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Collecting conveyances

Brothers use horse-drawn vehicles to offer rides at many local events

January 23, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

OPPENHEIM - Dan Patterson and his brother, Joe, have a collection of about 20 wagons, sleighs and carriages they store at their farm in Oppenheim.

The pair - who offer horse-drawn rides at numerous local events every year - eschew the new sleighs and wagons, preferring to go with the older ones.

When asked why, Joe let out a hearty laugh.

Article Photos

Dan Patterson, left, and his brother, Joe, look at one of the carriages at their farm in Oppenheim on?Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney?Minor

"They're old like us," he said.

Their collection of horse-drawn vehicles has its roots in their upbringing.

Dan, 72, and Joe, 68, have been around horses all their lives. The farm the two were raised on, which is down the road from their current farm on Youkers Bush Road, relied on horses to get the chores finished.

"We used to go to school with a horse and wagon," Dan said, describing how their mother would drop them off at a one-room schoolhouse near the family farm.

However, it was only about 30 years ago when they began acquiring their current collection of wagons and sleighs.

Once they started, the brothers agreed, they realized collecting the horse-drawn vehicles and offering rides at the events was something they both enjoyed.

Their wagons and sleighs hail from a variety of locations, including Rochester and Maine. One sleigh in their possession, which was made in St. Johnsville, is more than 150 years old.

The Pattersons even have a Studebaker in their collection.

Of course, its not one of the automobiles, but one of the Studebaker wagons in their collection. The former automobile company actually began as a wagon manufacturer in the 19th-century.

Dan said their collection has a few carriages where everything is original.

"That's pretty hard to find, given the age of them," Dan said.

Among those are a couple small carriages that were used by doctors at one time. Inside the space where the brothers keep those nicer pieces, the colorful interior and decoration on the carriages makes them appear to be in stark contrast to some of the other work-oriented wagons and sleighs in the collection.

However, all are functional. Which ones get used depends on the time of year and the event.

For example, Joe said, if the brothers are going to take sleighs to an event they usually take their "bob sleighs." He described them as a little more rugged than the "cutter sleighs" they have, which also work best on packed snow.

The brothers noted in assembling their collection, they have found wagons are generally more expensive than sleighs. The demand is just not as high for the sleighs, they said, and most roads are not kept in conditions appropriate for sleighs.

However, for the Pattersons, the expenses they have and the difficulties they face are more than made up for by the enjoyment they get from taking their horses and pieces from their collection to local events.

They also both enjoy seeing how delighted children are by the horses.

"Most kids come up and ask if they can pet the horses first," Joe said.

The brothers are members of the Eastern Regional Draft Horse Association. According to its website - - the group "strives to educate the public about draft animals (horses, donkeys, oxen, mules) through hands-on fun experiences with the animals and their owners."

Of the Pattersons' 11 horses, they normally only hook two of the horses to a wagon for an event. Joe said more than a year ago they had about 30 horses, but found it was getting too expensive to keep so many horses they did not have a need for.

However, neither has plans to quit anytime soon.

Both take part in numerous parades in the tri-county area, such as the St. Johnsville Memorial and Veterans Day Parades. Joe even dresses as Santa Claus for the Johnstown Holiday Parade. They also do various other events, such as the Violet Festival in Dolgeville. They even do weddings.

The Pattersons said they do not charge to do the events. They take part in the events solely because they enjoy what they are doing.

Asked if they ever thought about quitting, they laughed.

"Just in the summer time, when there is haying to be done," Joe said.



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