Employees gather for an evening of fun

Starting line by Bruce Stambaugh
Pine car racers were placed at the starting line for each heat of the pine car derby held at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The employees at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, Ohio don’t just build incredible furniture. They know how to have fun together, too.

Their latest entertaining venture threw in a little competition. A pine car derby was held recently in the manufacturing building across the road from the retail store. Of course, they invited their families and had plenty of good food.

The congenial group enjoys the camaraderie of one another, along with some good, fun competition. When warehouse manager Dave Hostetler suggested a pine car derby, the race was on.

The track by Bruce Stambaugh
Dave Hostetler stands at the head of the pine car race track that he built for the event.
The contest was announced, and rules were distributed to whoever wanted to participate. In all, 22 employees bought a pine car kit and built their racer to the required specifications.

Each race car had to weigh no more than five ounces. The maximum length was seven inches and the rear width of the car was two and three-fourths inches. Contestants were encouraged to be creative with their car designs. Given the creativity of the staff at Homestead Furniture, that turned out to be a given.

The cars varied in style and color. One entrant, Noah Shetler, even entered two pink cars in honor of his wife’s battle with breast cancer. One car was numbered 08 for 2008 when his wife was diagnosed. Number 11 was for 2011 when his wife was declared cancer free after several rounds of chemotherapy treatments. One of the more original racer designs was a racer built in the shape of an outhouse.

Ada Marie Troyer dedicated her car, and her eventual winnings, to her niece who was recovering from critical injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Her car was named Best of Show.

Hostetler built the track 31 feet long, five feet high at the start. It was a two-slot track with a steep slope that the cars raced down to the finish line. Two cars raced per heat, with the winner going to the winner’s bracket, and the loser to the loser’s bracket. Once a racer lost twice, they were eliminated from the competition.

While the race went on, family members enjoyed homemade snacks that each family brought. Owners Ernest and Barbara Hershberger provided the hot dogs and beverages.

Finish line by Bruce Stambaugh
Todd Reese, Sales Manager at Homestead Furniture, closely watched the finish line at the pine care derby.
With the audience gathered around the black and yellow painted racetrack, judge Daniel Troyer watched over the finish line to declare the winner of each heat. In several races, only the nose of a race car determined the winner.

In the end, none of the other racers could match the sleek racer built by LaVern Hershberger. In fact, his car never lost a race.

Asked what his secret to winning was, LaVern said he baked his car prior to the race. Baking it reduced the moisture content, thus reducing the weight, he said. This allowed him to place weights where they were critical to making the car run smoothly.

LaVern Hershberger, the eventual winner of the pine car derby, tweaked his racer before the first heat.
LaVern also said he waited until the last minute to lubricate the car’s tires with powdered graphite. He declined, however, to say how long he baked his car, citing proprietary secrets.

LaVern won $100. Shetler finished second, winning $75, which he donated to Sisterhood of Hope, a support group for breast cancer victims. Krissy Yoder finished third and won $50.

Ada Marie Troyer donated her $33 winnings to her niece to help cover medical expenses.

It was a fun evening overall, mingling teamwork with fellowship, always a winning combination.

Homestead Furniture is located in the heart of the world’s largest Amish population at 8233 State Route 241, Mt. Hope.

Pine car racers by Bruce Stambaugh
Just some of the original designed cars that participated in the pine car derby at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A love affair with baseball

Slider with grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh
When Slider, the Indians maskot, hammed it up with our two grandsons, the score of the game became insignificant.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Baseball and I go way back.

I can’t remember exactly when I saw my first major league baseball game. But I do recall attending several as a youngster, often with my family.

I also recollect one of my first Little League games as a player. I was 7 years old, the youngest and smallest kid on the team. The coach put me at second base, possibly thinking that was the safest spot on the field for me. It didn’t work out that way.

Grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh
Our grandsons share my enthusiasm for baseball.

Those were the days when real baseball rules were followed no matter how young you were. The pitcher pitched, not the coach. The batters batted. T-ball was unheard of.

One hallmark of baseball is its pithy clichés. One axiom says put an inexperienced player on the field and “the ball will find him.” Well, it did me that day.

A batter lashed a one hopper right at me. The hardball jumped off the compacted all dirt infield and smashed right into my mouth. I walked to the bench with loose front teeth, bleeding gums, a fat lip and a bruised adolescent ego.

That should have been an omen. As much as I loved the game, I really wasn’t a very good player. Maybe that’s why I focused so much on my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians. I got my baseball fix by dreaming of playing third base for the Tribe.

In those days, before our home had a television, I listened to the games on the radio. I loved the cadence and opinionated passion that Jimmy Dudley, the Indians play-by-play announcer, put into calling the games. Each play came alive in my mind.

In the 1950s, the Indians were consistently good with great, inspiring players. Some made the Baseball Hall of Fame. Paige, Doby, Lemon, Wynn, Feller, Minoso, Score, and Colavito were just some of my idols.

