Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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December 8, 2012

THE PLAIN SIDE: The tale of Lonnie and the ‘runaway’ horse and carriage

The scene is a common one in Amish life. Two horses are trotting docilely, pulling buggies in opposite directions down a country road, still 100 yards apart. There appears to be nothing unusual in the whole scenario.

When the Kansas Andy boys are occupying one buggy though, anything can, and likely will, happen.

Kansas Andy’s Henry, in the passenger seat, has his binoculars trained on the oncoming buggy and Sammy and Mose are becoming impatient. “Can’t you tell who it is yet?”

“I think,” Henry answers slowly, “yes, it’s Bill’s Lonnie!”

“Perfect!” the boys are almost gleeful as they scramble off the seat of the enclosed buggy and kneel in the front of the box under cover of the dash. To anyone meeting them on the road, the buggy appears empty.

The ditch-side curtain is left open at the bottom so Sammy, the driver, can keep his bearings while hunkered down so low.

Henry, Sammy and Mose had determined to spice up their routine buggy trip to town by toying with their fellow travelers. Getting a chance to play a prank on neighbor Lonnie is much better than they had dared to wish for. The trio had long since deemed Lonnie responsible for the neon-orange painted rooster that had showed up in their barn as well as the mysterious crop of golf balls just a few inches under the surface of their garden that came boiling to the top when Mose went through with the tiller. The boys also suspected, though they weren’t sure, that Lonnie had been responsible for every clock in the house being an hour fast in the morning after the youth hymn singing last winter.

Henry and Sammy, who work in town, were an hour early for work that morning and have been eagerly waiting for a chance to catch Lonnie vulnerable. Now they have it — if Lonnie takes the bait.

The pranksters huddle, invisible and holding their breath against the dash of the buggy. They listen to the approaching horse’s hoofbeats, now close ... now right beside them ... now just past.

Quickly and carefully Sammy eases up onto the seat and glances in the mirror.

“Yes! He’s stopping!” Sammy hisses to his brothers. “Now watch how you get up. Do not get in front of the windows.”

A driverless horse and carriage is a hazard to the horse, to the carriage, to fellow travelers and to any fences in the vicinity. Amish children are taught from a young age that such loose horses must be quickly corralled, thereby preventing further damage. Lonnie is no exception. When he sees his neighbor’s team running “loose” down the road, he wastes no time.

Quickly, he halts his horse, hands the lines to his brother and jumps out of his own buggy to begin sprinting after the runaway.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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