Into the World of the Amish

Editor’s Note: Sometimes unique friendships develop between the Amish and the non-Amish. Following is the story of one such friendship, told by the wife of the man who discovered special meaning to life on the farm. All names have been changed for this article.

A smile on his face and eager to share the last 12 hours with me, my husband entered the house in stocking feet. His work boots had been left behind in our garage, and the next familiar steps were to put his dirty clothes in the washing machine, briefly greet me and then shower.

My thoughts drift back to the summer of 1995. It all began with a healthy curiosity and desire on Tom’s part to learn a bit about farming. Working on summer Saturdays as a tour guide for Amish Country Tours, Tom brought many visitors to the King farm and quilt shop. During one visit, Tom asked Eli if he could spend the day working with him on the farm. Eli called him several days later and left a short message, “We’re making hay tomorrow. Suit yourself.”

After that first long, memorable day which began at 4:00 a.m. on the King farm, Tom was hooked. Through the following weeks and then years, his farming knowledge has grown, along with a deep and fulfilling friendship with Eli, his wife, and their six children.

Tom has a special place in his heart for little Sarah, who awakened that unconditional love feeling in my husband. As a toddler, she would wind her way through the visitors in the shop and, with outstretched arms, reach to be picked up. Together they built sand castles and read books. Her earnest, “Come, Tom” never failed to capture his heart.

At first, I found it difficult to understand what attracted Tom to farm chores and to a family with a culture far removed from ours in many ways. Gently and surely, after many wonderful times together, I also came to understand and to know the sincere and warm friendship of the Eli King family.

Still smiling, Tom happily begins to reconstruct his day on the farm. Before the sun broke the horizon, Tom was driving in the farm lane, greeted by a German Shepard and Rottweiler wanting some affection. Using his flashlight, he entered the barn and lit the lanterns. The sounds and smells were warmly familiar.

He started the diesel engine and began the twice-a-day chores connected with milking about 35 cows. “Those quiet moments are the special ones,” said Tom. “A time to talk to the animals, prepare the feed, and feel at peace with the world.”

“Morning,” came the cheery greetings from Sam and a daughter who had come out to help.

By 6:30 a.m. Eli’s wife had a hearty breakfast on the table and everyone sat for silent prayer before eating. Lively conversation and laughter are always as welcome as a generous and delicious meal.

While they cleared the dishes, Tom played on the floor with Sarah, and her baby brother caught a ten-minute nap stretched out on the kitchen floor.

The farm work that follows breakfast varies with the day and season. Plowing disking, planting, seeding, spreading manure, harvesting, cultivating, repairing equipment, or a trip to an Amish store for supplies are some of the many farm chores. The camaraderie shared while working on Eli’s farm makes any job lighter and very satisfying.

Looking contented and pleasantly tired, Tom explained that looking at a newly plowed field, at straight rows of corn, or a field of alfalfa ready for cutting is a treat for eyes and soul.

How could I not be proud of this man, a man who learned such wonders as hitching six mules, driving a horse and carriage, milking and feeding cows and heifers, and working the fields?

His smile is one of pure satisfaction, happiness, and contentment. He’s stronger, wiser, healthier, and more holistically improved than I’ve ever known him to be. He’s found a special purpose, a special dimension to his life — a special family. 

– Jeralyn Fenstermacher