Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Pony

The Christmas Pony
(There is an audio version at the bottom of this post)
Start the audio and read along... or you can watch the falling snow while you listen.

              Viola skipped toward the barn. She held her hands up as though holding the reins of a pony while moving in a loping motion. Her brother Aaron called, “Viola, get off of your pony and do your chores.”
Viola dismounted her imaginary pony and tied it to the hitching-rack next to a real buggy horse. Snow fell quietly, covering her family’s Amish farm with a fresh, white blanket. Chores needed to be done on Christmas Eve morning just like any other day. Viola got to work mixing up powdered milk for calves that bawled loudly for breakfast. Two younger sisters came to help. Mary was eight, two years younger than Viola, and Katherine was one year younger than Mary. Katherine asked her oldest sister, “Viola, why don’t we have a real pony?”
“Because they cost a lot of money. Dad says that he has been watching for a cheap one at the horse sale, but he doesn't want to buy a mean one, just because it’s cheap.” Her answer seemed to satisfy her little sister. Her own heart still ached, wishing for real pony.
When the baby cows were finally all fed and quiet, Viola untied and climbed aboard her pretend pony and clucked. She skipped off between the barn and chicken house dashing through new fallen snow. Her rubber boots sloshed with a rhythm similar to that of a pony. She rode her imaginary horse out to a field entrance, her little chore-dress flapping in time with her apron. The little Amish girl pulled open a large metal gate and let a herd of cows out to graze on cornstalks. Huge black-and-white Holsteins lumbered through falling snow, nibbling on brown corn-stubble that stuck up through drifts.
Viola tightened her black headscarf which matched her heavy coat. She lifted her arms, feigning the motion of turning a pony and loped back to where her little sisters were. Mary and Katherine were gathering firewood from a massive stack that leaned against the buggy shed. Viola dismounted her pretend pony and tied it beside the real buggy horse again. She didn't notice a huge milk-truck had pulled into their lane and backed near the milk-house. Falling snow had muffled all sounds, including those of the milk-house generator and a large white truck.
Milkman Tom called through the falling snow, “Viola, come here.” The little Amish girl walked from the hitching-rack toward Tom. The milkman came to haul away milk every third day, year around. Viola always enjoyed talking to him while he drained the milk tank. He spoke with a smile, “I suppose you want a pony for Christmas?” Viola gave him a blank stare for a moment, and then explained, “We don’t have that kind of Christmas.” She looked at Tom and saw that he was puzzled. She tried to explain better, “We usually exchange a few small gifts at Christmas, not things like ponies.”
“Oh, I see. I've noticed that you have been riding an imaginary pony lately.” Viola blushed. Tom asked, “Don’t you children have a pony?”
“No, but my dad has been watching at every horse sale. He knows that I want one really bad. He said that he’s not willing to buy just any pony because some of them are mean.” Tom smiled and Viola thought that she saw a tear in the corner of his eye. He finished his work and climbed into his big truck. Viola helped her little sisters, who were loading firewood onto a sled. Viola pulled and her little sisters pushed their load toward the house.  Milkman Tom waved to them as he drove out of their lane. All three little Amish girls waved and began to unload their sled. They pushed firewood through a chute that dumped into their basement. The girls went inside and took off their chore coats and boots, heading downstairs into the warm basement to stack firewood. This was all part of what they did for chores twice every day.

The scent of cinnamon rolls filled their kitchen as the family gathered for breakfast. Their home was warmed by firewood the girls had brought inside and that their older brother Aaron had loaded in the wood-burning furnace. They were all in a cheerful mood because it was Christmas Eve day. Tomorrow, between morning and evening chores, they would spend a relaxing afternoon together as a family. During breakfast, Mother made a statement, “Girls, I believe we will make cookies today.” Viola and her sisters smiled at each other. Aaron and Dad made plans to clean out the horse stalls. The little boys were too young to help, but when breakfast was over they pretended to clean out horse stalls in one corner of the living room.
Viola, Mary, and Katherine helped their mother mix up cookie dough. They enjoyed rolling out large slabs of dough on the table and using a round cookie-cutter to make dozens of Christmas cookies. Viola gathered some of the left-over pieces of dough and made a horse shaped cookie. Her mother smiled and said, “Let’s put your little horse on the cookie sheet, too. Tomorrow, it will be your Christmas pony.”

