Tag Archives: neighbors

The unforeseen rewards of sleeping in

Amish homes

Pleasant morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I slept in. It was Saturday after all. It’s the way lots of folks begin their weekend.

For me, though, arising after 7 a.m. was abnormal even on weekends. I like to beat the sun to its dawn.

I needed the sleep after two consecutive late night outings. Now, the terms “late night” take on significant and liberal interpretation when you are a grandparent and not a teenager.

Thursday I attended another fun night in Cleveland with a good friend. I arrived extra early to avoid the guaranteed congestion since the Indians weren’t the only act in town. Sir Paul McCartney was playing next door to the Tribe, and the Browns lost another football game in front of their faithful mass of masochists.

In other words, the town was full of excited folks. Having lived and worked in the city many moons ago, I walked around the downtown area a bit to kill time and to view the remade public square. I was impressed with the space and the all-around cleanliness of the place.

Downtown Cleveland

Fun in Cleveland.

People sat at street side tables in front of restaurants enjoying the cuisine, drinks, and one another. I found the corner where three decades ago I had crossed the street with 30 first and second graders and their teacher. A religious street barker with hand-printed signs and tracts stopped his doomsday bellowing and moseyed up to me. He quietly asked me if the children were Pilgrims. I stoically replied that they were Amish, and followed the class across the intersection.

I spent a marvelous evening at the ballpark with my friend Rob. Happily, it was another last at-bat win for the Indians.

Elvis, Mark Lonsinger, Millersburg OH

Elvis.

Friday evening was just as much fun. My buddy Tim and I went to hear our friend Elvis perform his last gig for the summer in Millersburg. We weren’t disappointed and met lots of other friendly fans.

Both nights I was up way past my bedtime. So I wasn’t surprised that I had slept through sunrise on Saturday. I needed the rest.

Well behind my usual start time, I wanted to get my walk in before the late summer Saturday warmed too much. I discovered that being tardy had its enjoyable rewards.

I usually walk uninterrupted. Not this day.

morning walk

Where I walk.

Good neighbor Mary was already weeding her roadside flowerbeds. We chatted a while as Baltimore Orioles chased one another in the grove of trees at the south edge of my property. Their brilliant orange blazed neon in the sharp-slanting morning light.

An Eastern Phoebe called from a cluster of hardwoods just as I ran into Brian, another neighbor. We talked about his work, the warm weather, and the exhilaration of yet another fantastic Indians comeback victory.

I turned the corner and met my next-door neighbor, Trish, who was in the home stretch of her morning walk. I didn’t delay her long.

Girls in cerulean dresses pedaling bicycles and families in jet-black buggies silently greeted me with head nods and quick waves of hands. It felt good to be alive.

On the return trip to home, another young neighbor caught up with me on his four-wheeler. He was out scouting hunting spots with the season about to begin. A mourning dove sat atop a snag of a dying ash tree, perhaps eavesdropping on Tyler’s hunting secrets.

Annie Yoder

Annie.

I floated with elation the short distance remaining to my house. I was that invigorated by the gorgeous morning, the multitude of spontaneous interpersonal connections I had had, all after two enjoyable evenings with friends.

In the afternoon, I drove to Wooster to celebrate with my friend Annie on the release of her new album “Thousand.” True to form, she belted it out to the delight of all who attended.

Maybe I need to sleep in more often.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Amish, baseball, birding, birds, friends, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, writing

Living a dream in a dreamy, productive countryside

dandelionsunsetbybrucestambaugh

A recent setting sun highlighted dandelions gone to seed.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Most times, when I look out the windows of our home or silently gaze across the landscape from our back porch, it seems like a dream come true.

amishbuggybybrucestambaugh

A typical Amish buggy seen in Holmes County, Ohio.

When I was a child, my father occasionally would pile his family into the car and head to Holmes County. He loved the rolling hills, the tidy farms, the stands of hardwoods interspersed with patches of multi-hued green and golden crops. The winding, hilly roads stitched together these living quilt blocks.

