New Horizons Writers’ Group

Sleigh Ride

Bob Hirt

I was coming home from an early morning call from Amos Miller’s place after checking out a goat that had lost a lot of blood on a barb wire fence that he managed to get snared around his back leg. He helped me to restrain the animal, clean the wound out and dress it, with orders to keep it separated from the rest of the animals for a week. He was good about following advice and was generally a good client even though I saw him only a couple of times a year.

On the way home I saw a crowd gathering at a yard sale. It was at another farm and I knew the owner even though he wasn’t a client. Nevertheless I stopped by, just being nosey to see what old Frank had to sell. Turns out it was not only a yard sale but a full-fledged estate sale and it proved very interesting to me. He had old horse harnesses and collars and a surrey that looked like it came from the historic Gone With the Wind movie. Behind it and partially hidden by old barrels and two step ladders of pre-World War II vintage was a creaky old sleigh, the one-horse kind. It had a dusty black leather retractable canopy complete with a small round window on each side. All it needed was a horse to pull it, which wasn’t part of the package. The canopy’s interior was lined with a red velvet. Clearly, it had seen a few mice in its day and the droppings on the floor of the sled affirmed that right away. This sleigh had real possibilities to my way of thinking!

I went to the cashier and inquired about it. She said, “Sorry, that’s been sold.” I looked back dejectedly at the sleigh and saw a man fiddling with part of the leather seat inside. I walked over, asked him if he knew who bought the sleigh, figuring it was probably him. He said gruffly, “My wife bought the damn thing and now I gotta drag it home. Don’t know what she had in mind but it’s one more piece of junk I need like a hole in the head.” That raised my spirits a bit. “I’ll take it off your hands if you’re interested” I offered, hoping his wife wasn’t around. I already knew what he paid for it and offered him $25 more than he paid and he took it without any hesitation at all. I didn’t want to be around when his wife came out from the house!

I returned later that day with my pickup and with help loaded it and took it home to my barn. My wife seemed delighted with my purchase but immediately retorted, “Well, all we need now is the horse!” I had a brain storm of sorts then and said, “You watch, I have it all figured out!” It was a slow day the following Saturday and I made a device that took the horse out of the picture completely; I made it in such a way that I could hook the pole of the sleigh to my farm tractor and we’d be all set.

My daughters were totally embarrassed as they sat with my wife on that snowy Sunday evening in January being regally escorted round and round in the neighborhood in a one-horse open sleigh, a red lantern hanging from the backside and a strap of bells clinking from one of the side rails. In time the girls got over the serious trauma that I caused in their lives that night! They occasionally remind me of it when they reflect on our rural lifestyle back then.