Boys gather around a horse-drawn cart full of produce outside an arabber stable in Baltimore, Maryland. (AP)

Boys gather around a horse-drawn cart full of produce outside an arabber stable in Baltimore, Maryland. (AP)

An arabber leads a horse-drawn cart full of produce past abandoned houses. (AP)

An arabber leads a horse-drawn cart full of produce past abandoned houses. (AP)

In New Holland, Pennsylvania, a boy from an Old Order Mennonite family waits for a visit from his city friends. (AP)

In New Holland, Pennsylvania, a boy from an Old Order Mennonite family waits for a visit from his city friends. (AP)

James Chase (left) shares slices of melon with boys belonging to an Old Order Mennonite family at the family's farm. (AP)

James Chase (left) shares slices of melon with boys belonging to an Old Order Mennonite family at the family's farm. (AP)

Arabber stable leader James Chase says,

Arabber stable leader James Chase says, "We rely on Mennonite know-how. It's the way we can keep this life going." (AP)

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?

Horses!

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.

James Chase, left, hands strawberries to his wife while having his horses tended by Mennonites in Pennsylvania. (AP)

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.”