Tag Archives: draft horses

How a pair of leaky boots sent me back in time

flooding, river in my bakcyard

A river ran through it.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Memories often materialize in the most unusual of circumstances.

It was early June, and we had endured rainstorm after rainstorm. At times, the rain pelted down at the rate of two inches an hour.

When you live between two mountain ranges and groundwater has already saturated the sticky, red-clay soil, that much precipitation spells trouble. And trouble found lots of folks throughout the picturesque Shenandoah Valley.

High water flooded roadways, keeping fire departments and rescue squads busy with multiple water rescues. It was still pouring when a river of muddy water rushed through our backyard.

I decided to check the five-foot crawl space beneath our ranch home. I slipped on my old black gumboots and jumped into eight inches of water. Instantly, cold, yucky water surrounded my right foot. The combination of old age and wear and tear had finally taken their toll on my versatile rubber boots.

I was grateful a local plumber was gracious enough to bail us out despite being swamped with other calls. Everything beneath our home seemed to have weathered the storm except my precious boots.

rubber boots, gumboots

My old friends.

Gumboots are knee-high footwear made of rubber and fabric designed for all kinds of outdoor activities. Those boots and I went way back. They had served me well in a variety of conditions over several years.

I remember where I bought them nearly three decades ago at a now-defunct shoe store in Mt. Hope, Ohio. I wore the boots often in many different situations. I had depended on them time and again, often in dire instances.

When a storm hit, I put them on to check my roads as a township trustee. I can’t tell you how many flooded streets and ditches I waded through wearing those boots. I traipsed through many snowstorms with them, too.

Once after a big snow, I spied a grizzled old opossum munching birdseed from a feeder that sat atop a picnic table in our backyard. On went my coveralls and those gumboots. I intended to shoo off the unwanted mammal. As I opened the door, our pet rat terrier Bill shot out the door ahead of me.

Charm OH, Ohio in winter, ice cycles

Scene of the rescue.

Bill’s fearless instincts immediately kicked in when he spotted the opossum. The little dog circled the unimpressed marsupial once, and on his second pass, Bill leaped for the much larger animal’s tail. The opossum hit the ground with a thud, dead on arrival.

Those boots even helped me as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. On one run, I found myself standing in the shallows of a stream holding up an elderly victim who had fallen into the rushing creek. I still remember the fire chief’s surprised expression when he saw me in the water with those black boots.

Another time, on an early subzero February morning, I spotted our Amish neighbor heading across frozen farm fields toward our house. Levi was delivering the promised fertilizer for our garden. Steam shimmered in the morning light as it rose from the hardworking draft horses and the load of manure they were pulling in the spreader.

By the time I dressed and pulled on my gumboots, I was too late. Levi and his pitchfork had already deposited a still-steaming pile of manure onto the garden plot. Standing in that frigid, fragrant morning air, I asked him how much I owed for the delivery. Levi just smiled and said wryly, “Nothing. I don’t have anything in it.”

Like I said, sometimes the strangest circumstances stir the fondest memories.

Ohio's Amish country, winter, Holmes Co. OH

Our Ohio backyard winter scene.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Filed under Amish, architectural photography, column, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, Virginia, weather, writing

Waiting on spring requires patience

spring sunrise, April sunrise

Spring sunrise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

The first flowers of the year bloomed in our yard on April 1. No fooling.

My wife found them while picking up sticks after several additional days of steady, biting winds that brought down more tree debris. I had done the same chore a week previous.

Golds, lavenders and purples of spring, assisted by the blossoms’ compatriot green leafy shafts, poked through the tree trash. That’s the one nice thing about crocuses. They replenish themselves without any effort on our part, as long as furry varmints don’t devour them.

The royal purple, lovely lavender, and buttery yellow crocuses were welcomed splashes of joyous color amid the decaying aftermath of winter’s harshness. Even the honeybees thought so.

Dead limbs and burnished leaves littered the yard thanks to continuous cold winds. It was mostly the shingle oaks and red oaks that finally released last year’s growth.

It could be easy to be remorseful given the depth of winter’s persistent, piercing punches. To be blunt, the last two winters in Ohio have been brutal. The current condition of any highway, rural, suburban, urban or interstate, is proof enough of that.

The fact is that when you live in northern Ohio, awaiting spring requires patience. We shouldn’t allow either the sullenness of winter’s negative effect nor the cloudy, cool spring days to dull our senses to the numerous subtle changes that are occurring beyond the short-lived flowerings.

Those hints are our daily hope. We only need to watch and listen to realize spring’s emergence.

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Here’s what I’ve witnessed so far. The glint of another promising sunrise flashed off the harness hardware of the draft horses pulling one bottom plows turning topsoil. Chilly mid-morning April showers sent them all to the barn.

A Chipping Sparrow trilled its repetitious song from the safety of the blue spruce at the corner of our home. It was nice to hear its monotonous melody again.

A Red-winged Blackbird sang its luxurious chorus from the top of the tallest pine on our property. It had been doing so for a month already. When our son was a youngster, he always noted when this common bird with its flashy red wing patches first sang its welcoming song atop that tree.

Cardinals and American Robins joined in the musical mayhem, staking out their territories, and trying to attract a mate. The robins regularly asserted themselves, especially against their diminutive but beautiful cousins, the Eastern Bluebirds.

Molting American Goldfinches squabbled at the bird feeder by the kitchen window as if their changing colors irritated their familial demeanor. An Eastern Phoebe popped onto the same limb it claimed last year and naturally bobbed its lobed tail.

An awakened fox squirrel was a sight to see as well. Pelting rains had disheveled its scrubby fur as it munched and munched on sunflower seeds.

