Friday, February 6, 2009


The small town 2 miles to the north hosts a Horse and Colt show yearly. My neighbors and fifty per cent of the locals own horses. I seldom see them riding their horses. Hay burners, one man calls them. I look at my photo from the 2006 Horse and Colt Show and notice the horse at left is sticking his tongue at me. The orange fence separating me from the beasts of burden is humorous. Bill and Ted( I give them the names) could walk through the pseudo barrier without blinking an eye. Only the Amish put their horses to good use.

Aaron and I are standing in Titus' barn. It's a picture straight out of the PBS series about the English veterinarian-James Herriot. The beams for the ceiling are rough hewn logs. If I stretched my neck, my baseball cap would touch the beams. The light is dim since there is only one window in the feed storage area. There are several empty stalls about six feet wide. When I say empty, I mean void of cattle or horses. Cats-tons of cats-are curled in the hay and manure. Tiger tabbies, pure white cats, black and white mixes mingle in the stalls. The cats pay no attention to the dogs in the barn. Off to the right, one of the daughters is moving buckets-performing various chores. She's dressed in the Amish uniform of blue coat, skirt, rubber boots and kerchief over her hair. The newest addition to the family, a calf is standing in front of us. He(or she) is covered in muck. The fuzzy red puppy is barking at the opposite door. Titus walks in with a straw hat and blue coat. His beard is long and gray. He shushes the dog, so he can hear my question.

"March," I tell him. "We'll put off the kitchen cabinets until the first week in March." One of the work horses wants to come into the barn. He looks over the double Dutch door. There's food somewhere, he's sure. The red fuzzy puppy barks again. Aaron is Titus' brother. He's been helping me apply Sheetrock to the studs of our bare kitchen. I should amend that to: I'm helping him with the Sheetrock. Titus teases us when I mention how happy I am with the amount of work completed in one day. At 6 foot 3 inches Aaron stands placidly next to me. He's used to Titus' humor. "Did you offer him coffee,"Titus says. I reply that I forgot my manners, but add if I did we would have gotten even more work done. In one 7 hour day, we've covered all the walls except for those behind the counter with 3/8th's inch wallboard. Then the entrance door opens and another couple walks in. The banter and greetings are repeated. It's nearing five o'clock and Aaron needs to get back home. We walk past two white geese hissing and honking for the short ride across the highway to Aaron's place.

Communication with my Amish friends is straight out of the 19th century. On an egg purchase mission, I mention the lack of progress on the kitchen remodel. Titus tells me I could hire his brother for less money than the carpenter I have contacted. The project began in late September. I call the remolding crew owner who has worked on our old school house for years, for us and the former owner. The boss forgets about me. A month passes and I bump into one of his workers at the Gays Mills Apple Festival. I ask him if he'll work separately with me. Weeks pass. In theory January and February are slow times in the carpentry business. Any inside project is a welcome addition. My carpenter is busy on other projects. Finally, I send Titus a letter with a picture of our place asking him to contact his brother. I'm working alone on my kitchen project, removing old paneling and tired cabinets. On my next visit for eggs Titus tells me his brother lives across the road. "Just go there and talk to him. He's just like us-familiar with English visiting his home."

Aaron's house is white like many Amish farms in the area. There's a circular drive, a small red barn behind the house and a slump block building-formerly a school-that is his workshop. I knock at the door. "Are you Aaron?" I ask. He invites me in. The kitchen is busy with people cutting up beef that Titus and Aaron butchered the day before. There's piece of plywood over the table littered with scraps of beef. One man with a red beard is sitting on a stool and trimming fat from various cuts of meat, tossing the scraps into a bucket. Aaron's wife is tossing strips of beef into a flour mix. Kids are playing in the next room. I describe the project briefly and hand him my card. He tells me he'll call me next week. I know that there is a family down the road who help Titus and their family. They have a cell phone that makes communication easier. At first I questioned the anomaly. Titus tells me in days before cell phones, they'd send post cards to people who were on their list for organically raised chicken. The process would take hours.

When Aaron calls, we set Monday at 8 am for the project start.

to be continued...

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