Dancers and Prancers

lhp15_01The last time I was at a Lebanon, Ohio, horse parade was in 2011 and it was part of what I called a trifecta. On three consecutive weekends I attended horse parades in Greenville, Springfield, and Lebanon. This year Greenville held their 12th annual Hometown Holiday Horse Parade on November 21. I missed it. As happened in 2011, an open weekend separated the Greenville and Lebanon parades but I have found no evidence of Springfield filling it. The 2011 parade was their first and it may have been their last. Pictures in this post are from the 27th annual Lebanon Carriage Parade held yesterday, December 5.

lhp15_02lhp15_03Lebanon actually has two parades and a sizable street festival to go with them. The Red Hot Dancing Queens, who I’ve seen on a few other occasions, were part of the pre-parade entertainment. They are indeed red hot and seem to always have every bit of fun that the law allows.

lhp15_05lhp15_04Lebanon has both a daytime and nighttime parade. The nighttime parade, which was the one I attended in 2011, is harder to photograph but electric lights on the carriages and and horses do look cool. Obviously I attended the daytime parade this year and it’s just as obvious what is being celebrated.

lhp15_06lhp15_07lhp15_08I haven’t seen an official count but there must have been just about 100 entries. I recall seeing tags in the 90s with a few carriages behind them plus I spotted a pair of entries wearing A and B versions of the same number. There may have been more.

lhp15_11lhp15_10lhp15_09The posted photos show just a small fraction of the entries. There is absolutely nothing scientific about their selection. They are merely some that I like. Since I have no idea who any of these people are, I can’t really be accused of slighting anyone. Ignorance can be useful.

Book Review
Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More
Tracy Lawson

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More coverIn 1990, Tracy Lawson’s parents gave her a stack of twenty-one photocopied pages as a Christmas present. Transcribed onto the typewritten pages was the journal of her third great-grandfather’s 1838 trip from a Cincinnati suburb to New York City. In 2012, Lawson is sharing those pages and the experiences they triggered, in Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More. The book is comprised of two sections. “Section I — 1838” contains the journal along with Lawson’s illuminating comments and notes. “Section II — 2003-2009” contains accounts of the author’s own trips along the route. Both sections are liberally illustrated with black and white photos and drawings.

The writer of the 1838 journal was Henry Rogers, who operated a successful mill in Mount Pleasant (now Mount Healthy), Ohio. Traveling with the 32 year old Henry were his wife and her parents. The miller was both literate and observant and he sets out to record “…all interesting subjects and things that come under my observation”. The journal provides a most interesting look at nineteenth century roadtripping. Henry recorded expenses and named names so we know, for example, that the group spent a night at Winchester’s hotel in Jefferson (now West Jefferson), Ohio and paid $2.50 for the privilege. That $2.50 covered bed and board for four people and two horses. Along the way, he records expenses for tolls, horseshoes, wagon tyres, and “face barbering”, etc..

The travelers picked up the National Road in Jefferson, Ohio, and followed it and its extensions to Hagerstown, Maryland. As a fan of the National Road, I enjoyed reading Henry’s descriptions and found his pre-bridge entry to Wheeling, Virginia, which required a ferry over each of the two Ohio River channels at costs of 25 and 37.5 cents, especially interesting. They passed through Brownsville, Pennsylvania, during construction of the first cast iron bridge in the United States. It doesn’t appear as if Henry realized that the bridge that would soon carry the National road over Dunlap’s Creek was the first of its kind but he described it as “splendid” while being forced to cross on an “..old narrow bridge that looked as though it would scarcely bear its own weight.” At Hagerstown, the group turned northeast and headed toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then through Abbottstown and York to Lancaster. Roadies will recognize the Gettysburg to Lancaster route as the future path of the Lincoln Highway. From Lancaster, they continued northeast to Trenton, New Jersey, where they spent a little time and made a visit to Philadelphia before moving onto New York City.

The 1838 journal is accompanied by sidebars that explain unfamiliar terms or provide background for certain passages. The journal’s text is cross referenced to a set of end notes. A subsection titled “Expansions” contains short dissertations on subjects that were part of Henry Rogers’ world. These include mills, finances, politics, medicine, fashion, and more.

The author made three trips specifically to experience and research the route her great-great-great-grandparents had followed. Two were driving trips with her daughter and one was a solo fly-and-drive outing. These trips are covered in “Section II” with a blend of genealogy, personal discovery, and general history. It’s fun reading that mirrors Henry’s journal in the sense that both are straight forward reports of some relatively unscripted travel. Henry’s journal held my interest more but there is a good chance that this was because his travel was so much different from today’s. Lawson describes some of the places she stayed and ate much as Henry did and there is even an encounter with a less than savory character that is reminiscent of some of the “scoundrels and topers” encountered by Henry. But Ramada and Cracker Barrel don’t have the same zing as names like Sign of the Bear and Cross Keys Tavern.

