February 27, 2014 |  by

Here is Butch, helping to transport us “Weather Hill Style”.  He seemed quite impressed with his ability to “jingle”, thanks to an old strap of sleigh bells given to me by my grandfather many years ago.  See Eric Sloane’s The Sound of Bells for a great overview on the many hundreds if not thousands of different bells available to the early American traveler.  Indeed, bells of early America were not for show – they were an indispensable safety item in that they warned people of the approach of a sleigh.  The quiet of cold winter nights, sound muffled by the deep snows and hats and scarfs, the almost effortless silence with which sleighs glided across the frozen landscape – not to mention the darkness – conspired to make an incoming sleigh a potential hazard.  Sleigh bells were a kind of constant but pleasant “horn” of sorts.  I have heard of New Englanders who knew who was passing by the farmstead by the pitch of the bells.  This is not as odd as it might at first seem, as each farmer usually crafted his own strap of bells of various size and number which would, to a trained ear, be able to be discerned from the strap of another neighbor.

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