One of my Amish neighbors just opened a harness shop and I was offered a tour. Afterward, I thought he’d be interested in knowing the history of E.L. McClain and his invention of a hinged collar and the manufacturer of collars and horse pads. He said he’d heard that Greenfield’s high school had been built by a millionaire but wasn’t aware of the source of the wealth. We both learned a little something and he sincerely enjoyed the story about McClain’s collars.
On another occasion, my neighbor was telling me about a disease, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), that is carried in the fecal matter of possums. Horses that have eaten grasses or grains contaminated with possum feces can suffer neurological damage.
The mention of fecal matter, coupled with the reality that the aroma of horse manure is common to Amish homes prompted me to relate a story about the Greman arm maker, Alfred Krupp. Alfred was the head of the Krupp armament empire in the late 1800s and was eaten up with obsessions and phobias. He was a hypochondriac, insomniac, fearful of natural gas explosions and breathing his own bodily aromas. The guy was a psychological nightmare.
At one point he decided the family needed a new mansion and he would be the chief architect. One of the things he insisted on was constructing the home over the horse stables. He believed that the aroma of horse manure “lubricated” the brain and mental processes. With this in mind, he had a system of ductwork constructed to deliver the aroma of fresh horse droppings from the stables to his third-floor office and study. I believe he also constructed his own bedroom directly over the stables and left spaces between the floorboards to allow the aroma to waft into the room as he slept. The room was also unheated and all of this was based on his belief that sleeping in a cold room and inhaling the fumes of horse manure led to a more masculine person.
According to William Manchester’s book, The Arms of Krupp, the ruler of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm, was an overnight guest when the mansion was completed. Krupp told the Kaiser about his bedroom and masculine theories and offered the room for the Kaiser’s use. Supposedly the Kaiser, who had been born with a withered arm and may not have been certain of his manliness, bought the horse manure theory big time and ordered modifications to his own sleeping quarters back home.
So, having told this to my Amish neighbor I keep checking to see if he’s started construction on a ductwork system from his barn to the house? Nothing yet!