* * *

It was easy for little girls to jump out of bed on Christmas morning, even though their bedroom was cold. The girls ran downstairs to finish dressing near the warm stove. The whole family put on heavy coats, gloves, and boots. They stepped out into the crisp morning air to hurry through chores. Viola headed to the hitching-rack to untie her imaginary pony but stopped in her tracks. There stood a real live pony. The whole family exclaimed their surprise, jabbering with each other about where the mystery pony may have come from. Viola didn't speak. She stood perfectly still, as though one wrong move might make the vision disappear. “Daddy, did you get us a pony?” Viola finally got the courage to ask.
“No, I don’t know anything more about this pony than the rest of you.” The small, light-brown pony had big, dark eyes. Viola and the pony stood looking at each other until Aaron said, “Look, there is a note tied to the pony’s halter.” He read the note, slowly, because it was still dark out.

        Merry Christmas,

My name is Ginger. Last Christmas I was a gift to a little girl who was very sick. She loved me a lot and I gave her rides, even though she was not feeling well. The little girl kept getting more weak all the time. She always wanted to touch my soft muzzle, even when she couldn't ride me anymore. My little girl is no longer suffering. I have been very lonely, standing in my pasture with no one to play with. Please take me for rides and pet my muzzle.

Viola reached out her hand and touched Ginger’s soft nose. The pony’s dark eyes glistened. Viola said, “If the little girl isn't sick anymore, why doesn't she play with her pony?”
Mother answered softly, “I believe the little girl is in heaven now.”

Thomas Nye reading the Christmas Pony
click play to listen

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Catbird Singing

Catbird Singing

Book II of the Amish Horses Series

Here is a peek into Catbird Singing, coming soon...

              "Should I help someone else get together with the girl that I love, for Uncle Noey and Aunt Ruth's sake?"

       Lenny is faced with a dilemma of epic proportions, when he learns about his cousin's affection for Leah. At first, the answer seems simple, Lenny only plans to be around his Amish family for a few weeks. Bishop Mose gave clear instructions for the "English" boy to stay away from Amish girls, but try as he might that is difficult. Lenny and his new buddy, a dog named Russell, have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. A series of adventures and a love triangle turn into a tangled mess that isn't easily ironed out.

       Catbirds have two modes, singing in the spring, and meowing like cats in the summer. These opposite sounds have a deep affect on Lenny while visiting an Amish farm. Familiar characters from Under the Heavens and some new friends join Lenny on his second journey into the world of the Amish. Horse drawn vehicles take Lenny back in time, visiting youth gatherings and working in fields, all within earshot of a Catbird Singing.

This picture was taken during the cover photo shoot.

Catbird Singing is due to be released early in January.
 "Like" Amish Horses Facebook page, or check in with for updates. Click on the blue "Join this site" button on the right hand column for automatic updates!

We will post the cover for Catbird Singing as soon as it's complete. 

click on the link below

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mennonite Wife

My wife and I,
at Oak Alley Plantation
My wife's home frozen applesauce

Shari's home canned peaches

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, get a Mennonite girl for a wife.

I didn't grow up Mennonite but my wife did. I don't have pictures to show you everything my wife cooks and bakes, but my five children and five grandchildren can vouch for me, she's the best!  Her homemade pies and cinnamon rolls are ridiculously amazing.  These canned peaches have ruined store bought peaches for me. I will never be able to eat store bought again.

Shari also makes homemade applesauce.  She only will use Yellow Transparent apples for her applesauce, which are hard to find. I've tried applesauce made from other varieties and she is right, they don't compare.  Homemade Bread, crescent rolls, kolaches, homemade caramels and chocolates at Christmastime, "perfect" chocolate cake for birthdays, and numerous other delightful goodies.

Home canned pizza sauce is a family favorite, on her made-from-scratch pizza dough.

You younger fellas should take note, Amish and Mennonite girls know how to bake and cook!

