December is here already and Christmas is just three weeks away. I spotted the old “one horse open sleigh” on display in Clifton Springs, NY. I knew what it was when we drove by and I turned the car around and got out to take a look. The Plexiglas enclosure created reflections from the sun which made for difficult picture taking.
The sleigh is located between the Methodist Church and the Museum in Clifton Springs, right on Main Street. I have to admit that when I was a youth, I did have a ride in a one horse open sleigh. One night around Christmas time, my parents took us to visit another family who attended our church. They had all girls in their family and we had all boys in ours. And they also had a one horse open sleigh. I can remember that it was a very cold moon-lite night and yes, there was a heavy wool blanket to cover up from the cold. The driver was a young girl named Emile Miller who was about 5 years older than I and she held the reins to the horse as we skimmed over the snow in the pasture. How strange it seemed to be driving out in the pasture at night, no lights, and in an open sleigh with only the sound of the horse’s hooves as it pulled us over the ice crusted snow.
I don’t remember if the horse had sleigh bells on its harness or not, but I can relate to the words of James Pierpont, who in 1857 wrote “One Horse Open Sleigh” or “Jingle Bells” as we now know it:
Dashing through the snow
On a one-horse open sleigh,
Over the fields we go,
Laughing all the way;
Bells on bob-tail ring,
Making spirits bright,
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight,
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
The one horse open sleigh on display in Clifton Springs, NY was originally owned by Mr. Whitson, a pharmacist who lived in the neighboring town of Phelps, NY. It was much more lavish than the sleigh that I remembered riding in a long time ago. This one has lanterns mounted on the sides of the sleigh for night driving and the seat is cushioned and covered with beautiful red upholstery.
Mr. Daniel A. Mackerchar Sr. of Clifton Springs bought the sleigh in 1992, and spent five years working on restoring the sleigh before passing away in 1998. The sleigh was given by his widow to the village of Clifton Springs.
Over the fields we go, laughing all the way! With modern conveniences such as cars with heaters, electrically heated leather seats, and booming stereo music, I wonder if children today have any time to laugh and sing at Christmas time?