We wound our way on two lane highways through towns like Navarre, Wilmot, Winesburg, Berlin and on into Millersburg. For us impatient kids, the drive from our blue-collar suburb 40 miles away seemed an eternity.

Dad made the day trip even longer. We stopped to buy eatable souvenirs at the cheese houses, built with shiny, glazed tile blocks that mimicked the yellow chunks of Swiss. We couldn’t wait to unwrap the brown, waxed paper parcels secured with sturdy, white string. They perfectly represented the productivity of the land and its practical people.

workhorsesbybrucestambaugh

Workhorses.

Dad loved the slower pace of life in Holmes County, best modeled by the buggies drawn by satiny chestnut horses, and the afternoon sun highlighting the blond manes of giant workhorses pulling hay wagons through waves of emerald alfalfa. Neat white clapboard farmhouses, sometimes two abreast, and carmine bank barns brought focus to this dreamy world.

Dad would also stop along the way to photograph colorful landscapes, or just to enjoy the view. Sometime later, Mom would produce a watercolor that vividly depicted the same scene.

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I often ponder those excursions with Dad, noting how ironic it is that my wife and I settled in Holmes County. We made it our home, raised our children here, began and ended our careers here.

In the summer, I sit on the back porch eating heirloom tomatoes and drinking fresh mint iced tea while our neighbor and his circle of family and friends gather wheat shocks on a hot, sticky afternoon. Undeterred by my presence, hummingbirds zoom over my head to the feeder.

In the winter, American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds and White-crowned Sparrows consume the seeds provided for them. A whoosh of wings announces a sneak attack by the resident Cooper’s Hawk, attempting to snag a snack, too.

winterinamishcountrybybrucestambaugh

Ground fog.

In the spring, I watch with wonder as maple leaves unfurl ever so slowly. Yet it seems one week the trees are bare, and the next I’m under their shade.

I’ve never been to New Hampshire or Vermont to behold their fine fall colors of picture postcard scenes where hardwoods surround pristine, quaint villages. I intend to go someday. This fall, however, I’ll enjoy the equally colorful pallets around Charm, Beck’s Mills, Killbuck, Glenmont, Trail and Beechvale.

As pretty as our area is, its hardy people, though humanly and humbly imperfect, make it even more attractive. My wife and I are grateful for friends and neighbors who reside and work in and about our bucolic habitat. It’s a privilege to be among them.

Holmes County wasn’t the only enticing rural area our family visited on those trips long ago. But it was a favorite. I never dreamed I would end up living all of my adult life here, rooted to its rich, productive soils, and intertwined with its industrious, ardent inhabitants.

I tell people that I was born and raised in Canton, Ohio, but I grew up in Holmes County. Now you know why.

communionchurchbybrucestambaugh

Communion church.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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The day I almost died but didn’t

homemadedonutsbybrucestambaugh

Homemade glazed donuts.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It happened in a flash, as scary moments often do. I was mere inches from serious injury if not death. My guess is we all have events like this.

I don’t mean to overdramatize this. The split-second incident helped me further appreciate both what had previously occurred that day and what I was about to encounter.

I had already had an illuminating morning. I got to help my Amish neighbors run some timely errands. They had made dozens of glazed donuts for an open house at a nearby greenhouse. My task was to deliver the golden goodies and their makers to the party. It was hardly a chore.

whereithappenedbybrucestambaugh

Where it happened, without our granddaughter present.

I also got to see the wayward Rock Wren again. Why this cute little creature landed two miles east of my house smack in the middle of the world’s largest Amish population, I have no idea. I just know it did, and the property owners were more than hospitable to any and all who wanted a chance to see this rarity.

Hundreds came to view this bird that belonged in the Rocky Mountains. This was only the second recorded appearance of this species in Ohio. After taking too many photographs of this feathered rock star, I returned home.

I checked to see if the mail had been delivered. With a small hill to the north, I have been especially careful about crossing our busy county highway for 34 years. The vehicles tend to zip along despite the posted speed limit. Just like my mother taught me, I looked both ways, and crossed to the mailbox, which sets well away from the road.