These cinnamon rolls, pictured below, melt in your mouth. They are best eaten right after they come out of the oven.  Just pour a glass of milk or a cup of hot coffee to go with them and you are in paradise!

Pumpkin pies for our family's Thanksgiving dessert
(note the tiny clothesline my daughter painted on our pantry wall)

My wife Shari, preparing cheesy potatoes, yum!
 Grandma cut balogna and cheese with a cookie cutter, in the shape of horses.
How clever is that? (Specially made, for our horse loving granddaughter.)

Our grandchildren often have tea parties and also get to play with this homemade play-dough.

So from my personal point of view... get a Mennonite girl to marry you!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gift Idea

 Are you looking for a gift for Grandpa or Grandma?  Here's an idea!
Anyone who is interested in the Amish will enjoy this visit to an Amish farm.

This book is 6"x 9"

A book is the perfect gift, because a person can never own too many of them.

Under the Heavens is a story of city boy visiting his Amish relatives on the farm.

Grandpa and Grandma will enjoy a trip down memory lane, and others will enjoy visiting an old-fashioned farm for the first time.

Perfect for horse lovers.

Under the Heavens is about twice the size of old paperbacks and all double-spaced.

Click on the words below to read reviews of Under the Heavens.

Amazon Link and reviews

Or, send a $20 check or money order to:
Amish Horses
P.O. Box 495
Kalona, Iowa 52247   (This offer only valid within the U.S.A)

If you live outside the U.S.A. and want a copy; or for any other questions.

We will send you an autographed copy.  In fact, the author Thomas Nye would be happy to personalize your gift.  Just include a the name of your loved one, and something about them and/or what you would like the message to say. Thomas Nye will hand write a personal note on the title page!
Be sure to also include a clearly marked name and address of where the book should be sent, if other than the person to receive the gift.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Horse Pull in Photos

A team of Belgian Pulling Horses, take a rest.
   I like how these two pictures (above and below) show the same horses, with opposite focus.  The top picture shows both horses heads clearly.  Below, everything but the heads are clear. This may be because these horses are completely synchronized; their heads bob together as they stride, and hold still as they push.  Notice how many concrete blocks are on the sled.

This older puller does a great job.  I was visiting with a young Amishman, who was watching the pull beside me.  We liked how this man got his horses to stand quietly and get even before asking them to pull. Then, both horses leaned into their harness gently.  The young Amishman said, "That's the way you want a team to work on the farm."

In my novel, Under the Heavens, I describe a man at a horse pull as a "kind old cowboy."  It so happens, that this is the guy I had in mind while writing.  I've watched him pull horses for years.

Pictured below, is my other favorite horseman at the pull.  This older gentleman sold his team the next day at the Kalona Draft Horse Sale.  Whoever bought them will never regret it.  His horses were not old, but perfectly trained, and showed a lot of heart.  They were the only team at this horse pull not wearing pulling shoes.  Horse Pullers put shoes with cleats on their horses much like a football player might wear, to enable them to get good traction. This old fella isn't a "puller" but a man who uses his horses for a variety of things on the farm, and because they are trained right, they will also pull a big load if asked.  His horses really got in there and dug, pulling as much weight as the others even without cleats.  They pulled all the way through on the second to last pull, after which he very wisely chose to not ask them to pull the final load.  Only one team was able to pull the final load 18 feet. It reminded me of the horse pull in Under the Heavens, Lenny's horses didn't have pulling shoes on either.

Above and Below, an Amish girl stands near a big team.
The top picture is better of the girl and the bottom of the horses, so I included both.

This young Amish girl swung the gate open as teams entered the ring.
She had a smile on her face the whole pull.
Kalona Amish do not attend this horse pull, but Amish who are in town for the Draft Horse Sale often stay for it.  I'm not sure if their home communities are not against horse pulls, or if they are able to take in new sights while on a trip, that seems to be common among Amish.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From Timbuktu to Kalamazoo

A few weeks ago I went from Timbuktu (or should I say, Kalona, Iowa) to Kalamazoo!

That is a saying, right?  Well, my sister lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan and runs a beautiful antique shop named Shiloh Farm. Her store was the first stop on an western Michigan "Arts and Eats" tour.  She asked me to come over and do a book signing that weekend, which I was more than happy to do.

