Tom’s love for horses began before he can remember. Growing up on the farm that surrounds his home, Tom can’t remember not having horses around him. He tells one of his favorite stories:
“Before I was old enough to go to school I remember my mother many times putting me on Old Smokey bareback and sending me to the Hinkleville store, about three miles through the fields. I would slide off the horse, get the groceries then put them in a pillowcase. Then the store owner would put me back on the horse and I would ride home. Nowadays people would think that’s dangerous, but Mother knew I was safe on Old Smokey.”
Even though his father had tractors and modern farm equipment, he used horses for plowing tobacco and gardens, pulling wagons, and especially for pleasure riding. In addition to wagons, they had sulkies and snow slides for fun. As an adult, Tom feels that living well means having horses. Today, he has eight horses that range in size from miniature to a Clydesdale named Candy. His carriages include two surreys (one with a fringe on top), an Amish 2-wheel cart, a one horse wagon, a team wagon, and a posh, white vis-à-vis (Cinderella coach).
While Charlie Brown was the starter horse for so many grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends, Rex was the pleasure horse for the children as they grew. Rex, trained by an Amish family in Marion, Ky., is a tall, calm, well-disciplined bay just right for teens who are too big for ponies. He is saddled for pleasure riding or harnessed to pull a carriage.
The best part of Tom’s hobby is that he shares it (always free-of-charge) with so many people: the yearly fall festival at Pleasant Hill Methodist church, birthday parties, weddings, quilters who stay with his neighbor, and just about anyone who wants to go on a carriage ride. Riders get a bonus of humorous stories from Tom’s anthology-sized repertoire. One in particular is of a birthday party for a friend turning 90. Tom was giving carriage rides to those in attendance. One woman in the carriage, terrified of horses, asked Tom, “What’s your horse’s name?” He answered, “Rex.” Fearing that the horse would live up to his name, she panicked and asked, “How many wrecks has he caused?”
Even though many are on the receiving end of Tom’s hobby, he declares that he gets the greatest pleasure from giving the rides. A few years ago, the assisted living facility in Kevil asked him to give carriage rides for their residents. One resident, a 98-year-old woman, enjoyed her ride so much that she asked if “the young man with the carriage” meaning Tom, then in his 50s, would give her a ride at her 99th birthday party. According to Tom, she held the reins and drove the horse with confidence. She relived her youth, telling him that she drove a buggy to school every day. When the ride was over, she asked him, “Will you come back next year for my 100th birthday?” He accepted the invitation and was there for her the next year.
Tom, with his wife Linda, have two adult children. He is known as “Pots” to his six grandchildren.