George Bowers Sr.: Reckless driving with horses

George Bowers Sr.

All modern motorists are familiar with the large fines and insurance increases that accompany a reckless driving charge. I was somewhat surprised, however, to learn that some drivers were cited for this violation even back in the days of the horse and buggy.

I’m enjoying the recollections of local historian Fred Painter in a book edited by Joseph B. Clower Jr. and published by the Woodstock Museum entitled, “Yesterday in Woodstock.” It offers a very interesting glimpse into the way things used to be here in the Shenandoah Valley.

In a chapter on Unforgettable People, he shares the story about a man named Frank King who operated the Van Buren iron furnace in Cedar Creek for several years prior to his death in 1898. Painter indicates that King had constructed a home on Capola Mountain just west of Sheffer Gap that was built to resemble a Swiss chalet. The house was so unusual that Painter indicates it was well worth the hike to see, even at the time of his writing many years later.

Although I’ve never visited the site of this home, Painter tells a story about its owner that is indeed worthy of remembering. Painter recounts that King normally traveled in a carriage pulled by two high-spirited horses and “when he came to town he was often full of spirit himself.” He describes how King was once arrested for the irresponsible manner in which he drove into Woodstock. Although I doubt if his horse insurance increased, I’m sure the officers then could little anticipate what reckless driving would look like when carriages would have the power of 350 high spirited horses.

When King was brought before Mayor Rodeffer for his criminal behavior, he was charged a hefty fine of $5. Upon receiving this penalty, King handed the mayor a $10 bill explaining that he was planning to leave town the same way he came in. I rarely laugh out loud when reading, but that story certainly prompted an audible response and has continued to evoke laughter as I’ve shared it with others. Although neither his irresponsible driving nor his implied defiance should be venerated, his humor and honesty should be.

Frank King’s story reminds me of someone else who made a similar statement many years earlier about his own return trip. In Acts 1, after Jesus had ascended to heaven in full view of his disciples, Luke tells us that as those followers stood looking into the sky, two men suddenly appeared beside them with a confident prophecy. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (NIV). And with that guarantee, those believers and the early church began looking forward to Jesus’ return.

Jesus himself had earlier promised to come back and this confirmation by these two men dressed in white helped to solidify his pledge. Their statement indicates that Jesus will, in fact, reappear and that his return will, like Frank King’s, be identical to his previous departure. In Jesus’ case, that means that his appearance will not be careless or reckless, but visible, unexpected and accompanied by the clouds, all of which are affirmed by other Scriptures.

Ever since that day, Jesus’ followers all over the world have anxiously expected his return. Even this day, we still anticipate his glorious appearing. According to various signs Jesus said would precede his coming, many of which are now unfolding before our eyes on our nightly news broadcasts, his return may not be long off. Our responsibility is to be ready when he does come back and to not be found squandering the opportunities and resources he has entrusted to us. We should not be living carelessly or recklessly but in faithful obedience.

As we muse at the antics of a former resident of this historic valley, may his bold statement remind us not only of our past, but of our certain future. Let us prepare our hearts and our lives for the return of another King who is both Savior and Lord, and let us keep our eyes on the sky for his joyful appearing. Blessings, George

George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his devotional collection, “Blessings.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.