Dear Dr. Scribblerbucket:
I drive through the Amish territory around Monterey and have noticed something that has made me wonder. I know Amish use blinders on horses, but at least half a dozen times I have seen what looks like a plastic, 10-gallon bucket. The bottom has been cut off and the rest of the bucket is over the horse’s eyes with its nose and mouth sticking out the bottom.
This seems a bit extreme. It doesn’t appear that the horse would be able to see at all with this on.
- Craig A. Benner, Ephrata
Actually, the horse can’t see at all or, rather, all he can see is the road at his feet. And that’s the point.
What may look like a bucket is actually a leather covering, usually black, totally covering the horse’s eyes, as you say, so he can’t see ahead or to the side.
“They’re much easier to handle that way,” says an Amish informant.
The reason you don’t see these contraptions on all Amish horses is because there are two basic types of buggy horse.
Many Amish purchase standardbred horses that have been used to pull jogging carts in harness races. They are conditioned to react to anything moving alongside them. As a result, on the open road, they may require more than blinders to reduce their vision.
“These horses are built for speed,” the informant says. “On the race track they have to stay in place, but you take them on Route 340 and they get scared of a truck or a car speeding along.”
Blocking off all forward and peripheral vision reduces this problem. Of course, the buggy driver has to be extra alert to guide the blinded horse.
“This has been going on for the better part of a century,” the Amish man says. “In the old days, you put skittish horses in a meadow next to a moving train and they got over it.”
The leather contraption is called a “blind extension,” he says. Perhaps one in 50 horses requires one.
Some Amish use saddlebred, or “show,” horses that have never raced on a track. Such horses don’t need to have their eyes covered.
“I just got a saddlebred,” the Amish man says. “She’s not so high strung. She sees everything and does fine.”
Dear Dr. Scribblerswim:
When I was a kid in the Landisville area, the phone exchanges had names. Our phone number started with “TW,” the abbreviation for Twin Oaks. The swimming pool in Ironville was named the Twin Oaks Pool. Did the reference come from a pair of oak trees? If so, where were the twin oaks and are they still standing?
Jack Stoner, Lancaster
The pool was indeed named for two oak trees. One of those trees apparently remains standing in the woods that surround the pool, according to an anonymous neighbor.
The pool, at 2526 Ironville Pike near Columbia, opened in the 1930s and closed in the late 1990s. What’s left of it has been full of snow much of this month. The road back to it is closed off. The property is posted.
If you want to remember what the pool was like in its heyday, Google “Twin Oaks Pool 1980’” and enjoy 8mm film footage of a swimming party with a recording of Sly and the Family Stone playing “Hot Fun in the Summer Time.”
Hot fun? Sounds like a climate change we all sorely need right now.
- Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler” column every Sunday. He welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.