Recent mail brought another interesting letter from a friend in the Amish community in the Middlefield area. Several years ago, I had the enjoyable experience of working in that community helping an Amish group re-organize their cooperative and keep a market for their grade B milk that is shipped in 10-gallon cans. Since then I have maintained some contact with several in the community.
My letter came from Elmer Dan, who was on the Board of Directors for the cooperative that we were working with. While I didn't get to visit with him this past year, we exchanged Christmas letters.
Carefully written in long-hand, his letter told us about what his past year had been like. Then he took time to copy an article that he thought I would be interested in reading, written in 1976 by Wheeler McMillan. It was titled "The Greatest Wisdom" and was excellent.
About two years ago, Elmer Dan lost his wife of many years. Naturally, he is still lonely. Those of us who have also experienced that kind of sad loss can relate to how he feels. He lives in a smaller home across the drive from his son and family. Enjoying lively grandchildren does help.
Back in August, Elmer Dan had a granddaughter get married. As is common in the community, the wedding was held in their workshop and tool shed. Before the wedding, the family reworked and cleaned the entire shop area to make room for benches to be brought in for the wedding guests. He said it only took them a week to tear the shop apart, but it may take six months to put everything back in place.
Since the Amish folks don't have church buildings, weddings and other social functions are usually held in tool sheds or other outbuildings. All equipment, tools and anything else that would detract from the wedding is removed and the building completely cleaned, ready for company.
Church services are usually held in homes. Once again, furniture is moved out to make room for benches to be brought in for the services.
Elmer Dan does a lot of work in his shop. Like most Amish shops that do woodworking, he has a number of power tools. Many of them use small gasoline engines for power, since electricity is not used in homes or on the farm.
Some shops have a larger gasoline or a small diesel engine that powers an air compressor. Tools are then run by the compressed air. They find unique and ingenious ways to get the job done. When they don't find a way to use power, then they fall back on the source used since man has been on this earth - human power. But that is hard work, and mechanical or horse power saves a lot of labor.
The article by Wheeler McMillan has much in it that is true today, 35 years later. Let me share just one quote: "All of us in one way or another are engaged in agriculture. We eat and wear its products, we produce indispensables from the soil, or we help somewhere in between. Every great city and every town in the United States has been built out of the wealth that farmers produce."
Thanks to Elmer Dan for sharing a bit of his life with us, and we hope to have better contact with him and others in the community in 2011.
In some ways, 2010 was a tough year for my wife, Betty, and I, but we now have an optimistic outlook for 2011. She suffered with pain from a compression fracture in her back for nine months. Just before the New Year she had kyphoplasty surgery that was a success, and she is mostly pain-free. She also had major eye surgery and now has excellent vision.
We are thankful for good doctors and the power of healing!
Parker grew up in Trumbull County and is an independent writer for the Tribune.