I grasped the handful of letters and turned to retrace my steps. At that exact moment, a car driven by a young man roared by going south in the northbound lane. As he passed two other vehicles, his rearview mirror nearly clipped me.

barredowletsbybrucestambaugh

Barred Owlets.

I don’t think the young driver ever saw me. He was too focused on getting wherever he was going. At first, I stepped back to catch my breath even though the roadway was now clear.

Then I smiled. Rather than be mad or frightened, I immediately became filled with gratitude for many things. Being kept safe topped the list. Others included the fulfilling experiences and interactions I had already had that day.

I determined to be even more grateful for the rest of the day and all the days that followed. I would he thankful for the people I meet along the way, too.

My life continued. I visited friends near Mt. Hope that had a pair of Barred Owlets roosting on a tree near their home. The afternoon sun beautifully highlighted the cute, cuddling pair.

hardymealbybrucestambaugh

Our hardy meal of morel mushrooms, an over easy egg, and locally cured bacon.

Another friend had given my wife and me our first morel mushrooms of the season. Neva sautéed them with olive oil and a dash of salt, and we downed them with over easy eggs and some locally raised and cured bacon.

It may have been one of the best meals I had ever eaten or was glad to eat, given the close call. For dessert I relished the relationships with friends and family as much as the savory mushrooms and bacon.

My mailbox episode was an important universal lesson. We need to express our gratitude whenever and wherever we can as often as we can. We just never know when we will no longer have that chance.

rockwrenbybrucestambaugh

Rock Wren singing.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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A fire in the neighborhood

barnfirebybrucestambaugh

This was the first picture that I took of the barn fire shortly before 10:30 p.m. on August 12, 2013


By Bruce Stambaugh

We had just turned out the lights for the night in anticipation of a really good night’s sleep when we heard the sirens. With the windows open on this warm and wonderful August evening, the sirens grew louder as they quickly approached.

I headed to the dining room to look north out the windows. Above the stand of giant field corn an eerie dancing orange glow lit up the night sky. We had a big fire somewhere in the neighborhood.

I got dressed as quickly as I could, grabbed my cameras and headed to the garage. In the meantime, my wife had ventured out into the front yard. She reported back that it was either our friend’s excavating business or the neighbor’s barn that was burning.

Once the parade of responding fire vehicles passed by, I pulled my car onto the road and quickly saw that indeed it was our neighbor’s barn. It was fully involved in flames. Only the sheet metal roof remained, held up by the century old timber frame, dark against the constantly changing fiery kaleidoscope that was quickly consuming its host.

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With the barn that far gone, the firefighters executed their only logical option. They concentrated their hoses on protecting the other exposures situated around the old bank barn. Soon long streams of water played back and forth dousing the rooftops, cooling them from the ferocious temperatures generated by the destructive flames.

My first instinct was to see what I could do to help directly at the scene. Knowing I’d only be in the way, I instead pulled into my excavator friend’s parking lot, focused my cameras and started snapping.

I wasn’t alone. Scores of others joined me. Tractors, vans, cars, pickups and bicycles filled the parking lot. Most spectators, like me, were lined along the wire fence that separated a farm field from the parking lot a football field from the blaze.

I photographed the various stages of the fire. Just 11 minutes after I had taken the first picture, the roof succumbed to the inferno. Embers of burning debris cascaded high into the dark sky, carried aloft by a steady south wind.

With the barn completely collapsed, I walked down the road to console the owners and to talk with firefighters that I knew. I was amazed at both their numbers and their efficiency.

Normally, rural areas are hurting for volunteer firefighters. This night, so many men and women in turn out gear or auxiliary smocks had responded to the alarm that they had to take turns spraying water or offering food and drink. The response for this emergency was tremendous. It was an impressive display of community service.