Lawson does locate and visit several of the places mentioned in the journal including a few, such as Pennsylvania’s 7 Stars Inn, that are still operating. She also picked up some information at libraries and local historical societies though the trips were not as rich in field research as she had hoped. They were more successful, it seems, on a personal level. She was able to familiarize herself with the path her ancestors traveled and the world they lived in The mother-daughter time was, as the ads say, priceless.

That personal connection won’t be there for most readers of Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, but it is still an entertaining and informative look at a road trip back when thirty-one and a half cents fed a family of four and two horsepower was plenty.

There are some minor errors. Perhaps I’m just sensitized to this sort of thing but referring to US 36 as State Route 36 and saying the Madonna of the Trail Monuments were “erected … on US Route 40 and US Route 66” with no mention of the National Old Trails Road bothered me. Aside from increased knowledge of her own ancestors and the world of 1838, it seems Tracy Lawson gained some insight into heritage road trips. In the Epilogue she says “And if I were driving the National Road again, I would eat at all the restaurants that were once taverns Henry mentioned in his journal!” I hope she makes that happen.

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, Tracy Lawson, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, April 2012, paperback, 9.1 x 7.1 inches, 156 pages, ISBN 978-1935778196

More Horses (and a bit on a madonna)

Last night I completed the trifecta of southwest Ohio horse parades. I just happened to be in Greenville on the occasion of their parade two weeks ago. I blogged about it here. Last week I was again in Greenville and came home through Springfield with a goal of getting some pictures of the recently relocated Madonna of the Trail statue. (More on that later.) I was surprised to see downtown Springfield blocked off and more surprised to learn that it was for the city’s first ever hose parade. I certainly had to stick around for that.

Springfield Horse ParadeCarriage rides were available before the parade and, yes, I took one. Neither the carriage rides nor the parade actually passed the Madonna. The picture at right shows one of the “public” carriages leaving the blocked off area in anticipation of the parade itself. The parade formed behind where I stood to take the picture and turned right to reach the parade route proper.

Springfield Horse ParadeSpringfield Horse ParadeAs mentioned, this was Springfield’s first year for a parade and there were just fourteen entries. All were “hitches”. In other words, there were no horseback riders. The portrayal of  the Christmas story in a setting where eighteenth and and nineteenth century covered wagons (albeit with pneumatic rubber tires) was the norm was simultaneously shocking and 100% fitting. I liked it. Future generations of Springfieldians may have a very unique take on the whole Christmas-pioneer-Madonna-covered-wagon thing.

Black Horse Tavern at the Golden LambSo, after attending Springfield’s first and Greenville’s eighth more or less by accident, I felt almost obligated to attend Lebanon’s twenty-third horse parade. It’s not only the oldest of the three but, with 122 entries, far and away the biggest. It’s also the only double header. There is a daylight version at 1:00 and an in-the-dark illuminated-carriage version at 7:00. Other commitments kept me away from Lebanon until something after 1:00 but I headed there anyway thinking I might catch the tail end of the matinee. I couldn’t even get close. I whiled away the afternoon on the far side of town then returned thinking it entirely possible that I would just pass through again and head home. But I found a parking spot about three blocks from the Golden Lamb. In the Lamb’s Black Horse Tavern, I ran into some friends I hadn’t seen in quite awhile and managed to while away another couple of hours until parade time was near.

Lebanon Horse ParadeLebanon Horse ParadeI’ve attended both light and dark versions of the Lebanon parade before but it’s been a long time. Both the parade and attendance have had time to grow and they certainly have. All of downtown Lebanon was pretty much shoulder to shoulder and withers to withers.

Lebanon Horse Parade ClydesdalesLebanon Horse Parade Fire EngineSeveral of the parade participants had been at Greenville and a few had been at Springfield but with more than eight times Springfied’s entries and nearly double Greenville’s, Lebanon obviously had some exclusives. Foremost among these were a nineteenth century fire engine and a team of Clydesdales. Both of these actually brought cheers from the crowd when they charged down the street.

Golden LambDuring the parade I managed to somehow walk to it’s origin and back. Some of it was pretty awkward but in the end I just stepped into the street and paced the parade. I recall my father once telling me that the secret to getting around a military base is to carry a clipboard and walk briskly. The same technique works with parades using a camera. The friends I had met in the bar told of past success in watching the parade from the balcony at the Golden Lamb. Even though that appeared to be a bit more challenging than in prior years, they were going to give it a try. As the parade wrapped up, I snapped this picture of the hotel’s balcony just in case they were up there. No, I later learned, they had been blocked from the balcony but found an empty third floor dining room where they and another couple watched the parade in relative privacy. The only intruder was a hotel employee who stopped by now and then to take drink orders.

