Katie's Journal

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A Sleigh (Or Two) For Christmas

by @ 1:35 pm on December 18, 2005.

Today we bought a sleigh. And not just one, oh no. Apparently sleighs are like potato chips. You can’t have just one. So we bought two. First, allow me to introduce the sleighs.

This one is mine – The Screaming Eagle:

 

 

 

The Screaming Eagle is named for the two little eagle heads located in its front metalwork. The pictures of them turned out blurry, but if you tilt your head and relax your eyes, you can almost make one out in this picture.

And here is the yet unnamed red sleigh that mama bought. Dad dubbed it The Red Death, which I find quite catchy, but which mom, for some unknown reason, has a real aversion to. So she’d better come up with a new name quickly, before the current one sticks.

Both sleighs are antiques. You might notice the big framed 1881 sitting in mom’s sleigh. That was the date it was donated to a museum in NY, which is where Harold (I’m getting to him) bought it from. So that makes it a confirmed 125 years old. If you figure it was probably fairly old at the time it was donated, well, who knows? We don’t have any history on The Screaming Eagle, other than it’s clearly older. But how old, we don’t know.

So, on to the story. Why two sleighs, you ask? Well, why not? I mean, really, I do have two horses after all. And since these are one horse open sleighs, then logically, I’d of course need one per horse. All right, the true story. We really don’t have the room to store even one cart inside (yes, I know I’ve gone and bought two when I don’t have room to store one, but I’m getting to that). So I figured we’d find a way to work out one cart (where in this case “cart” refers to any horse drawn vehicle). And I decided I wanted a two wheeled meadowbrook style cart to fit Caleb. We only have snow a few months a year, and my snow sled rig works well enough. It happened that I bought a Bulletin Board (a local trader magazine), and mom found two ads for one horse open sleighs. She pointed them out to me, and I nodded, and having already decided I wanted my meadowbrook cart, I moved on. But mom kept on it. And when she asked dad, “Would it hurt to call?” what that really meant was “Go kick Katie’s lazy ass off her computer, and make her call these people!” The interpretation made, I did, in fact, get my lazy ass off the computer and call about both ads. The most promising one was a simple ad that read “One horse open sleigh, beautifully restored.” Well, I read “beautifully restored” and of course I saw $$. But I figured it didn’t hurt to call and at least ask.

A woman answers the phone, and I tell her I’m calling about the sleigh she had advertised for sale. She says hang on, I’ll get my husband. Shortly thereafter, Harold comes to the phone. Harold, as it turns out, is an 83 year old farmer who buys and restores all types of sleighs, carts, and buggies. He said over the years he’d probably restored about 300 sleighs. He said he had all kinds of sleighs. And did I know anything about them, he asked. At which point I confessed that I did not. And he said well now, you have your Portland Cutter and your Albany Cutter, and he had both types. They started at $950 and up. Well, that didn’t sound too bad, so I arranged to go and see them. I called on Friday, and we arranged for Sunday (he was busy on Saturday). Mom and I were very excited about going on Sunday, and were hopping about and spontaneously clapping excitedly all day Saturday. At times, mom seemed somewhat surprised at my enthusiasm, as I wouldn’t have called but for her insistence. It was never that I didn’t want a sleigh. It was just the practicalities of cost and storage I thought were prohibitive, so I’d resigned myself to wait.

So on Sunday, mom, dad, and I all piled into the truck, and headed for Harold’s. We found it without too much trouble (only going past his house because in one of my dyslexic moments, I wrote down his house was on the left instead of the right). The first sleigh he showed us was sitting in the front yard. It caught my eye right away, and as it turns out, it became The Screaming Eagle. At the time, I very much liked the well padded seat, and the colors/look. Although at that point I didn’t notice the eagles in the framework. It was a simple sleigh, and struck me as a nice beginner sleigh. It was marked at $1200, and Harold said he’d take $1100 for it. So it was a bit more than the bottom price he’d quoted to me, but still within my price range. I of course figured we’d best see what else he had, so we moved on. The next thing he showed us was a very beautiful red sleigh, with bells attached to the shafts and red velvet seats. It was quite, quite lovely, but also impractical (wet snow on velvet isn’t a good thing), and more expensive (I believe $2500 – which is still very low for a sleigh that nice if you look for them around the Net, but more than I wanted to pay for a beginner sleigh). The next sleigh he showed us turned out to be the one mom bought. He gave us the history on it I recited above, and we all found it quite a nice sleigh. It had some rough patches (mainly in the form of chips in the wood in front), but was in great shape for something so old.