In addition, a gallery of onlookers congregated close to the old farmhouse. Most were family, friends and neighbors who had come to see if they could help in any way. Many had arrived before the first fire engine.

burninghaybybrucestambaugh

In less than an hour, the bank barn was reduced to burning hay inside of charred basement walls.

I took a few more photographs and spoke with the owners. Everyone was fine. No animals had been harmed, and most of the equipment had been removed from the barn just that day. The only losses were the barn, its storehouse of hay, and personal cultivated memories. Amish church insurance would compensate for the material losses of the accidental fire. The origin of the fire was either from wet hay or sparks from an unattended burn pile several feet west of the barn.

I was sad for my neighbors, but heartened by the many people who came to help. A crisis can test the mettle of a community. This August night, its people showed their stuff.

smolderingruinsbybrucestambaugh

The clean up began the next day amid the ruins of the smoldering barn.


© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Response to disaster defines community

Buggy charm by Bruce Stambaugh

A horse and buggy rolled by some snapped off trees north of Charm, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

If anyone ever wanted a snapshot of what defines this community, the beehive of activity in the aftermath of the storm that recently hit the Charm, Ohio area would perfectly frame that picture.

No sooner had the trees plummeted onto homes, buildings and roadways, than residents were out and about checking on one another. With the good fortune of finding no injuries, the cleanup began in earnest.

Helping hands by Bruce Stambaugh

Neighbors pitched in immediately to help clean up the debris left by the severe thunderstorm.

Four-wheelers, tractors, Bobcats, track hoes, and even monster skid loaders ran up and down skinny township roads. Their drivers and passengers stopped to assist wherever help was needed.

A man driving through the area just happened to have his chain saw in his pickup. With trees in his way, he did the logical thing. He cranked up his chain saw and began cutting. Drivers of a trio of semitrailers lined up behind him exited their cabs and joined in. He sawed. They pulled the limbs aside.

That proactive scenario was repeated a multitude of times throughout the Charm area. The volunteers weren’t asked to do this important work. They simply did so because it needed to be done, and they had the tools and the talent to do it. More than that, the desire to assist their neighbors in need drove them into action.

This was no time to feel sorry for yourself. Those receiving the aid worked side-by-side with the volunteers.

The response to this latest calamity in Holmes County was immediate and spontaneous, as it always seems to be no matter where the misfortune happens. Whether it’s a fire, devastating illness, serious flood or a severe thunderstorm, citizens come to the aid of others. Time and again people automatically go above and beyond the call of duty.

Barn destroyed by Bruce Stambaugh

My friends' barn roof was ripped off by the microburst.

My wife and I got caught up in the flurry of activity in Charm. We went to check on the property of friends who live near Charm but were on vacation. The 80 mph microburst winds ripped the roof off their small barn and scattered anything not nailed down for hundreds of yards.

What we witnessed as we made our way to and from the farmstead was truly amazing, though not unexpected. In disasters like this, citizens in Holmes County by and large do the right thing. No police supervision was needed.

Road crews by Bruce Stambaugh

Residents, neighbors and road crews pitched in to clear roadways.

An hour and a half after the storm, roadways had been cleared of giant trees and other debris strewn by the incredible hurricane-force, straight-line winds. Houses, too, were already being repaired.

Everywhere we went people and machines were working to clean up the mess. They didn’t call the fire department. They didn’t wait on road crews, though at least one township had its personnel out clearing roads.

People saw the needs, and their inherent work ethic simply kicked in. The cleanup was on. Strangers helped strangers. Friends helped friends. It was a marvelous operation to observe and be a part of.

House damage by Bruce Stambaugh

This house sustained heavy damage from the large pines blown onto it.

One particular setting ideally modeled both the community spirit and gracious gratitude. Hands that had cut up a large severed pine gathered around a picnic table. Grateful hands placed offerings of nourishing food for the thoughtful helpers. Together they shared a simple meal. Kindness is contagious.

By any definition, that is how a community is supposed to work and commune. That scene has been duplicated many times in the past, and most likely will be again in any future adversity that hits our rural haven.

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