Sunday, November 16, 2014

Slowing down with a horse and buggy

Photo of carriage and drum horse giving rides at Pioneer Art Settlement's Fall Country Jamboree
American drum horse Mariah's Boon pulls the
Moonlit Acre carriage. Photo by Gerri Bauer
A couple of weeks ago, I was wandering around the Pioneer Art Settlement during the annual Fall Country Jamboree when I came upon the horse and buggy in the first photo in this post. What a happy surprise. Moonlit Acre Carriage Rides' owner Laura Moon was offering short, complimentary rides to and from the Underhill House, the oldest brick home in Volusia County and a current restoration project for the Settlement.

Of course I jumped in, to get a taste of 19th century transportation. My husband and I have been on horse-and-buggy tours in St. Augustine and Charleston, but this one was in a country setting dressed for the period. It made a big difference.

True, this carriage wasn't your typical pioneer buggy. It resembled a barouche. Nor was the horse typical. Laura's carriage was pulled by her beautiful American drum horse, Mariah's Boon. Such a horse-and-buggy combination was rarely - if ever - seen on the backwoods roadways of frontier Central Florida. More common were the cart and wagon shown in the other photographs. Both are on display at the Settlement.

The ride to and from the Underhill house was primarily on unpaved land, which gave a pleasant, rhythmic bounce to the journey. The day was gorgeous, the scenery lush, the carriage and horse beautiful. I could have ridden around for hours in a haze of romanticism.

But when writing about 19th century life, I always have to be careful to balance nostalgic impressions with the realities experienced by Florida pioneers. Both human and horse - or mule or oxen - had to venture out in all kinds of weather. Nobody went anywhere fast. Imagine driving your car between 5 and 8 miles an hour. That's average speed for a horse and buggy (according to an Ohio Department of Transportation safety sheet about driving in Amish country).

The distance between my house and the Settlement is about 15 miles. Since I'd never push a horse hard, it would take me 3 hours to reach the Jamboree, and then another 3 hours to get home. Such time factors help explain why pioneer residents's visits to far-away friends and relatives lasted days instead of hours. Given the slower movements through time  - and given how we rush through our 21st century life - I can't help but wonder: Did people back in the day live more in the moment than we do today? Maybe nostalgic views and realities can learn from one another.

Photo of 1879 Underhill House
Circa 1879 Underhill House - photo by Gerri Bauer

Photo of wagon at Pioneer Art Settlement
Wagon on display at Pioneer Art Settlement
Photo by Gerri Bauer

Photo of pioneer buggy at Pioneer Art Settlement
Buggy on display at Pioneer Art Settlement
Photo by Gerri Bauer

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