Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shunpiking 2 ...Our rural heritage in Waterloo Region

Old Order Mennonite school parking lot
Buggy bridge built by Mennonites
... after lunch when everyone is ready for their afternoon nap, especially seniors, we pile in the big, lime-green bus and start the second half of our adventure.  At that point, I was ready to sit back, close my eyes and rest.  I felt surfeited not just with the good food but also with the many pictures I had already taken and the camaraderie with the others in the group.  In short, it would have been fine with me if we had headed directly back to the church parking lot - and our cars.  And I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt that way as I saw others who closed their eyes for a while

However, I soon caught my second wind as we started to meander through Mennonite Country.  Camera in hand - again.  Ready to snap anything that caught my interest.

Rural Waterloo Region - you're as apt to find horse drawn
vehicles as you are ca
Touring Mennonite country was an interesting concept - especially for a group of people who have lived in this area for many years.  Where the sight of horses and buggies out in the rural areas is almost as commonplace as - well - as seeing cars on the road.  Where the malls on the fringe of town have shelters for the Mennonites to stable their horses while they're either in the mall or catch a bus to take them further into town.

The bridge beckons
While it is most common to see the Mennonites and their horse-drawn conveyances either on the very edge of town or out in the rural areas, I have seen horses and buggies clip-clopping along inside town - which makes life on the road interesting.  Ever tried to pass a skittish horse pulling along a flimsy buggy with people inside it on a road with no shoulder and no passing lane?  Gets interesting - and dangerous.

But, I digress.  This second half of our trip was like seeing something as familiar as the furniture in the living room in a totally different light.  Looking at details, rather than seeing the familiar room as a whole.

So what benefit will this half of the trip have for me - except a nice, leisurely ride around the countryside?

Inside the bridge
West Montrose covered bridge - the end of our trip
When you have a guide who is well versed in the area, the answer is a lot.  Our guide took us past buildings I'd passed by before, stopped the coach, and explained whether the business concern was Old Order or David Martin Mennonites, what the difference is, how to tell them apart, etc.  He showed us a Mennonite business which manufactures solely for Home Hardware.  Their warehousing system is simple:  pull a trailer into the loading door, fill it up with the product as it's made, when the trailer is full, call Home Hardware to pick up the full trailer and deposit an empty.  Simple.  Yet effective.  I'd say very effective.

He showed us a Mennonite concern with no visible sign of electricity, yet hanging from the side of the house was a meter.  The wires were underground.

Another business which apparently makes leather bridles, etc. and has customers worldwide, operates off a satellite system to receive orders.

Mama Bear - in all her glory - on a "good" day
Notice the red "survivor" scarf barely visible around my neck
We ended our afternoon at the West Montrose covered bridge - the last covered bridge in our area.  Like children on a field trip only more slowly and with a lot less energy and chatter, we exited our bus and headed downhill to the bridge where our guide joined us and gave us more information of this particular piece of our heritage.

Unfortunately, some concern has decided that this beautiful, peaceful area rich in heritage would make a great place for a gravel quarry.  The fight is on.  Who will win?

Only time will tell.  But in the meantime, it's been great to enjoy this piece of our heritage.

Typical scene in the rural areas surrounding Kitchener-Waterloo

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