Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Young Men of Summer

With the grass seed harvest and the resulting hay industry, this part of the Willamette Valley is a magnet for short-term summer workers. And since many of the farms and businesses are owned by Mennonites, we get an influx every summer of cousins and friends and nephews from out of state. A few girls come, but mostly it's guys.

I remember how my brother Fred in his rebellious youth would follow the wheat harvest every summer with likeminded young men, moving with the crew from Oklahoma all the way up to Montana.

I think the local harvest attracts some of the same sort of guys--dissatisfied with the church back home and probably Mom and Dad too, wanting to try out their wings, hungry for a taste of something different. Obviously not all of them are rebels, just so you know. But Oregon has been a magnet for rebels and black sheep all the way back to Paul's Great-great-grandpa, Christian Smucker I think, who had a shady history in Ohio and made a new start in Oregon, way back when.

And yet most of these guys are not rebellious enough to throw all their training to the winds, so they still want to go to church and tend to gravitate to our church in Brownsville since we for some reason have a reputation of being a bit bad and cool and on the liberal fringe. This always amuses me because they get slapped with CLP Sunday school lessons just like they use back home in Bethel Fellowship, and sermons that are as staunchly Mennonite as anything in the Midwest.

Some of these young men have gone back home at the end of the season and never returned, some have disappeared into the larger local community, and some are now part of our congregation as upstanding married men with families.

So it is always interesting to see what sort of young men come washing in with the summer tide. This year's batch includes a young Amish man who showed up this morning in the pew behind us. He's from Kalona, Iowa, he told me shyly after church. Well! That's where I used to live, back in our Amish days! But we didn't discuss freindshaft and connections because he didn't look like he'd enjoy it much.

Later my children were discussing this hapless fellow. "Did you see the pins in his vest?" And his hair?? Oh, his hair. Did you ever see such hair?

"Listen," I said, "he's Amish, ok? That is how Amish guys from Kalona look. And I will have you know that your uncles looked like that too. Maybe not quite as much, because they were younger, but still."

And Jenny burst out:

Quote of the Day:
"I gotta see an old family picture!"

(And I gotta do a better job of teaching them the family history and heritage, that's for sure.)

(And in case you don't get the humor here--What family pictures?? We were Amish.)


  1. Love the QOTD, why is it we just think our kids automatically know all about our heritage? I know I need to do better teaching them, the language, traditions etc. So far I get a D-. SuEllen Yoder

  2. I don't know if the Kalona fellow is a good candidate for this, but I always relish seeing my children's initial suspicious stereotyping exploded when they discover underneath a strange exterior a wonderfully lively, interesting, and warm human being.

    Your children, and all of us, are lucky every time we have that opportunity.

  3. i, as a wife to one of those uncles want to see those charming photos when you finally extract them from the past. thanks for the laugh!

  4. Lots of people hail from Kalona! My dad was from the Wellman area. His parents left the Amish and went Conservative when he was still a youngster. Juanita --

  5. Boy, was I surprised when I seen this!

  6. I guess you will need to go to and search on 'Quincy prepares for flood 6/14/08'. Sorry I am new to the blogs :) I enjoy reading yours and love your books.

    Kathy - Danvers, IL

  7. Since I'm from Kalona, Iowa too you make me terribly curios to know WHO this Amish boy is! ~ribbit98

  8. ...and it's too early in the morning for me to spell "curious" properly! ~ribbut98