Sam and his buddy, Randy, jogging on the rail trail, came to a road crossing. They stopped, looked left, then right.
“Woah, what is that?” Randy pointed down the sidewalk to their right.
“Is that what I think it is?” Sam wrinkled his nose.
They took a few steps to their right.
Sam’s eyes widened. “It is! Those are road apples!”
“Yeah, but what are they doing there?”
“Hey, what’s all the commotion?” Four guys they’d never seen before joined them.
“Ew, what. is. that?” One of the guys stared.
“Who are you?” Randy raised an eyebrow.
“I’m Justin and this is my brother, Brandon.” The tallest boy spoke and motioned one at a time to the others. “The two behind us are John and Brian, our cousins.”
“I’m Randy and this is Sam.” Randy made their introductions.
Sam noted the group’s Polo shirts, black skinny jeans, and the Vans on their feet. “You guys aren’t from around here, are you?”
They all shook their heads as they stared at the mess on the sidewalk.
“Well, here in Lancaster County, we call them road apples.” Sam glanced at Randy, who grinned.
“You mean you eat that?” Justin’s face paled.
Sam chuckled. “No way. Road apples is our name for horse poop.”
The new guys made disgusted noises, and Sam thought Justin was going to toss his cookies.
When they had regained their composure, Brandon piped up. “Do they ride horses on the sidewalks around here?”
Sam and Randy shook their heads.
“Then what are those doing on the sidewalk?”
Randy stepped forward. “That’s what we were trying to figure out. Are you up for helping us solve this mystery?”
John and Brian each put an arm out, took a step backward, and shook their heads.
Justin asked, “What do you have in mind?”
Randy shared his plan. “Well I figure this wasn’t a prank or it’d be in front of someone’s house.”
Sam, Justin, and Brandon looked at Randy with raised eyebrows.
“I figure this happened while some Amish boys were out one Friday night on their rumspringa. So we come back here Friday night and watch for them. See what they’ve been up to.”
Brandon and Justin looked at each other and shrugged. Brandon said, “So Amish boys are the ones that dress funny, wearing suspenders and straw hats. Is that right?”
Sam and Randy nodded.
“So, what’s rum schpringer?”
Sam laughed out loud.
“That’s rumspringa.” Randy explained. “When Amish kids become teenagers, they are allowed to go out and pretty much do what they want on weekends. They do some crazy stuff.”
Brandon and Justin looked at each other and nodded. “We’re in.”
Randy grinned. “So, we’ll see you two back here Friday night as soon as it gets dark.”
They all shook hands.
Friday night Justin and Brandon were already at the designated spot when Sam and Randy arrived. The boys squatted in shadow, back from the sidewalk a few feet.
They hadn’t been there long when they heard girls giggling—a group of Amish girls. They were talking and laughing.
The traffic along this road had slowed down. The five o’clock rush had ended three hours ago. The boys watched the Amish girls cross the street and stand in a huddle at the end of the rail trail. They stood gazing up the hill, so the boys did the same.
“Here they come!” One of the girls shouted and pointed up the hill. The other girls squealed and stared in that direction.
Randy, Sam, Justin, and Brandon stood up and took a step forward. They looked up the hill and saw two horse-and-buggies careening down the hill side by side, neck-and-neck.
“They’re racing!” Sam bounced from one foot to the other.
When the buggies were about fifty feet from where Sam and the others stood, a car turned up the road and headed right for the buggy that was on the wrong side of the road!
The buggies shifted, forcing one to clamber onto the sidewalk. It looked like it might tip over, but it righted itself once all the wheels were on the concrete.
As the buggies passed Sam and his friends, the horse on the road dropped some road apples, and the horse-and-buggy on the sidewalk inched ahead and rattled off the corner of concrete, back into the street and pulled to a stop. The buggy that had been forced onto the sidewalk had won the race!
Justin and Brandon looked at the road apples in the road. “Glad it wasn’t the horse on the sidewalk this time. They’d have dropped right in front of us.” They wrinkled their noses, and Sam and Randy laughed. “I guess that solves the mystery of the road apples.”
I was hanging laundry out to dry this morning and heard a horse and buggy in the distance, and I began to think about the things I appreciate about living in Lancaster County, and I wrote this poem:
Life in Lancaster County by Kelly F. Barr
Land of buggies, bonnets and straw hats;
Ladies quilting and men talking spring planting.
Children chasing farm cats.
Plowing fields and manure spreading.
Laundry hanging on the line.
Summer fields green and golden
with tobacco, corn and wheat;
Gardens full of zucchini, peas and spinach;
Amish children in bare feet
Peek around Mama’s skirts.
Fall brings great harvests
For income and feeding family;
We have pumpkins, wheat and corn
Filling the Thanksgiving horn;
And sharing from our bounty.
Fun to be part of a barn raising,
While the livestock are in the field grazing,
And the ladies prepare the evening meal;
Thoughts of shoo-fly pie keep me working with zeal.
This is life in Lancaster County.