About 18 months ago I composed a writing called “That One Summer”
I described the unique job I had, being a tour guide and trolley driver in St. Jacobs country. When I unhitched the team that last, rainy Saturday of August 2018, I had no idea if I would ever drive Duke and Mickey again. My one way flight to Thailand was only 48 hours away and I did not know when I would be back.
The next 10 months I did spend on the other side of the Pacific, but due to visa issues, I found myself back in Waterloo County the middle of June. I was pretty excited to “get back in the saddle again”(actually, just behind the reins.) But sadly, Duke and Mickey were not going to be my main team. They were semi retired… and only going to be back ups.
I would get to know 5 new horses before summer was over. If there was one thing the previous year had taught me it was this: Keep calm and pray about everything. I thanked the Lord many times that it was not my first summer driving trolley. There was a brand new house being built close to the road we always travelled on to the market. Horses don’t love new, loud machinery and especially not well-diggers. Sometimes, people would park along the road leaving only a narrow passage, or it felt narrow anyway.
I still say though, if you can’t travel, be a tour guide. You will meet some fabulous people from all over the world. Everyone loves the touch of a slower paced life for 1.5 hours and people breathe deep the fresh, farm air, while taking a ba-zillion photos. You will get to know other tour guides of southern Ontario who bring their groups time and time again. One of my favourite groups was an African- American church group. I tell ya, it felt like heaven came down and glory had filled my soul because of all the Amen-ing and Yes, sister that was happening.
There was one guy, who faithfully brought groups of Koreans. They always came in on the morning flight and he would usually bring them on the afternoon trolley ride. Jet lag is a killer already, but when there is a female voice droning on and on in a language you can only partially understand, why, it is quite easy to lull off to sleep. My friend from DangBu Tours heard the speech so many times he already knew what to translate before I even said the words. I never introduced myself as “The Trendy Mennonite” but I caught on one day that that is always how he described me to the people. These people had never even seen a Mennonite and now they had just gotten off a plane less than 12 hours before and were getting the full coverage on who drives cars and who doesn’t, who wears solids versus prints, and who dances on Sunday nights. I finally asked a Korean one day, how we get so many people from their country? “Oooh, because this tour is on our TV.” And it is as simple as that.
It was inching on toward 5 PM, one day and I had just dropped the last load off at the market. I was really tired and the team and I were anxious to get back to the farm. I swung back up into the trolley and gave the horses the clucking noise for them to get moving. We had barely moved from the gate when I realized that “Houston, we have a problem.” The one rein was locked up tight. Because of the way this particular horse swung his head while he stood waiting, sometimes he would manage to get the one buckle of the rein locked into the ring on his collar. I had zero control of him, except with my words. In the next 2 seconds my brain jumped into action as I realized I needed to stop the team, get out, and physically fix the problem. I pulled back on the other horse and both of them stopped. I got off the seat to open the door.
We popped off like a rocket. I lunged toward the reins and hung on for dear life. I heard some awful snapping and popping, and breaking. When we finally stopped, we were in the middle of the road, leaving a broken, wooden fence in our wake.
I stayed on the seat, speaking in a voice so calm I could not even believe my own ears.
You know that verse,”Before they call, I will answer?” well, help was already waiting at the traffic light behind us. I saw a guy sauntering up. “Need a hand?” he wondered. Ummm, yes. The tongue of the trolley is broken and clearly we are not driving anywhere.
“You good with horses?” I asked.
“I’m ex Amish.” he stated through a half grin.
(Lord, thank you for ex Amish) We unhitched the team. and led them back into the market to tie them back up. Mr. Italian Man, who had just gotten off the trolley less than 10 minutes before, came running from the parking lot across the road. The 3 of us pushed the trolley off the road.
While I wish I could say none of this happened, it did. What “they” say is true, when you get bucked off, get back on. I chalked it up as experience, and you can bet your britches I always checked the reins BEFORE takeoff.
There were 110 reasons to be thankful. Thankful first and foremost that no one had gotten hurt, thankful that the horses did not run into traffic, thankful that the trolley was fixable, thankful that it was the end of the day and no one was with me.
It was an incredible summer. The thing is, I never ever dreamt I would come to enjoy horses so much. I still have so much to learn about these magnificent creatures, but horses are not much different than people. You treat them right, and it goes a long way in building trust and loyalty.
I got another Visa and headed back to Asia. I have a life here that is far removed from large Belgiums, St. Jacobs tourism, and Hallmark adventures where the knight in shining armor swoops in to save the damsel in a broken-down wagon.
“Last Summer”…. were the days before Corona exploded and changed our world. I hope tourism isn’t over for good, ‘cuz this trendy Mennonite would love one or two more rides.