Old Buggies

I once owned, back in the day when draft horses stood in our fields with the sheep, a nice old cream delivery sleigh. When I sold the last horse, the sleigh went as well. It was a beauty. Green with gold painted detail work. The drafts were meant for work, pulling the hay rake or hauling out logs, and these were some of the chores I used them for. However, when there was good snow, out came the sleigh and in we all piled…kids, friends, and neighbors. Boy was that fun! The sleigh was built as a pung with a set of both front and back runners. Just thinking about it makes me want to consider another horse…hmmm? So, here is a poem by Kate Barnes celebrating the days when sleighs and buggies traveled these roads. (The buggy in the photo is from my Mom’s family. They owned a small grocery and this is how they made their deliveries). The Buggies

“When I first began to practice,”
said the veterinary, giving a shot
to the new foal, “ this countryside
was full of old carriages. The barns
all had some. You could buy
a good top buggy for ten dollars. But now
a lot of the barns have fallen down
onto them.

Those old farmers
used to hang their good buggies from the rafters,
safe and out of the way. And some people
went on using them a long time.

I remember
one place in Warren, “he said, putting iodine
on the umbilicus, watched anxiously
by the mare with her flickering eyes, “ they had
this perfect drop- front phaeton. The top
was always up, the seat was plum-colored wool
with a cloth cover over it. Beautiful.
The old lady wouldn’t go to church
in anything else.

But now that I think of it,
she must have gone too, the last time I was by there
the barn roof was down.

They were
nice, those old things-
well made, you know.
They could stand up to a lot.”

He climbed
into his white truck and drove away,
rattling down the lane. Behind, in the stall,
the mare nickered once as her foal began to nurse
and was silent.

The cold March evening
was darkening toward night, the patterns
of old snow made stripes in the dusk, the stars
were slowly coming out but the lake
at the bottom of the hill went on picking up
the last daylight. Its surface glowed
softly as if it were lighted
from below, as if a distant sun were submerged there
under the ice, still shining, alive, an
d warm.

10 comments on “Old Buggies

  1. Draft horses are amazing animals. When I was growing up in upstate NY, Freihofer’s Bakery had a couple of wagons with horses left that I’d see on the street. Most of their products were delivered by trucks, but in the area near their bakery they still had a couple of wagons on the road. I remember smiling every time I’d see one. 🙂

  2. Wow! Thank you for this post. Oxen and water buffalo are still used as draft animals here. I’ll probably be long gone before they disappear. Though I saw them vanish when, years ago before we moved up into the mountains, the rice field next to our house became land for a new residential community. I realize now what memories these make, and what a future generation will miss!

    • Would love to see these oxen and water buffalo! Here in Maine, folks still use draft horses for some logging ( as I did) and for farm work…plowing, cultivating, and of course haying. I was the only woman ‘horse logger’ around, but having grown up with horses on a small farm, it didn’t seem unusual to me. I had a wonderful mentor who has since passed away, my time with him working in the woods or raking hay behind a big set of Belgians will never be forgotten. There is truly something profound happening when horse and human work together.

  3. Working horses are the best–so noble! We still see horses and buggies in the Amish areas near here but those horses don’t seem to me to be draft horses. Maybe the Amish have different horses for different tasks on the farms.

    • I miss having draft horses ( or any horse for that matter) and often think it’s time again to add one to my life.Raking hay on a hot summer day behind a mighty draft is an experience, a part of my life, that I will always cherish. We have a community of Amish living near by and they still use their horses on a daily basis. Also, some young farmers are working drafts into their life. I day dream about going back to a time when folks harnessed up their team, hooked onto the wagon, and headed to town for groceries.That would surely slow things down a bit, something I think we could use from time to time….a gentler pace. I’ll keep you posted if a draft shows up in my dooryard!

  4. So interesting. Both of my grandfathers were in the wholesale grocery business and one early enough that goods were delivered by horse and wagon…giving my father his love of horses, that led to us being raised with horses, and now my grandkids. Lots of memories!

    • Horses have often been essential in our lives ( today and historically)….the work we do, our businesses, on the farm. Isn’t it great to look back over earlier days, our family histories, and see that horses played a big part in everyday life. You are so right, lots of memories, and so glad for all of them!!

  5. It seems that quite a few young farmers in Maine are using draft horses now. It’s wonderful. There’s something really special about the draft breeds. Did you ever watch All Creatures Great and Small in the 70s? The Barnes’ poem reminded me of it. There was very moving episode centering on tractors replacing the draft horses on the Yorkshire farms in the 1930s–and the incredible bond between the farmers and their working horses. The end of an era. Sigh. I hope you decide to bring a lovely gentle giant or two back into your family!

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