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FAMILY TASTES LIFE IN SLOW LANE AS IT FOLLOWS ITS FAITH

When Scott and Janice Rohlin felt moved by the Spirit, they . . . well, moved.

And they were still moving Tuesday as they worked their way across Erie County, an unlikely mixture of 19th-century appearance -- which has led some people to believe they were Amish -- and 21st-century ingenuity aboard their wagon home.

It isn't clear at first that the Rohlins' 5-ton, horse-drawn version of an RV actually was a hay wagon at one point. It has been converted into a home on wheels, drawn by two draft horses and a Standardbred, towing a buggy that doubles as a goat carrier.

It's a veritable mini-ark, with six chickens penned at the rear, a shaggy white Great Pyrenees Mountain dog sleeping behind the scythe along the front rail and the pair of goats in the buggy.

And according to Scott Rohlin, the tall father whose beard is just starting to turn gray at the edges, the vehicle's -- and family's -- destination remains unknown.

Rohlin, who says that while his family has been labeled "born-again Amish" because of their plain dress and beliefs, they're really born-again Christians who are following wherever they may be led.

"We had a dairy farm up in Madrid (near Massena)," he said. "I was milking with my wife there and said, 'What do you think of selling the farm?'

"She said, 'If it's God's will.' And a minute later, a man walked into the barn and said, 'What would you say about selling the farm?' "

The Rohlins have been rolling since, with Scott using plywood to turn what had been a wagon frame into a home. Rohlin is a blacksmith by trade, and the trailer contains a slide-out anvil, a gas-powered forge and a chain-powered grain grinder that can grind 20 pounds of flour per mile, he said.

There's a garden of greens and herbs along the top, and stashes of canned meat and summer sausage inside.

There's also room for a treadle sewing machine, a wood stove, a small propane burner, and bunks for their children -- Hannah, 5, John, 3, and Peter, 18 months.

The ride can get a little hectic when the road gets rough -- "When we hit a big bump, things fall over," said Janice Rohlin.

But so far, Scott Rohlin said, the family has found good weather, with a delay only while the "Conestoga 2000" was switched over from steel wheels to rubber tires.

He said that after a brief stop near the start of their trip in which a state trooper assured local authorities the steel wheels were legal, the family decided to switch to rubber, in part to make the load pull easier on their horses.

The two huge draft horses, Buddy and Billy, and the smaller standardbred Ruby, can pull their 10,000-pound load about 30 miles per day on flats and 20 miles a day through hills.

After starting in Wales Center on Tuesday morning, the Rohlins planned to stop somewhere in the Hamburg/Eden area Tuesday night, starting to make their way along the lake plain.

East Aurora authorities escorted them Tuesday, trying to help them avoid some of the rolling hills -- and the cars that roar over them.

Lt. Ron McCabe escorted the family on a 10-mile route through East Aurora and Aurora, along Route 20A, Jewett-Holmwood Road, Davis and Ellicott roads before reaching the Orchard Park town line.

McCabe said he was on a bank escort when he noticed the horse-drawn camper and buggy.

"It was coming down Main Street, and I said, 'Oh, my God,.' I didn't want them to get hit," he said. McCabe and Kevin Foley, disaster coordinator for the area, led the escort to clear traffic for them.

McCabe said he enjoyed meeting the family and their animals.

"They gave us some banana bread and beef jerky," he said. "They were pretty personable people."

As for where the family will eventually end up, Rohlin said: "We don't know where. We're going to be led.

"We're heading for Ohio. We're going to spend some time down there. If we find a farm, maybe we'll feel led to stay. . . . We might end up in northern Arizona, though. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to keep on going, if we feel led to; to move on."

News Southtowns Reporter Karen Robinson contributed to this report.

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