We know we're blessed; still, we felt a bit sentimental as we pulled out of Athens, Ohio, our daughter's college town set in the foothills of Appalachia in southeastern Ohio.
So, my husband and I decided to stop at the gas station on the outskirts of town, ostensibly to get gasoline for our trip home, although our tank was just over half full. We didn't really need the gasoline, but we stopped at that gas station anyway, mostly because the stop delayed pulling away from the town too fast. Also, candy bars. That particular gas station has a nice selection. Never underestimate the healing power of candy bars, even for 50-something parents.
That particular gas station, on the corner of State Route 32 (also known as the Appalachian Highway) and a narrow country road, also has something else: pumps. Gasoline pumps, of course. But also an old-fashioned hand-powered water pump, right by the side of the road.
We'd noticed the water pump before and wondered why it was there. Yesterday afternoon, we found out.
As we pumped gasoline into our automobiles, a horse-and-buggy clip-clopped up the road to the pump. An older Amish man got out. My husband and I knew that Amish folk live in the area--we'd once had a rather harrowing late-night experience of coming up on two Amish horse-and-buggies trotting along the Appalachian Highway as we came around a bend. Fortunately, we slowed in time and passed them safely.
But we never made the connected between the hand pump at the gas station and the Amish, until yesterday, when the Amish man got out a bucket, pumped it full of water, and gave his horse a long drink. His wife stayed in the buggy, rearranging a few things in a built in box in front of her. A buggy version of a glove compartment.
For a moment, the afternoon seemed to hang in surreal stillness. My husband pumping gas for our automobile. The Amish man pumping water for his horse. Me fiddling with change to get candy bars. The Amish woman fiddling with whatever was in the buggy box.
By the time I came out with our candy bars, the Amish man had finished watering his horse. The horse, buggy and Amish couple disappeared up the narrow country road. We headed up the Appalachian Highway back toward our home a few hours away in southwestern Ohio. We munched our candy bars, and commented on the kindness of the gas station having a water pump handy for the Amish, or for anyone else who might just need water.
As we fell into silence, then, I thought for a moment how the sight of a horse and buggy seemed to make time stop. Then I though about how of course, it doesn't. Though we can pause, to refill in whatever way we need to, soon enough we must travel on.