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The Happy Horseman

Posted 4/30/2009 11:56am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

About two miles north of our village of Cross Keys is the village of Peru Mills.  It is even less inhabited than our little nearby village, but it appears to have the history of a genteel little mill village.  There are two grand houses that are well kept by the descendents of a family that at one time held title to most of the land in Lack Township.  The family has since moved to Carlisle but they hire locals to maintain the property and occasionally weekend in the large brick house.   Besides the two homes and outbuildings, there is a beautiful stone mill that is leased to a hunting club and across the road from the mill is the ramshackle home of the happy horseman.   We gave him this title several years back when suddenly a horse was tied to the front porch of the house and with the horse came the regular appearance of the bearded, thin man who lived in the house.   Every time we drove past his home, he was out brushing or tending to his horse, with a smile not unlike that of a kid with a pony or a bike or a Wii.  As we zoomed back and forth to work or play in Mifflintown or elsewhere, we waved to this man who clearly had little of what most Americans strive for but seemed so delighted with his present situation, we couldn’t help but be delighted right along with him.  On the back roads of Lack Township you will find many horses living in small, muddy paddocks with a shed and I won’t lie to you, it seems many of these horse are in very unfortunate circumstances.   But what has made the happy horseman different in our minds was that his horse was clearly and literally front and center in his life.  The house he lives in may one day fall down but it won’t matter because he’ll be outside with his horse tied to the porch post, a little fire in pit and probably a pot of beans cooking over it, a beer in one hand and curry comb in the other, just taking care of his good fortune.

Finally last summer we learned his name.  It’s Barry.  Cross Keys has a community picnic at the township building, the same one where we go to vote.  We’ve been to the picnic a few times over the years and now that the girls are getting to know the neighbor kids at school, they like to go to play with their friends so last summer we went for the evening.  A Bluegrass Gospel band played while neighbors ate hot dogs, chicken noodle soup, and homemade ice cream and swarms of kids raced around in a typical unfocused kid-play…that is until Barry showed up with his horses, he now has two.  Everybody appeared to know him and the village kids were especially glad to see him.  Within minutes and without parents signing permission slips or insurance clearances there was a line formed for pony rides with Barry.  While our girls took their turns Roy walked along and chatted with Barry.  Barry has since purchased an old Amish buggy but unlike the Amish who clop along at rhythmic pace, Barry’s not in a hurry.  He hitches his horse to the buggy and they lope up the road to Cross Keys or back Pumping Station Road to the homes of his friends and neighbors.  I don’t know if Barry is as content as he appears.  I have to remind myself that in reality I know very little about him.  However I do know how his presence in our community affects me.  It makes me want to slow down and be more content, thumb my nose at those impulses to have more, own more, be more articulate and influential.  Barry doesn’t try to be any of those things. He just tends to his horse, next to his ramshackle house, challenging the rushed, over-consumptive world-as-we-know-it with his Amish buggy and easy grin.