Flyer at Gladstone


In 1985 combined driving was just taking off and everyone was leaving the show ring to have a try at it. However, they were still driving their show vehicles! It was not uncommon to see a fully equipped Meadowbrook, fenders, flex-shafts, hubs and all, weaving through a hazard. It didn't take long for "marathon" carts to come on the scene, but only for horses. My wife, Sue, was driving a small pony. Her choices of vehicles were little versions of meadowbrooks or nothing. One trip around a course in one of those was her last. We happened to have a nice walnut cut-under runabout and somehow she talked me into letting her take that to the Mannington Meadows CDE (held at Jack Seabrooks farm in Salem, NJ). The next thing I knew she was talking Chris Stoltzfus into making her a "new" version of that runabout. It took a year for the two of them to come up with the first Flyer, named as it was made in "Bird in Hand". Hubless wheels and full fifth wheels would not come into play for several years. The reach on the first Flyer was designed with a "screw" similar to that of hay wagons, allowing the body to twist without picking up the wheels. Popular at the time were hard rubber cones that affixed to the hubs in order to keep you from getting hung up on a post. They were called "Myopia cones" and made by Bill Rawles. Four of those keep the Flyer going smoothly and even served to "bounce" the carriage away from a post should one be hit. The Flyer was unique as it was a four wheeled marathon vehicle at a time when everyone was driving two wheeled ones (haven't things changed since then!). The rest is history. Sue and "Cloudy Skies" won the Intermediate Overall Championship at Gladstone and went on to win the 1988 Eastern Single Pony Championship at Fair Hill. The Flyer got lots of notice and before long we were making it larger for horses, adding a navigators platform, dressing it up with oak or bird's eye maple panels and selling them all over. Meg Ferguson took hers to Windsor, England, Kathy Newcomb took hers to Devon, Mary Chris Foxworthy took hers to the Morgan Grand National, Linda Kenard drove hers to a four of gray ponies. Sue refused to part with her beloved prototype (however, she did finally let me paint it) and continued to drive CDE's, but this time with a tandem. The Flyer evolved a lot like the VW Beetle, every year a little something different, but still with parts interchangeable. Until the last change which was the birth of The Eagle (this time we let Chris name it). The Eagle is just enough different to warrant its own name.

So when someone sees us driving The Flyer, they comment that it must be a really early version. "Early," we say, "this is THE Flyer." Someday it will be a museum piece, but for right now it is still the most used vehicle we have ever owned.


The original Flyer at the 2004 Winchester CDE

           John driving "Spinnaker"

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