Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mechanicsburg: Our One Horse Town

Reenactor Ron Hawkins portrays General Jenkins in Mechanicsburg Saturday
photo: Maizie Ober

Yesterday I learned that one horse is sometimes more powerful than an entire cavalry.

Saturday morning our town, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, formally recognized and reenacted the 150th Anniversary of the occupation of confederate forces led by Brig. General Albert G. Jenkins. In June of 1863 confederate soldiers occupied Mechanicsburg on their way from Carlisle to Harrisburg. For three days the rebels demanded food rations, required the surrender of our flag, and destroyed the Cumberland Valley Railroad by pulling up the tracks. 

poster: Juliette Ober

The war-weary confederate soldiers were described by our townspeople as unkempt with faded uniforms. They were basically kind to the residents, but reportedly loved to trot by on horseback and steal the hats from the male citizens in town. Apparently, at this late date in the war, the soldiers were mostly hatless. 

Some historians posit that the confederate soldiers were worn out and tired when they got to Gettysburg precisely because of riding so far east to our town and back to Gettysburg. Therefore, it is entirely possible that this three day junket to Mechanicsburg altered the outcome of the battle at Gettysburg and ultimately the war.

Mayor Jack Ritter hands over the flag outside Union Church
photo: Maizie Ober

Our family friend and life-long resident of Mechanicsburg, attorney Andrew C. Sheely, single-handedly conceived and organized a three day historical celebration of the occupation that as I type is still going on with closing ceremonies all day Sunday. Andy's passion is history, but more than that he has a vision for the future of Mechanicsburg, the town he loves. In the last ten years he has worked to educate local people about the importance of our small family farms and at the same time he has helped to bring culture and business to our tiny, oft-forgotten downtown district.

Andy Sheely spent the last year tirelessly coordinating the events to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of General Jenkin's occupation. Yet when I saw him yesterday morning on the square right before the reenactment of the requisition, he looked defeated and discouraged.

poster: Juliette Ober

Early this past winter Andy secured a large number of Civil War reenactors to ride into our town on horseback. My family was assigned the happy task of helping with the horsekeeping duties at a nearby park. But as the event date drew near, Andy would tell us that there were less and less horses and riders coming to the Mechanicsburg affair.

Civil War buffs and historians were being drawn to the glitz and hype surrounding the 150th Anniversary at Gettysburg. Even Carlisle was pulling in more press than our little burg. Reenactors naturally go where the crowds are, and Mechanicsburg was low man on the totem pole.

When we arrived yesterday morning with our truck full of hay and water buckets and all our horse first aid gear, Andy met us to dejectedly say there would be only one horse.

His disappointment was palpable. 

The irony is that Andy wasn't working furiously to compete with Gettysburg for Civil War fame. No, his goal was much more pure. He simply wanted to educate our residents about the history of our town. The streets we walk each day had been the location of a scary, tenuous three day occupation 150 years ago.

General Jenkins demands food rations from Mechanicsburg townspeople
photo: Maizie Ober

So at 10 o'clock Saturday morning one lone horse made its way down the street carrying "Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins" followed by a rag-tag group of soldiers and a drummer. 

And, something truly magical happened. History came alive. 

As our real mayor, Jack Ritter, assumed the role of Mechanicsburg's 1863 Burgher Hummel and handed over our flag, I felt a tingle go up my spine. The neighbors and visitors who came to watch, small in number, but actually almost identical to the number of townsfolk who would have been present in 1863, listened to Jenkins bark out his demands. Recreating the tension of that day would have been impossible in a large ceremony with oodles of horses and vendors and crowds.

My mom whispered, "I'm crying" just as I felt my own eyes flood. My husband, Brian, told me later he felt chills. I held on to my Maizie-girl, so grateful for our safety, our security, our happy town, free of fear. 

The small, intimate nature of yesterday morning's gathering around one horse made it all very real. No cavalry could have brought the history of Mechanicsburg to life any better. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

jubilee day

Today is Jubilee Day - my favorite day of the year. Our town holds a one-day annual street fair called Jubilee Day and I look forward to it each year. The actual fair is loud and dirty and overcrowded and kind of like a freak show with the characters that turn up for such an event, but there is something about the week surrounding the third Thursday of June that is very lovely in our little corner of Pennsylvania. Jubilee Day is a fitting name for the puffy clouds, the sun, the hayfields, the hours of daylight around the summer solstice - all of it. 

This year's Jubilee week did not disappoint. Low humidity and cool temperatures made my horse time very special. Maizie walked along on a Foggy ride recently and she captured a little of the loveliness.

When I was mounting, I heard a noise overhead in the wagonshed and saw these two little baby faces staring down at me!

There was a mom and three babies. All week they would scurry around above me upstairs in the barn as I groomed downstairs. Then they came out like they were at the movies whenever I would mount. Silly Pie never saw them, but Foggy and Sovey watched them intently. I think they left now, but they sure were cute.

