So I’m out early this morning taking pictures and I pull up to this horse that seems to be deep in thought. I talk to him to try to get him to face the camera but he ignores me, so I took one of him thinking about whatever it is he’s thinking about.
Then he turns to me and says: “You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”
This is one of the stars of Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides in Bird-In-Hand Pennsylvania. He pulls tourists around at a blistering speed of 5 miles per hour several times a day, day after day, month after month, and year after year.
It’s not a bad job compared to the work other horses do on farms but he hates every second of it. He feels that he’s wasting his life, that he could be doing something better, more important. At times he considerers faking a leg injury but worries he might end up as glue.
Eventually they will throw him a retirement party and give him a gold shoe for his years of faithful service, and let him live out the rest of his life doing whatever old horses do. He’ll stand in the middle of a field and stare into space, wondering what to do now, and what it all meant.
And he might realize that his job wasn’t so bad after all. He was good at it and he was needed, he had friends that liked him although he bitched and moaned all the time. He might realize that he could have made the best of it and even enjoyed it.
Alan W. Watts once said: “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Even if you do the same thing for the same people in the same place over and over again.
So I’m driving around early this morning thinking about the big questions in life: Is a pumpkin a gourd, and just how do you spell gourd? Between that and the meaning of the new Taylor Swift song my mind was reeling.
Then I saw two Amish kids setting up a farm stand. They had some big Turk’s Turbans which look like pumpkins but are actually squash, and all kinds of gourds for sale. I stopped to take a quick photo while these kids talked my ear off about everything from corn to camel’s milk.
It turns out that pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the same family but they are actually all squash. As for the correct spelling, the Amish seem to think that gourds are spelled ghourds, unless this only applies to mini ghourds.
Later I read more about Taylor’s new song and decided I couldn’t care less, but the important thing is that fall is coming and these mini gourds (ghourds) are only five for a dollar. The turbans were $3 each so I passed, but I may go back because I could be the first kid on my block to have one.
When I was a kid I had a lemonade stand, but here in Lancaster County the Amish kids set up a stand selling horseshoes. I see them occasionally on the back roads but most of the time the shoes are just painted or rusty.
This entrepreneur goes a few steps further to attract the tourist crowd. He offers horseshoes with a picture for $3.50, with a flower for $2.00, plain for $1.50 or rusty for a buck. This one has a picture, it’s painted and has flowers so its a bargain at any price.
The pictures are mostly of horses but some have scenes like covered bridges or life on the farm. I can’t imagine where they get the images because they don’t have cameras, cell phones, computers or printers. I guess they cut them out of a secret magazine that only the Amish subscribe to.
These horseshoes may or may not be lucky for you, but with the thousands of tourists that crave unique souvenirs these kids can afford to buy a brand new scooter or whatever Amish kids spend their money on. I think the horses should get a cut but maybe they’re happy just to get a new pair of shoes.
Young Jacob comes running in the door one afternoon as excited as a rooster at dawn and pleads his case: “Dad-Dad-Samuel Stoltzfus is finally selling his buggy for only $3000 or best offer! Can you buy it for me-please, please, please?
Even the Amish know that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is, but he’s a good kid and it’s about time for him to have his own vehicle. So after milking the cows they go down and take a look.
Dads been around buggies all his life and he knows his stuff. He walks around slowly and looks for repairs to the body. Then he inspects the rims as well as the suspension and lights. Its bad, probably run into ground by Eli and Amos those hooligans. But Jacob sees only independence and freedom.
Dad says: Tell ya what son, at the end of the corn season you can have my old one and I’ll see about getting myself something new. Jacob is a little disappointed but in November he’ll be 16 and that means Rumspringa. He knows that patience is a virtue, and with a buggy and a little luck he might just end up with Emmas.
Yes Virginia, there are camels in Lancaster County on a very large farm off Mill Creek School Road in Bird-In-Hand. I’ve been there before but the big ones always seem to be way off in the field doing whatever camels do.
Yesterday I was in the area, which is not far from the daring cow escape I witnessed on Friday, and discovered three baby camels frolicking just a few feet from the barn. This one may not look like a baby but a baby camel can weigh up to 90 pounds at birth, the other two were much smaller.
In the past I would have gladly walked a mile for three camels, maybe more if I knew they would be posing in good light. But they share the same problems with horses and Alpacas: crud in their eyes and unless it’s late in the season, flies all over those pretty faces.
At one point a tour bus called The Amish Experience pulled up and let three passengers off to take selfies. I thought nothing of it until one woman insisted on kissing the big one, not once but several times. I hope it was good for her because he seemed a bit confused by the whole thing.
I found out that these are dairy camels and are raised for their milk. Also available are camel milk yogurt and camel milk soap which is made by a local company. I didn’t really smell them but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to smell like a camel right out of the shower.
It’s really something to see if you’re not expecting it, but for a local like me it’s as normal as a tourist making out with one. Maybe they should set up a kissing booth because that tour bus passes by every day. It’s all good until someone gets their nose bit off though; I guess they could sign a waiver.
I stopped at the annual Lancaster County Carriage and Antique Auction in Bird-In-Hand this afternoon. This is a big deal here for the English (non Amish) and the Amish with a separate area for horse and buggy parking.
The auction was in full swing and everyone seemed excited to be there, except for the horses of course. Fortunately it was cloudy and breezy so they weren’t roasting in the sun. They knew it was going to be a long wait as auctions tend to drag on, and most made the best of it.
Some sulked and hung their heads waiting patiently, and some were literally chomping at their bit to get the hell out of there. But others, the more outgoing ones, told each other stories and discussed the parable of the Chinese farmer. Maybe yes, maybe no.
I left the house at 5:30 to photograph the United States Hot Air Balloon Team in Bird-in-Hand. It was a beautiful, calm morning and I had an extra battery, a tripod and high hopes.
The balloon went from trailer to air in twenty five minutes and floated off into the sunrise. I took 50 photos that I knew I wouldn’t keep because I’ve seen it so many times before. Here in Lancaster, watching a hot air balloon is an ordinary thing, and even at dawn it seemed like nothing special.
I went home and as I walked towards my front door I noticed some tulips in the garden, took a few quick shots, then downloaded and deleted everything because they weren’t perfect. But I went back to look at the flowers, and this time I really looked (and photographed).
The photo isn’t perfect but the tulip definitely is. It opened within the last hour, will close at night, and by the end of the month it will be gone. I was looking for something amazing and walked right by it.
In her book Nothing Special, Charlotte Joko Beck talks about awareness. “We don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to notice how we block awareness, with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions, and our judgments.”
I was looking for something special, something awe inspiring, and these flowers are as close to a miracle as I was going to find. You don’t have to go far to be inspired, you just have to be aware of the things that are right in front of you all the time.