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Driving the Amish by Tom Springer On lupine-blue June mornings,
necklace of dew on the spider webs,
stampede of daisies in the pastures,
I arose before them.

While they slept their honest workman's sleep,
I drove in radio silence to their Amish farms.
Wrong, it seemed, to defile the day's innocence
with the canned prattle of commerce.
Nor would it do for them,
called as they are to a chaste economy.

Up dirt driveways lined by buggy wheels
my truck's cough would call them out.
Then, a chorus of true good mornings,
the shuffle of muddy boots and lunch pails,
the country cologne of wood smoke, sweat, kerosene, home-made sausage.

Joe spoke first, the others usually not all.
"Well, I guess we'll need more two-bys, some caulk, more five-penny nails."
And I, nodding without knowing,
only knowing he knew his business,
would call the lumberyard
from my air-tight office.

"Does it really pay to use those guys,
what with all the driving?"
sneered a lumberyard clerk,
who already had his answer.
I was angered but not surprised by his prejudice;
that the Amish should be a sign of contradiction is their gift to us.

There is always much unsaid
between we "English" and the Amish,
so we steer the talk toward things we know and love together;
toward snapping turtles, northern pike and sand hill cranes,
toward bird's eye maple and hand-cut fieldstone.

Yet Joe's stories -- they sound like psalms.
Distilled from a life
bound by creed and custom
to the earth and sky.
They resonate with holy wonder,
unconscious artistry.
He left school, as they all do,
after 8th grade.

They have free rein of our home
when we're away.
(I've learned it's not worldly for them to use a phone,
only to own one.)
As we leave for our city jobs, they revert to German,
which must lighten their work like a well-chosen tool.
We hear it in their whistled hymns,
or called as measurements from an upstairs window:
fünf und dreivertel!

On the return trip, the young men are soon asleep.
Joe and I trade stories of Langley Covered Bridge,
and fume about county crews who have lately, and pointlessly,
cut the old maples that graced this road.

I romanticize their life, as we all do, but this I know.
As they go to family suppers in lantern-lit kitchens,
my way home is attended
by a peacefulness
that lingers.

So are they hirelings or friends?
The money makes them one thing,
but their quiet kinship quite another.


Copyright 2001 Manitou Publishing Co. & Tom Springer • All Rights Reserved.

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