the church tour, participants represented several generations. Findley said that the church walk gained such notoriety in its first two years that people from other counties contacted her about starting one in their communities.

“I think that says a lot about the quality of the Millersburg Church Walk,” she said.

Findley noted that participants should be aware that the Grace Pointe Church is not handicapped accessible, and that parking is across the street from the church.

The walk is free and open to the public. Besides county residents, several persons from outside the Holmes County area attended the previous two walks.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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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

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