Clippity-clop, clippity-clop, clippity-clop was the only sound I heard as we pulled up to a crossroad that was heading in the direction of the Keady sales barns.

It was obviously a traditional Amish horse and buggy that was crossing the road as we waited. That is not unusual up in this country where I now reside. We see them sometimes on the highways but more often on the byways, side roads, and what is also jokingly noted as goat paths, which are little less than deep-rutted logging trails giving access from one farm to another.

What was unusual, in addition to the slow-moving vehicle sign that dangled back and forth on the back, was a neatly hand-printed sign that read: “This vehicle is energy-efficient. It runs on oats and hay. Please don’t step in the exhaust.” Polite and to the point, and kind of nice to start the day off with a chuckle, don’t you think?

It is pleasant country to live in up here. The people are friendly and always anxious to talk, so quite often we take the back roads just to learn the what and where of whomever, wherever.

There are many little side yard home operations with a friendly indicating farm gate welcome sign, which often I find quite interesting, like the swag-roofed hardware storage shed, the open-air sawmills, and the little leather shop that brought back fond memories of years long, long ago.

When I was of single-digit years, our family’s mixed farming operation was three miles distance from the nearest chopping mill. It was not unusual, having no car, truck, or tractor, for us to make the biweekly trip to the mill with a load of hand-bagged grain to be milled by the local miller, Hortop or Thatcher, perhaps one and the same, I can’t remember which. It was hauled there by our quick stepping team of Percherons – Barney and Skipper.

I loved it there because I could sit by the shed where the horses were sheltered, and while listening to them contentedly munching hay, I would sit and watch ducks dipping and diving well back from  the tumbling water as it flowed over the mill pond dam. In colder weather, while the mill wheels turned, I’d cross the bridge and visit first the hardware store, the general store, and across the road, the neatest little harness shop that you could possibly imagine.

I loved the warmth and the smells of all three.

The harness shop was owned and operated by a small-statured man whom I knew only as Dinty Moore. He was a friendly man who apparently liked children, and I would often stay for an hour and play tug-of-war with his little, white-patched, growling rat terrier dog that would meet you at the door with a curled lip and a piece of scrap leather in his mouth, ready for action.

They were fun times that I looked forward to, and time has not erased the feeling of discontent when my father would stop out front, with the loaded wagon and anxious prancing team, and call out, “It’s time to go home.”

On this particular day, more than three score and ten years later, as we headed down a tree-lined back road for home, we slackened as a large tom turkey strolled across the road in front of us, and a little further up the road, a hen partridge scampered across as though in a hurry to get to its coveted nesting spot, and yet further two grown deer, with a spotted fawn daintily trotted into the maple bush. Some things time has not changed.

Take care, ‘cause we care.




Barrie Hopkins