Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish (a novella)
Chapter 1: Deputy Jennings Meets Rosanna Yoder
“How can this be happening to me?” thought Rosanna.
Earlier, Adam, her husband, had remarked, “We sure had a gully washer overnight!”
“How are my flowers?” she had asked, concerned about filling business orders prior to the upcoming holiday.
“Those in bloom took a beating, but the others may come around with a break in the weather,” Adam had replied. He added, “The fierce storm has done more than damage your flowers; a corner of the garden has flowed into the ditch.
Adam had left for town on the tractor, pulling their horse trailer, taking pigs and chickens to the sale barn in Prairie Grove.
As soon as he departed, Rosanna got to work. She knew how to use a shovel and a wheelbarrow, and she had the muscles to prove it. After checking her flowers, Rosanna started collecting the garden’s rich topsoil from the county ditch. With each trip of heavy wet soil, she strained to control the wheelbarrow, especially when the wheel slid off the board path that she had laid down on the saturated ground.
On every wheelbarrow trip, Rosanna promised herself that she would plant additional grass to prevent damaging erosion from future gully washers. As she turned back towards the ditch, she saw a county patrol car slowing down with its turn signal blinking, indicating the vehicle was preparing to enter her driveway. The side of the vehicle identified it as a “K-9 Unit.” Rosanna ignored the driver but observed the dog in the rear seat, a German shepherd.
She touched her right cheek.
Rosanna remembered growing up with occasional brief visits from deputy sheriffs. Her mouth dry, she wet her lips and swallowed, praying that God’s will would include a safe Adam, one who hadn’t been in an accident. Then she considered her husband’s family in Pennsylvania. Had there been a death? Was the deputy here for a death notification? She almost laughed. Those days were over. Access to cell phones had changed their world.
The deputy was an extra-large man with a bald head and a ready smile. His grin revealed a lot. Rosanna figured he wasn’t the bearer of bad news.
The obese officer struggled to dislodge himself from his car. For a minute, it appeared the steering wheel and safety belt would prevent him from ever exiting his vehicle. Winded, he finally pulled himself out. The canine stared at her and lifted his nose toward the partially open side-window.
“Hello ma’am, I’m Deputy Tom Jennings with the Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Office.”
Rosanna bit her lip and replied, “Hello, sir, I’m Rosanna Yoder with the Old Order Amish.”
“Nice to meet you. Looks like you’ve got some work ahead of you,” said Jennings, observing the nearby mudslide.
Rosanna nodded but waited to learn why law enforcement was visiting her.
“I’m here because I’m responding to a 911 call,” said Jennings. “A county employee called the dispatcher and told her that there was a theft in progress, that someone was stealing dirt from this location.”
“I haven’t seen anyone stealing dirt around here,” replied Rosanna. “Did the dispatcher get a description of the vehicle?” she asked.
“The description was an attractive Amish woman wearing a dark-blue dress.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Rosanna. “Me? . . . but I’m not stealing anything,” she replied. “May I call my husband? He’s in town.”
“Yes, sure, but I still need to talk with you. I need more information for my report. Would you like to use my phone?”
Deputy Jennings got his phone out and gave it a command: “Call Miller’s Sale Barn, Prairie Grove, Kansas.”
A minute later, once her husband was on the phone, Jennings watched as Rosanna Yoder, an Amish woman wearing a dark-blue dress and a white head covering, both decorated with splashes of dried dirt, walked in her muddy tennis shoes towards the enclosed front porch. Jennings waited, already back in his SUV, working on his computerized report.
Rosanna’s call to Adam was brief. She explained that a deputy sheriff—polite enough—was questioning her about taking “dirt” out of the ditch. Adam told her there was nothing to worry about; her interaction with the sheriff would not be a problem; it was just a cultural misunderstanding.
“Adam,” Rosanna said, “. . . one more thing . . . he’s got a police dog with him. It’s in the rear seat of the car. It’s a German shepherd.”
“That’s all in the past,” Adam assured his wife.
Jennings had better things to do. He knew this was a waste of his time, but he also recognized he couldn’t ignore the call, especially from a county employee of the Road and Bridge Department. If the employee was concerned enough to contact the department, then there would most likely be a follow-up call inquiring about how the investigation was handled.
Jennings planned to get answers and return to the road. He didn’t want to make a federal case out of this assignment, but he also had to be conscientious about the work. He was trying to cover his big butt from any potential trouble from his psychotic supervisors. He wasn’t paranoid, but recently they’d been nitpicking his reports. The sergeants were on his case, and he didn’t want to lose his work assignment with his partner, Yackel Von Baerenzwinger, the department’s canine.
With one eye on the police car and the other on the sheriff, Rosanna explained: “The heavy rain caused erosion of our garden’s topsoil. I was just repairing the damage by collecting our soil.”
“Yes, I see that,” said Jennings, as he took additional photos with his cell phone. “I don’t see anything wrong with you recovering your dirt. I’m just recording information for my report.”
“I don’t understand why you’re making a report if there’s nothing wrong,” replied Rosanna.
Jennings smiled and nodded.
Rosanna waited. Despite this obese, uniformed deputy sheriff, wearing a holstered gun, and a military mustache, she wasn’t frightened or intimidated by him, simply confused. His dog was another matter.
“Sometimes we gather information that we don’t really think is necessary, but it’s collected because it might be important later,” he said.
Rosanna was listening. She was really trying to understand. “Did he just say that he was collecting information he didn’t need?” She waited for a better explanation.
Jennings tried again to make sense out of something that (he admitted) didn’t make sense. “As officers, we’re given discretion to make decisions on our own. If I’d been driving by and observed you collecting dirt out of your ditch, I would have smiled and waved as I drove by. But when the public calls in to report a potential problem, something they believe is suspicious, we need to investigate in case of a follow-up call.”
Rosanna still didn’t comprehend. She quickly deduced, “This was English, not Amish thinking. I have no choice but to cooperate. Who would call the Sheriff’s Office about me recovering God’s topsoil? Who would think this is suspicious? And when would mam and dat return with our children?”
Happy writing and reading,