I love to visit my sister anyway, not to mention, staying in her beautiful home and hanging out in her awesome shop.  When I woke up on Sunday morning and looked out the window this what I saw.
She had to unlock her alarm system for me, so I could run out and take more pictures while the sun was just breaking through golden leaves.

If you are ever in the Kalamazoo area, you really should stop by Shiloh Farm ARTiques.   Her store is a mini-museum and she always has copies of my books for sale too!

I just couldn't resist sharing all of these sights with you.  All of these pics were taken on Shiloh Farm.

I realize that she is not Amish, and she doesn't own horses... but I love her anyway.

What a place!

This is a fireplace in my sisters home, she built it herself. Incredible huh? 

I had fun with her grandchildren, seriously... they started it! They were throwing leaves on me, so, turnabout is fair play, right?

Yes, I'm that balding guy, and my sister is standing next to me in a picture below.  We both read dozens of books about Native Americans, without knowing the other was doing the same thing.  Now we pass books back and forth.  It so happens that she was one of the first to read my novel, Under the Heavens, and the first to read book II of the Amish Horses Series, that will be coming out soon.  Watch for the title, Catbird Singing.  She looks for errors and things that may be confusing in my books, her only problem is that she's a little too nice!

My sis, Twila, waves good-bye as I head off from Kalamazoo toward home.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Amish School

 I took a drive through our local Amish countryside the other day and passed by two one-room school houses, both having recess.  This scene is almost identical to what my grandparents would have experienced one-hundred years ago, yet it is alive today.  That is what I love about the Amish, they take us back to our own past. This is also why I choose to write novels about the Amish; my stories end up with an old-fashioned feel, and yet, are contemporary at the same time!

 It is hard to see but there is a Native American style TP right behind that buggy.  I'm not sure, but my guess is they are studying Native Americans and this is a teaching tool.  Looks like they have fun, eh?
 This group of Amish children are playing a game of softball.  Doesn't their world look so peaceful, clean and wholesome?  Somehow, it makes me sad when I see this and think of what our modern children are missing, growing up too fast, weighed down by images modern media exposes them to. Just standing in line behind Amish families, checking out at a grocery store, I've felt ashamed of magazine covers near the register.
 As you can see pictured above, several students and the teacher drove buggies to school, being to far from home to walk.  I snapped a closeup shot of a pony, wearing harness, grazing the ditch while waiting for his young owners to finish school.

If you enjoy the sentiments I shared in this blog, you might want to read the Amish Horses Book Series.  Here is an Amazon link: Under the Heavens, Amish Horses Series

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cowboys and Amishmen

Cowboys and Amishmen have something in common, they both grow up working with horses everyday.  By the way, the same thing is true of Cowgirls and Amish women.

Here is a picture of me on the black horse (I was about 14 yrs old) That's my step-dad Dwain Chapman on the sorrel horse.  This picture was taken on Uncle Truman's ranch in Idaho, Truman was Dwain's oldest brother, and a real cowboy.

I watched this Amishman working with these horses and he was good with them.

When we learn to speak, our language becomes so much a part of us that we don't have to think about the words. When you learn a foreign language, you have to think in your native tongue and then translate into the second language. Even then, you will always have an accent.  You may wonder where I am going with all of this.  I'm comparing people who grow up working with horses daily, with those of us that come into it later in life.  We usually don't speak "horse" as a first language but we can get pretty good at it, over time.
Amish Girl with a Big Team

Just as Amish speak Dutch as a first language, many also speak "horse" fluently, we call people like that, "horse whisperers."  I have known a few in my lifetime.  The rest of us speak "horse" with a "human" accent.  
There are exceptions to this rule.  Some people just have a "way with animals" others of us love our horses so much we find a way to communicate.  None-the-less, I am usually impressed with the way Cowboys and Amishmen handle horses.  I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm not a Cowboy or an Amishman; but horses are as much a part of me as anyone else.
My Son in the black hat and his buddy Nolan
This is an old picture too
This is an old picture

Amish Girls Riding