Because we lived 60 miles south of Cleveland, we could only go to a couple of games each year. It was just too far and too expensive.

Grady at bat by Bruce Stambaugh
Excellent players like Grady Sizemore continue to be the exception rather than the rule for the Cleveland Indians.

But because he loved baseball, too, Dad made every effort to take us to a game or two when time and cash allowed. To get his money’s worth, we often went to doubleheader games. Dad reveled at seeing two games for one price. Those were the days when doubleheaders were played 20 minutes apart, not as two separately ticketed games like they are today.

You could take coolers and thermoses into the ballpark then, too. We must have been quite the sight with five children in tow carrying a big, red, metal cooler into the stadium. Dad wasn’t about to pay for food and drink when you could take your own.

Just as I was entering my formative years, a life-changing event occurred for the Indians and me. They traded my favorite player, Rocky Colavito, the previous year’s homerun champ, for Harvey Kuenn, the previous year’s batting champ.

The team’s fortunes soured after that. The players’ names changed, too. Tasby, Latman, Mahoney, Phillips, Klimchock and Kirkland were the regulars to root for, although there really wasn’t much to cheer about. The teams often started out well, but usually faded by late summer.

Baseball friends by Bruce Stambaugh
Enjoying a baseball game with friends is always a treat.

I still love our national pastime and attend as many games as I think I can afford. Despite my nostalgic affection for baseball and the cost of ballpark food, I am glad for one 21st century policy. Big red coolers are prohibited.

From every angle, August is golden

Golden sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Hazy sunsets in Amish country are the norm in August.

By Bruce Stambaugh

These are what I call August’s golden days. If I only referenced orangey sunrises and the hazy, citrus sunsets, that moniker would apply.

August is so much more than lovely solar appearances and disappearances. It is always full of golden moments that make golden memories.

I realize my reflections are provincial. In a world full of disease, disaster, dismay and hostilities, not all would share my august perspectives. However, I cannot deny what I have observed and experienced in this transitional month in Amish country.

In calling August golden, I mean to take the broadest definition possible. Everywhere you turn, deep, rich yellows and golds appear. August is golden, too, in that it is good, providing success and satisfaction as the harvesting begins.

Mowing oats by Bruce Stambaugh
Mowing and stacking the oats into shocks is the first step in the harvesting process for the Amish.

August is usually a hot month in most of the northern hemisphere. Even the poor people in Moscow, Russia, where temperatures have seemed more like Dallas, Texas, have been especially suffering.

True to form, hot and humid have been the bywords in Ohio, too. Those who have had to work out in these blazing elements would argue for sizzling and sultry as better descriptors. But no matter how we describe the daily dog days of August, the benefits surely outweigh the negatives, no matter how muggy.

Coming and going by Bruce Stamabugh
One wagon heads to the barn while the other returns to the field to be loaded again.

My Amish neighbor’s circle of friends purposefully gathers the air-dried, ripened oat shocks wagonload after wagonload. Their water thermos got a workout, too. With their cooperative efforts, the impressive stand of honey-colored sheaves had disappeared by day’s end.

I always find it a miracle that once the sea of grain is cut and shocked, a carpet of bright green immediately replaces it. The hardy clover thrives all the more once it has the ground to itself.

There are other kinds of gold in August, too. The Incredible sweet corn arrives almost simultaneously with the transparent apples. It’s husking, cutting, cooking and freezing corn one day, making tartly sweet applesauce the next.

Ripe tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh
Heirloom tomatoes ripen on the vine.

The growth of the heirloom tomato plants my wife and son planted in late May is so
prolific, the plant runners get tied daily. Their yellow, red and green-striped fruit add to the festivities.

House wren by Bruce Stambaugh
A house wren leaves the nest after feeding her brood.

The noisy tan house wrens worked frantically to satisfy their last brood of the summer. Their hungry youngsters consumed an amazing amount of worms, caterpillars and insects.

When the little ones began to greet their parents at the entrance to their birthplace, it’s nearly time for them to fly. In our case, the babies were there before church, but not when we got home. The grandsons and I found them learning to forage and hide in the brush pile under the pines near the hammock where other golden moments were made.

Monarch and swallowtail butterflies joined the goodness of the month as they enjoyed the nectar of the milkweed and wild and domestic flowers. Both the black and yellow-billed cuckoo birds announced their arrivals as the tent caterpillars hatched.

The much publicized but often under performing Perseid meteor showers still managed to send enough bright streaks though the new moon sky to extend the month’s goldenness 24/7.

Next week the full moon will strut its stuff, casting a golden glow across landscapes, rural and urban alike. Ready or not, summer vacation has yielded to elongated yellow buses and excited, golden voices of children beginning a new school year.

All things considered, August is a positively golden time of year.

Hammock fun by Bruce Stambaugh
Playing on a hammock in the cool shade serves as a diversion from the August heat and humidity.
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