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A World Run On True Horsepower-Tom Lounsbury

Tom Lounsbury

Sun, 05 Jan 2014 16:37:30 EST

 


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A World Run On True Horsepower
By Tom Lounsbury

There really isn’t a place quite like Mackinac Island. When you step off the ferry onto the dock, you are literally taking a step back into time, roughly to the latter part of 19th Century America. It is a world that still runs on true horsepower. Commercial horse drawn wagons known as drays are the lifeblood here and haul all the necessities of life including everything from freight to garbage. If you want to get anywhere on the Island you must either hike, bike or hire a horse drawn taxi. Whatever your mode of travel, it will be in a laid back manner, which pretty much sums up the very unique atmosphere.
There are some motorized emergency and utility vehicles of course, but they are rarely seen unless needed. Bicycles however, seem to be the most popular way to get around, and for good reason because they don’t require hay and grain, which must be brought in from the mainland by ferry on a regular basis. You can bring your own bicycle or rent one from the several bike rentals found downtown.
It is pretty easy to tell the bicycles used by Island residents from those brought to the Island by visitors that the locals often refer to as “fudgies”, thanks to the popularity of Mackinac Island fudge. Local bicycles tend to be heavier framed “cruiser” types with a large basket attached to the handlebars, and they are always equipped with an important factor known as fenders. Visiting bicycles tend to be a bit more racier, usually have no baskets for carrying important items, and quite often don’t have fenders, which is a popular manufacturing trend these days I guess, because it looks cool, and sells.
Fenders on a bicycle however pay dividends on Mackinac Island whenever it rains. Due to the large amount of horse traffic on the roads and streets, minute particles of manure are embedded in the porous road material (despite being cleaned regularly by dedicated sanitation workers), just waiting to be leached out by rainfall. Without a rear fender especially, anyone pedaling such a bicycle when it is raining will experience what the locals refer to as the proverbial “Fudgie Stripe” that entails a very straight, wet line of debris that is cast up the rider’s back by the rear wheel. I’ve seen enough fudgie stripes on folks to readily state it isn’t a pleasant sight to behold.
My wife Ginny and I have rented a private home on Mackinac Island for a couple weeks each summer for many years now, something our family really enjoys and looks forward to each year. Where we stay is on a quiet street just below the Grand Hotel and our next door neighbor is Jack’s Livery Stable, which is celebrating its 60th year this summer. It is the only livery stable in this country that I’m aware of where you can still rent a horse and buggy and drive it yourself, as well as they also offer riding horses.
Jack’s Livery Stable uses quite a well managed system with one team of folks handling riding horses and the other team taking care of the horses and buggies. It runs real smooth too and the horses are well taken care of including having a fulltime blacksmith on hand who does everything from shoeing horses to repairing buggy wheels. At day’s end, each horse gets a cool shower and groomed, and their welfare is clearly a very important factor.
There is something real special about driving a horse and buggy yourself on Mackinac Island. There is a questionnaire that you fill out that determines your ability with horses (which for many customers is zero) and the stable will match folks with a horse (the same applies for riding horses). With 83 miles of roads and trails and 2500 acres entailed with the Mackinac Island State Park, this is definitely horse country. A wonderful fact I’ve found with the stable horses, is that if you ever get lost (which is possible in the maze of roads and trails - been there, done that), let the horse have it s head and it will take you right back to the stable. They are real pros in what they do.
Personally I enjoy doing both riding and driving on the Island. Younger grandchildren go for a buggy ride, and the older kids can saddle up if they so choose. In any event, we thoroughly appreciate seeing Mackinac Island thanks to true horsepower. (Since I spend a lot of time relaxing on the front porch, I have an excellent opportunity to observe the horses next door, and thus have a little “insider” information on which ones I prefer for riding and driving).
When you consider all the roads, streets and a large quantity of horses traversing them, the truly unsung heroes in this picture are the folks that keep the streets clean, and one can only wonder what it would be like without their continuous efforts. Armed only with a scoop shovel and broom they cover their set stretch of turf using a trike equipped with a large dump bucket, and I can state first hand that they do an excellent job in a challenging atmosphere of busy streets filled with pedestrians, horses and carriages, drays and careening bicycles.
Besides the horses, we do our share of hiking and biking as well, and Ginny and I both realize that to really get to know Mackinac Island and absorb its true essence, you need to come and stay awhile.
A real key to it all is the laid back relaxation in its purest form. I do appreciate that front porch.
For more information on Jack’s Livery Stable go to www.jacksliverystable.com or call (906) 847-3391.



John Ruthruff of Jack's Livery Stable scrubbing the hocks of a draft horse
at day's end. Horses here get a daily shower and grooming.


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Nothing beats a cool shower after a hard day's work.


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Sisters 10 year old Mckenna and 12 year old Madison Lounsbury rode
horseback on back trails tor reach Fort Holmes which is the highest point on
Mackinac Island.


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Four year old Lounsbury triplets (l -r) Mercedes, Orlando and Reese
thoroughly enjoyed a horse and buggy ride around Mackinac Island recently.


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Blacksmith Chad Osborne fitting a shoe on a saddle horse at Jack's Livery
Stable on Mackinac Island


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Sanitation workers like Manuel Chavez work diligently to keep the streets
and roads clean on Mackinac Island. With all the horse traffic involved, the
sanitation workers are truly the unsung heroes.


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Hay hauling the old fashioned way from the docks. Hay is shipped to
Mackinac Island by ferry to meet the need of countless horses.


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Garbage pick up the Mackinac Island way.


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Ginny Lounsbury enjoying a horseback ride on Mackinac Island.


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Tom Lounsbury teaching his grand daughter McKenna how to drive a horse and
buggy on Mackinac Island.


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