Let’s see… Among the other things he showed us were two Albany Cutter type sleighs. He said that’s the kind you see in all the Currier & Ives pictures. He liked the Portland Cutters better (both the ones we bought were Portlands) because he felt they had more back support. The Albany Cutters have a curved back instead of a straight one. They have a very nice look to them, but of course when I heard about back support, I ruled those out. I’m switching to driving because it’s easier on my back, and I definitely need more support. He had a very nice Portland Cutter that had a fold back top on it. So you could have it up or not. Again, I very much liked that one, but it was pricey (for me – again, cheap in terms of sleighs), and I couldn’t see that I’d ever actually use a top. If the weather is that nasty, I doubt I’ll be out sleigh riding in it. I think he had one other more expensive sleigh I can’t quite remember the details of. But when it came down to it, the only two within my price range were The Screaming Eagle and The Red One (which I’m calling it in deference to mom’s aversion to The Red Death until she settles on a name for it). He also had some neat buggies (four wheeled vehicles) and wagons that were very reasonably priced for what they were, but not practical for me. Mainly because it’s very easy to jackknife a four wheeled vehicle, and also two wheeled carts are more stable on all the hills we have around here. So to start with, two wheeled carts is the way I need to go.

Anyway, it was left to decide between The Screaming Eagle and The Red One. We liked both. The Red One had the neat history to it, and had more ornate metal framing. I liked the color of The Screaming Eagle, and it had a more padded seat, which put you up higher, so when I sat, my knees where about level instead of slightly elevated, as they were in The Red One. When mom and I tried to sit in both together, we found we barely fit in either (damn big hips). But we thought The Screaming Eagle gave us just a bit more room. But what really sealed it was looking at how hard it would be to interchange shafts. Caleb requires a bigger set than Kota since he’s a bigger horse, and since at the time I thought I’d be using the same sleigh for both horses, that was a huge factor for me. So I settled on The Screaming Eagle (as a side note, mom gets credit for noticing and pointing out the eagles; neither dad nor I had spotted them). The shafts that came with it were horse size to fit Kota, and then I bought an extra set of draft size shafts to fit Caleb. Harold said he’d need a few days to fix them up for me, but would have them done before Christmas. So I gave him a check, asked him to call when the sleigh was ready, and went on my merry way.

We get home, and totally out of the blue, mom says, if she bought The Red One (of course not calling it that) then we could both have one to drive. Icon_eek Now, mom has always been my horsey buddy, and has served faithfully as my groom for many a year. She used to ride, but doesn’t any more due to various health issues. She tried some months ago, and in that grand attempt fell off and broke her finger (thanks Katie!). But driving is something she’s excited about, and has always had an interest in, but never done. Well, as long as you don’t count ground driving Caleb the 100 yards back to the barn yesterday (although she did quite well at it). Anyway, once I picked my jaw up off the floor I thought, wow, that’d be so much fun. But of course it was mom’s call if she wanted to go ahead with this or not. I mean, I can buy my mama a sleigh, but I can’t make her drive it. All through the Browns game she chewed on it. She seemed on the fence, so finally I said I’d buy the red sleigh for her if she’d come to the barn and be my driving buddy. There’re only 3 other boarders at the barn, who I hardly ever see, and it gets very lonely. So at that point, dad stepped in and said he’d buy it, and I should go ahead and call Harold to see if he’d sold it today (he said he had several other people scheduled to come look at what sleighs he had). He still had it, and so The Red One joined the family.

Of course it isn’t as simple as that. Mom doesn’t really know how to drive yet. My horses don’t really know how to pull yet. I only own one harness. But those are mere details. Mom will learn. The horses will learn. I’ll order another harness. And hopefully, in the end, we’ll all survive this latest bout of madness. And now Jim can no longer make fun of me for my PVC frame and snow sled.

Oh, and of course, all the pictures dad took of the two sleighs can be found here. More photos will of course come as soon as the sleighs are brought home and hooked to horses.

3 Responses to “A Sleigh (Or Two) For Christmas”

  1. Mike Bond Says:

    So … how fast does a horse go with one of these things attached too it? How much snow has to be on the ground for them to be used?

  2. Administrator Says:

    Nearly as fast as he’d go without one attached to him I’d think. The sleigh really isn’t all that heavy or hard to pull. Of course, I’m not so much about the speed as enjoying the ride. Mostly we just walk. 🙂 And you really don’t need much snow – a couple inches will do.

  3. Charlotte Walston Says:

    I found your blog while researching Albany sleighs. The gentleman you purchased your sleighs from – Harold – would you mind giving me his # so I can all and inquire. I have’nt been able to find one under 4000.00! Then I have to pay an additional 2000.00 for shipping. What state is Harold in? I appreciate any help you can give me. Your sleighs are beautiful. I don’t have any horses, wish I did. I plan to use my sleigh as an alternative for a Christmas tree – Thanks in advance for any info.

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