Ohio Madonna of the TrailNow, about that Madonna. In 1928 and ’29, as the era of named auto trails came to an end, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states through which the National Old Trails Road passed. The one for Ohio was placed in Springfield. Two of the four sides on each statue’s base were inscribed with information specific to the statue and its placement. On Ohio’s Madonna these concerned the end of federally funded construction, which was quite close to the statue’s original placement, and George Rogers Clark victory at Peckuwe which was about three miles from the original placement as noted in the inscription. In the mid 1950s, highway construction caused the statue to be moved about a half mile east. The inscriptions were no longer as accurate as they had been but they weren’t off too much. A bigger problem with the move was that, once US-40 became four lanes wide, there was no convenient access to the statue. Reaching it involved either pulling over on the busy highway or parking in a safe spot and walking along the busy highway.

Ohio Madonna of the TrailIn September, the statue was again moved. This move was about two miles distance to a park in downtown Springfield. The setting makes the statue much more accessible while making the inscriptions much less accurate. Some consider this a net win; Others don’t. During the hour or so I hung around the statue last Saturday, I saw about twenty people take note of the statue in some way. There was a lot of foot traffic in the area Saturday and the majority seemed oblivious to both the new park and the relocated statue. Of those that noticed it, about half recognized it including one fellow who arrived with camera and tripod to photograph the old gal in her new home. Quite a few of those who had no idea what it was did read at least one panel. Several read them all. Whether or not any of them develop even the slightest interest in any aspect of the history that this Madonna of the Trail represents is anybody’s guess.

A newspaper article about the September 22 move is here. The Madonna can be seen thirteen days before the move here and here.

Electric Horsemen & Horsewomen

Greenville Hometown Holiday Horse ParadeThe practice of using lawn chairs to stake out prime territory at various events has long both amused and irritated me. It flourishes in smaller communities where honesty abounds and scoundrels tempted to displace or abscond with the portable furniture are simply not tolerated. I’d guess that any chair plopped down ten hours ahead of a concert in NYC’s Central Park would be long gone before showtime but I don’t really know that. Last night, Greenville, Ohio, held its eighth Hometown Holiday Horse Parade. The picture at right was taken about 5:30 but some of those chairs were there when I drove through town around 10:00 AM.

Greenville Hometown Holiday Horse ParadeThis is a big event and the crowd grows to four or more deep in a matter of minutes. This picture shows the scene about five minutes before parade start — about an hour and a half after the first one. It’s not logical that this somehow irritates me slightly. The way I operate, I’m going to be behind those four or five rows regardless of when or by whom they were filled. I am not personally affected by the fact that the front row is filled by people whose cousin dropped off a dozen chairs on his way to the turkey shoot but it doesn’t seem quite right. You have to stand for hours on Times Square or Gobbler’s Knob if you want to see the crystal ball or Punxsutawney Phil and that, in my view, is as it should be.

Greenville Hometown Holiday Horse ParadeGreenville Hometown Holiday Horse ParadeI believe this is the third or possibly fourth time I’ve attended the parade. I’ve taken pictures each time but I still don’t know how to do it. I have virtually no usable pictures of individual participants. This pair of photos looks north on Broadway shortly before the parade’s start and end. Staging for the parade is just to the right of these pictures and the horses enter Broadway more or less in front of where I’m standing and continue north. After rounding the traffic circle at Main Street, they retrace their path back along Broadway so those folks in chairs get to see them coming and going. The right hand picture shows the last few entries nearing the end of the route on their return.

Greenville Hometown Holiday Horse ParadeThis year’s parade reportedly had well over sixty entries. Some of those entries were groups of riders on horseback but it hasn’t always been so. For at least one year, horseback riders were banned because, as I understand it, some of the organizers felt that the parade was conceived around lighted wagons and carriages and it should stay that way. I have no opinion and just try to enjoy the lights and the horses whether they’re hitched to a wagon or not.

The last picture is obviously out of sequence and I’m including it mostly because I just like it. There had been some light rain in the afternoon and some predictions showed the chances increasing toward evening. That was definitely not what happened and the picture shows the clouds separating a bit as the sun goes down. This is the circle that marks the northern reach of the parade and, like the street itself, it is surrounded by thick walls of spectators as the horses pass by. Here‘s another picture from last night that has even less to do with the parade but which I may like even more.

Greenville Hometown Holiday Horse Parade

I would like to dedicate my mild rant against “chair claims” to America’s most congenial curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, who died two weeks ago. I don’t know that Andy cared one way or the other about modern concert and parade “sooners” but I do know that, if he did, he would have expressed his feelings a whole lot better than I did.

This morning I headed slightly north to Mason, Ohio, for breakfast. The Mason Grill is a great family owned business that always satisfies in terms of food, friendliness, service, and value. I walked in thinking mushroom omelet but changed my mind as soon as I read the chalkboard specials. Goetta omelet? I’d never seen goetta on their menu before and the waitress confirmed that it was a new but permanent addition. This might be goetta’s northern most outpost to date. After last week’s goetta-scrapple-mush discussion, there was no chance of me not ordering it. Unfortunately, goetta does not photograph well while buried in an omelet but here‘s my great tasting breakfast anyway.