Buds on trees like the flowering dogwood and shrubs like the lilac swell slowly, stealthily. Eventually,

yellow crocuses, crocuses

Yellow crocuses. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

they will burst into full blossom, spreading both their beauty and fragrances for all to enjoy.

Long, hard winters followed by chilly, wet starts to spring can get us behaving badly if we’re not careful. We get antsy for the weather we so desire. Tending to both flower and vegetable gardens beats shoveling snow any day.

With the recent rains and warmer temperatures, it looks as though our steadfast but frayed patience has finally paid off. Let’s hope both fairer weather and pleasant attitudes prevail right on into summer.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Filed under Amish, birding, column, Ohio, photography

Wagonload

wagonloadbybrucestambaugh

Wagonload. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Since our home sits on land sold from an Amish farm, many opportunities to capture rural life in action present themselves. I sometimes have to act quickly, however, if I want to capture them. This image of our teenage neighbor guiding the workhorses pulling a wagonload of just cut cornstalks was one of those times. I happened to glance out the window and saw the wagon heading back to the barn. Unlike tractors, horses don’t make much noise when working. I grabbed my camera, and snapped a couple of shots before Bill and Bob, the draft horses, rushed the wagon out of sight.

If you look closely, you realize there is a lot going on in this shot. The first thing that caught my attention was the texture of the gathered cornstalks. The tan tassels, the long, dark green leaves all bending to the force exerted by Bill and Bob, and urged on by David, the driver. I thought the appearance of the chopped stalks laid and carried horizontally on the wagon boldly contrasted with those still standing in the cornfield directly behind the wagon.

More importantly, note the rhythm of working together that Bill and Bob nicely demonstrate with their almost unison strides. For the record, the cornstalks were ground up into mash, and stored in the silo for future feed for Bill and Bob and the other livestock on the farm. In addition, cutting the outside rows of corn, and a few through the middle of the stand of corn allows freer movement of air to help dry the remaining standing corn.

This photo is more than simply showing a young Amish boy leading a wagonload of harvest. It exemplifies the efficiency and purpose of Amish farming. “Wagonload” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under Amish, Ohio, Photo of the Week, photography, writing

Winter wanes with March’s arrival

winterplowingbybrucestambaugh

A young Amish boy gets a head start on spring plowing with his a team of draft horses during a winter thaw.

By Bruce Stambaugh

On my way to dinner with a friend, a simple yet pleasant notice brought a smile to my face. As my car turned the sharp corner, I saw the sign in front of the volunteer fire station. It read, “Baseball sign up Saturday.”

With yet another wintry storm on the way, that was welcome news to me. Just the thought of those youngsters already registering to play baseball got me through the next day’s ugly weather.

pushingthroughbybrucestambaugh

Daffodils peep through March’s melting snow.

That’s what I like about March. It’s both winter’s last gasp and spring’s first breath. That posting was a clarion call for more than little leaguers. It was a sign of hope.

Once we reach March, I feel like a new person. I know winter’s icy grip is behind us, and that spring is peeping.

I’m also old enough to know not to get too giddy too soon. March often offers up some of winter’s heaviest snows. But with the days growing longer, not counting Daylight Savings Time, you know the snow will not last long.

marchsnowbybrucestambaugh

March is notorious for delivering some heavy snowstorms in Ohio’s Amish country.

In fact, March often delivers us a four-star package deal on weather. Wait. You had better make that a four seasons package. March is famous for thawing out winter’s clutch, teasing us with summer-like days, then bringing us back to reality with a fall-like cold front. One day we could enjoy a welcomed spring rain, and the next be dodging tornadoes. March can be as fickle as it is friendly.

eastersundaybybrucestambaugh

Easter Sunday is March 31 this year.

This year March brings us a Trifecta of joy. St. Patrick’s Day, Palm Sunday and Easter consecutively complete March’s Sundays.

There’s much more, too. Early migratory birds begin to make an appearance. The male Red-wing Blackbirds begin to scout out their territories. American Robins come out of hiding and begin their bob, bob, bobbing along.

americanrobinbybrucestambaugh

American Robins begin marking their territories in March.

The Song Sparrows pick their fence post perches, tilt back their striped heads, and let it rip. American Goldfinches brighten as they begin their lemony spring molt.

If the ground is dry enough, farmers begin their plowing in earnest. Crocuses and daffodils poke their pointy green shoots through the crystalized snow remnants and await the sun’s command to bloom.

We humans follow their lead. We shake off our cabin fever, and find any excuse we can to go outside. If we do have an early warm spell, dedicated gardeners will be sure to be planting their peas.

We check our property for any winter damage. Without complaint we pick up sticks deposited by winter’s frequent, fierce winds. We’re just happy to be breathing in the freshness of life, and exhale without seeing our own breath freeze in midair.

earlyridebybrucestambaugh

Bicycles are common on the Holmes Co. Trail on a decent March day.

Bicycles, motorcycles and fishing gear are all dusted off, even if they won’t be used right away. Winter’s smudge is washed off the windows on the first reasonably warm day. Of course, the boys of summer spend March warming up for their April to October baseball games.

High school and college men and women create excitement and celebration with their basketball March madness. We dutifully follow along even if we haven’t attended a game all year.

crocusesbybrucestambaugh

Much to the delight of honey bees, crocuses are often the first flowers to poke through winter’s litter.

As you might be able to tell, I’m ready for some consistently warmer weather. The fact that we have already opened March’s door confidently tells me that winter is well on the wane.

As if we had any say in the matter, March always has her way with us. I for one am ready to be under her seductive spell, and bid a fond farewell to her bully winter cousins.

marchmowingbybrucestambaugh

Last year our yard received its initial mowing on March 23.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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