Though I grew up in Ohio, I’d never heard of the town of Mesopotamia. It’s on state routes 87 and 534, near Ohio’s “Mosquito Creek Wilderness” (which I also hadn’t heard of). Nor did I realize that the town is the cultural heart of a thriving Amish community between Cleveland and Pennsylvania. But Kate and I were pleasantly surprised when we stopped there in 2010 on our drive back to Boston after visiting my family.
The above photo– taken with my IR-converted Nikon CoolPix 990– shows what’s billed as the “World’s Largest Amish Horse and Buggy” (which I understand is also called a “Trap”). Installed in 2008 by Chris McConnell– a Cleveland Institute of Art student with other monumental sculptures planted around the state– the work contains 2,300 board-feet of 2-by-4 scraps from nearby sawmills.
All told, it’s more than 30 feet long, the horse stands 13.5 feet (“29.25 hands”) tall, the wheels are 7 feet in diameter, and at around 14 feet high, the buggy totally towered over me.
A Pleasant Surprise
But the rest of this story was walking up behind me, from the direction of the town’s “End of the Commons General Store.” Though not run by the Amish, the store has served the community since 1840, and claims to be the oldest continuously operating general store in the state.
Hardware, agricultural supplies, tools, household necessities, kitchen gadgets, toys, clothes, food, and a great candy store were all inside. And while I was shooting the sculpture, Kate was inside the store– like a kid (literally) in a candy shop.
“Would you like me to take your picture beside it,” a beautiful young Amish woman asked as she approached, pointing at my camera and the sculpture. With what little I knew about the Amish, the offer surprised me. But what floored me more was her clear serenity, warm eyes, and beaming smile. She radiated a true, unforced spirituality.
And I seriously wanted to photograph her… but knew better. Thanking her for the offer, I explained that I was happy with the photo I just took… without my ugly self in the view! She laughed, wished me a “Good day,” and walked on by. “You too,” I replied to her departing back… and joined Kate in the store to buy some candy.
–Dave Powell is a Westford, Mass., writer and avid amateur photographer.
A little note from Hamish: If any other current contributors to the 35mmc would like to submit a post like this, then feel free. I will share these on Wednesday afternoons to begin with, more if they get popular.
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