Country Horse, City Horse
Posted: November 5, 2018
James Chase comes from the middle of the city. He wears a camouflage cap, jeans, and sneakers. Leon Hoover comes from the country. He and his four boys are Mennonites, dressed alike in straw hats and pants hitched up by suspenders. The Hoovers’ home has no electricity. They pump water by hand and read Bible verses by candlelight. But Mr. Chase and Mr. Hoover are friends. What do they have in common?
Mr. Chase is an arabber. Arabber (pronounced AY-rabber) is an old word for an old occupation. Arabbers sell fruit and vegetables from horse-drawn carts. Most people have stopped using horses for transportation. Arabbers have not. Their carts are tucked away in poor areas of Baltimore. The neighborhoods are far away from good grocery stores. People there—especially elderly people—depend on arabbers and their horses for fresh fruits and vegetables. Arabbers go out into the streets every day in Baltimore. They have been doing it for over two hundred years!
One calls out, “Watermelon, watermelon! Red to the rind!”
“Grapes and peaches feeling ripe!” shouts another.
Some arabbers say their favorite part of the week is travelling to Pennsylvania Dutch country, where Mr. Hoover lives. When they visit, they shop for good deals on horses at auction. Mennonite men outside the auction do the hard work of shoeing the arabbers' ponies and filing their back teeth. Meanwhile, Mr. Chase tells Mr. Hoover’s kids stories about life in the city.
“We rely on Mennonite know-how because we don't have the knowledge and the tools to do some of this stuff anymore,” says Mr. Chase. “It's the way we found to keep this life going.”