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Wagons still get my full attention

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By W.B. Evans

A recent visit to the Amish Farmers’ Market at Mechanicsville, Md., has me looking back. I never grow tired of seeing horses and wagons.

The sight of them prompted us to stop and buy some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

Shucks, that means the fresh corn and Georgia cannonball (watermelon) harvest should be arriving any day via wagon.

You know, there was a time when mule and horse-drawn wagons were  common sights in Lancaster’s business district.

It was hot as blue blazes, but all the produce picking was done and farmers were routinely taking Arch Street into town with wagons loaded with fresh produce. I got to see it all, when I was walking to Uncle Harry’s office one Wednesday to spend the day with him. 

An attorney, Uncle Harry plied his trade above Mr. Pierce Horton’s Corner Drug Store and overlooked Main Street.

That drug store was always an adventure in the making. There were racks of funny books, ice cream cones, cherry Coca-Colas, medicines and all kinds of women’s powders and fancy smell-good stuff.

I had grown tired of playing office and was grateful when Uncle Harry grabbed his hat and invited me to join him for a downtown meander.

I was always peacock proud to walk beside Uncle Harry.

Tall and slender, he always wore a light-colored Panama straw hat and a  seersucker suit with blue or black stripes.

Uncle Harry’s black leather shoes gleamed in the midday sun and he looked dapper, thanks to his black string bow tie and the walking cane he carried, which doubled as a pointer.

We stopped by the Lancaster Cafe for a sandwich and some small talk with the owner.

After that, we turned right and walked down White Street to Mr. Quay Hood’s Livery Barn.

“Business is kinda slow, but I gotta a couple of things to show you fellas,” Hood said. 

Bless Pete, I turned the corner to see two brand-spanking new farm wagons. One was dark green with gold stripes down the side with yellow spoke wheels.

The other farm wagon was real sporty. It was brighter than Chinese Red with green spoke wheels and a upholstered brown leather seat.

Why, they even had that new wagon smell.

“They just arrived fresh from a factory in Hickory,” Hood said. “Hickory still makes the best furniture and farm wagons around.”

Suddenly, Hood started giving my uncle his best sales pitch.

“Tell you what, Harry, since we’re friends, I’ll even give you a real good deal on a couple to mules to pull it with,” Hood said.

But Uncle Harry wasn’t biting. He declined and made a hasty departure next door to Mr. Barnes’ blacksmith shop, where several horses were waiting to be shod. After catching up on the news there, we headed across the street to Mr. Sweat’s grist mill for a quick visit.

Uncle Harry pulled his watch from his pocket and stared at it, before we walked back to his office.

Within minutes, some folks showed up to discuss some legal stuff, so I quietly slipped downstairs for a cone of ice cream.

I started looking over the funny books. I was suddenly lost in my own little funny book world and was giving some serious thought to hollering “Shazam” just like Billy Batson did after flipping through a few pages, but Mr. Horton was giving me the “look.”

The “look” happened every time we boys spent too much time in near the magazine racks. I knew what the look meant, so I eased out the front door and stopped by the scales. 

Now, for a penny, you could get your weight, and a fortune printed on a stiff little piece of cardboard which spit right out the front of the scale.

I fished a brownie from my pocket and dropped it the slot.

It clinked and clanked before hitting bottom, which perked up every passing ear that heard it. Some things never change and I knew what was coming next.

Someone standing behind me asked, “Boy, does your Mama know where you are at?”

I never knew one penny could draw such a crowd. I got so tired of explaining, that I just went back upstairs to see Uncle Harry.

Evidently, he could tell I was aggravated and told me I was being too hard on the curious passersby.

“It’s cause folks recognize you,” he said. “They’re concerned ’cause they care about young folks.”

He just may be right, but I still didn’t like it.

About that time, I looked out the upstairs window to the square below.

Bless Pete, Hood had made a sale.

That shiny red, brand new wagon was headed up Gay Street behind a team of bays. I did a double take of the overall-wearing driver, who looked awful familiar.

It was the ice man who delivered ice to homes along Chesterfield Avenue for Mr. Gregory’s ice factory on Elm Street.

You know, I never got tired of seeing that wagon, although it would eventually disappear when the electric ice boxes showed up.

Lucky for me, I saw it some years later near Jones Crossroads.

The wagon was weather-beaten and worn. The mule pulling it pretty much looked the same. It was a sad sight, but I remember what it once was and had to smile.

I never grow tired of seeing wagons.