Here Maizie loves up Foggy. After I snapped this picture, Foggy reached around to scratch an itch. Then he nibbled my foot. Maizie and I laughed - oh no - definitely the wrong thing to do! He loves when we giggle so he kept nibbling my foot to get us to laugh! Finally we got him to move on and forget his new trick!

Foggy looks so tiny in these photos. He is 15.3 - little compared to the other boys, but hardly tiny.

Here Foggy was trying to eat the honeysuckle. It smelled so strong and delicious - he was certain he had to eat it but couldn't figure out how. Mom looks on. She had just finished sharing a hysterical story of "Winky Dink" - I almost fell off Foggy laughing at her rendition of a childhood television show theme song and the associated toy she sent away for. Apparently, she sent for a "magic screen" that you put on the television and draw around when the show "Winky Dink" was on. 

Unfortunately, Maizie didn't start the video soon enough so we only got the end part of the story. You can see it here. Be warned, my mom and I ARE Grey Gardens. I like to call us Green Gardens - as a mix of Green Acres and Grey Gardens - the raccoons just seal the deal. Poor Maizie having to put up with us - you can hear her laughing at the end.

Here is a perfect example of how I got myself in a big mess yesterday on Sovereign. See how ridiculous I am with my reins? They are silly loose all the time. Yesterday Sovey reach up with his right rear leg to scratch under his chin and his foot got tangled in the reins. I was way out in the hayfield by myself and I couldn't get off in time. He freaked and broke the reins. His face and leg are fine - no cuts or rope burns - my reins were old and broke quickly without too much pressure on him. Poor honey. I have to pay better attention to what I am doing. They broke at the buckle so I had to ride home with split reins - I am horrible at that - kept dropping them and having to climb up on his neck practically to retrieve. A cowgirl I am not.

I found a wonderful farmer to cut our fields this week. Our other farmer is terrific too, but he is very busy and has to use huge, fast, powerful equipment that roars through and cuts down everything - he isn't able to be selective.

My new farmer cuts around my trees with old fashioned, quiet equipment. We had him cut one big hay pasture entirely, and then he cut around my tree seedlings in another pasture. We left the large, center pasture uncut. There are weeds and trees and a healthy diversity of wildlife in there. I am thrilled with the results. 

I was able to ride Pie and Sovereign yesterday all over the fields as the farmer cut the hay. The simplicity of the machinery made it seem like we had found a secret passage to an earlier time. Sweet Jubilee summer days.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Out in the sunshine, the sun is mine

This is the loveliness I found in the pastures yesterday morning.

Peaceful and happy after the big storm. There had been rain all night and the area around the water buckets looked like this...

Eeek! Thank you Mother Nature and Sovereign. He still swims in the big bucket all day in the spring, summer, and fall. I suppose his ultimate goal is a pond and he is getting closer every day. Ugh. You can imagine what all three horses looked like by the time I was ready to ride at 11am. This mudbath area was just too tempting - mudballs all. Pie didn't look like he had eyes - definitely the Indian pony look! 

I can remember fretting about the mud in 2011. That was the year we had record rainfall. I don't fret at all anymore because we have 20 acres of pastures now. I love the diversity - there is mud, yes, but there is super high grass and low grass and dust and sheds and shade and sun. I can't worry too much because if they want to be in or out of the mud they can move to where they need to be. The new pastures give them balanced options and I worry less. 

I groomed everyone and, as always, wondered how they get mud up in the deep groove/gully under their chins. Then I headed out for a Pie ride. 

Each day pretty much unfolds the same way - grooming then riding.
Sigh. I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Everybody here is out of sight

Our amazing equine dentist, Rick Samuels, came again last Thursday. He said everyone looked good. Rick is quiet and calm and all my horses do very well without any sedative at all. To look at how docile Pie is, below, you would think there was a secret sleeping agent in Rick's minty mouthwash. It seems like Rick releases the speculum every few seconds so the horses do not get flustered at all. They know the release is quick and coming soon.

Thursday evening Brian and Maizie won second and third respectively in their age groups in a local mile run. The jugs were the prizes!(?)!

Here I am post-race modeling my new t-shirt from Old Navy. LOVE! Horsey-porsey shirt!

These are from recent Sovey rides. Sovereign's back is so long that it looks like I am sitting too far back! He is in his halter for this ride this morning.

Pretty boy in the field.

Wind-blown boy today near tennis court.

Another one of Sovey but this was a three boy day today with all this gorgeous sunshine and mild temps.

This morning's dishes tried to keep me from the barn, but I was too fast for them. I washed and dried and rode my sweetie boys...what a perfect day!

Hope your days have been equally marvelous! I will check in soon on all the blogs...Maizie gets out of school on Friday!!!!!! Happy days!