88. Amish Magpies

A fair number of Amish live outside of our little town of Chambersburg, along the western hills toward Cumberland, Fulton and Huntingdon Counties. It’s not unusual near Shippensburg to pass horsedrawn buggies on any given day, but especially on the weekends. They farm when possible; however, not everyone has the wherewithal to farm without electricity and internal combustion engines. Farming is hard enough with all the advantages of modern technology. Now take it all away and you have the Amish predicament. As a result of the limitations, many Amish work in sawmills or run kennels or greenhouses. Many work in construction even though they are not permitted to drive a car or truck. Non-Amish drivers are hired to motor these industrious folks around.They work hard and close to the ground, hoping to stay close to God in their humility. But they are still humans and prone to the same frailties and temptations that the rest of us endure. Why just listen now and again and you’ll hear the familiar call of human magpies.

Gossip is alive and well in the Amish. Without house phones and facebook, they rely on the old fashioned face-to-face facebook, where Emma heard from Esther that Enos’s sister is expecting again in the spring. Lots of talk goes around as quick as the buggy can go. But don’t expect any Jerry Springer dramas. Amish don’t confront one another openly. They have a careful way of talking indirectly around things.Since each member of the community church is the insuror for every other member, debts and medical bills are often split up and paid for by the community. This is good charity until it leads to unsolicited advice. “Why don’t you just go to Doc Farmer instead of all the way to a big city specialist? Why he’s as good any of them and cheaper too.”

“Doctor Ford does all our doctoring. He’s a chi-ro-practor. He can even read your energy and give you a bottle of pills for changing it.”

“Why would anyone want a second opinion? Was the first one worn out?”

“It wonders me sometimes that everyone knows my business before I do.”

And where two or three are gathered in the Lord’s name, there is likely to be grumbling.

“He does nice work, don’t you think, Jacob?”

“Yah, but not much of it, Mose.”

“Yah, but don’t tell him, Aaron. He’ll be gettin’ a big head.”

And pride is alive and well, though well disguised. It’s abundantly clear who owns what and whose voice carries the most thunder. Just like in the secular society that surrounds them, one’s bank account trumpets his communal worth. “Amos’s boy has chrome rivets on his buggy reins.”

“He’ll get rid of them once he’s married and starts his beard.”

“Yah, he’s pushin’ his oats. Amos was the same way.”

“I heard he went all the way to the Cheasapeake Bay for a day of fishin’.”

“So I heard the same. True. ”

“A big boat for six or more of the boys from the shop, so I hear.”

“Yup, that’s some salty fish, so it is.”

“And is there no work to do at home? And no money for raises?”

“Yup, salty fish, Isaac.”

“We’ll see when the snow flies and the cows come  home to roost.”

“Oh, Amos will be hunting then, just like the last two years. I’ve never known a man what had to hunt so much as Amos.”

“Elmer, don’t upset the bucket now.”

“Who’s upsetting the bucket, Josiah?”

“Well, nobody if you stop while you’re behind then.”

No television, radios, computers, phones, stereos, cars, movies, x-boxes, or entertainment centers, etc., leaves gossip out there as a cheap and steady social fuel. If you demand uniformity of people, just like in private schools, the military, hospital staff, etc., the smallest little things will bring unmerited attention because there is no competition. One green bush in the desert will draw visitors like Mecca draws pilgrims to the haj. A sprig of hair, a loose bonnet, a racy color…will bring gasps, glares, or gawks, whispers, rumblings, grumblings, and modern stonings with gossip rocks. People are still people. Small things don’t have to make us small people, however.

Clip-clop, clip-clop. “Who’s that now?”

“Oh it’s Robert’s boy, Reuben.”

“I’ll bet he’s courtin’ that Sarah Meuller from the store.”

“That’d be about right.”

“I remember when you courted me in Dad’s barn, Joe.”

“So I did.”

“And we sat on the hay for two hours just talking our hearts out.”

“I suppose we did then.”

“Yah, and you talked and talked. Like you never have since.”

“Guess I said all I needed, Leah.”

“Well, I hope not. I still need to hear your voice now and again.”

“And so you will, Woman. So you will.”


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