When my brothers and I caught sight of the horse and buggy coming down the road, we raced to meet it. Our excitement increased as the old man pulled into our driveway. The whole family gathered around to greet Peddler George and his buggy full of wares.
Sometimes George took the harness off his old horse to give it a rest and get a drink from our water tank. Depending on his schedule (which was very flexible), he would sometimes stay for a meal, or even overnight.
Peddler George came from Syria and began selling his wares from farm to farm throughout northwestern Ohio in the early 1900’s. For about fifty years he traveled the dusty rural roads selling his goods and soaking up the hospitality of farm families.
I don’t remember what all his buggy contained but I know he sold yard goods, pencils and paper, and his most popular item, red handkerchiefs. My brothers and I were not as interested in what he sold as we were in examining his antique buggy and looking at his old horse. On occasion, all three of us would get on the horse and ride around our circle driveway.
It didn’t occur to me until recently how popular he was. An article in the newspaper told about a new Peddler George Exhibit at Historic Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio. I guess I thought that our farm was the only one he ever came to.
Thinking about Peddler George today reminds me of how much our society has changed in the past fifty years. Can you imagine him functioning in our land today? He would probably have to get a license to sell door to door, fill out endless forms to operate a business, charge sales tax and send it to the state quarterly, pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, file an annual 1040 along with a Schedule C to record profit and loss from his business.
He certainly would not be able to let kids ride his horse because of the liability involved. It might even occur to some government agency that his buggy was a commercial vehicle and should be inspected annually, or, at the very least display a commercial license.
Peddler George was not essential to our farm operation. We could have easily survived without his occasional visits. He was, however, just one part of the larger picture that tied together the rural society of a generation of farmers that are fading away. When he pulled into our driveway, he brought more than the goods he proudly displayed from his buggy. He brought excitement from Somewhere Else to young farm boys and girls. He gave many farm families the opportunity to share their love and hospitality with him.
Peddler George died in 1954, the last of yet another generation.
– Larry Beaverson