· Episode 13 ·
The late morning heat guaranteed the afternoon would be a scorcher. Milton Schrock, in his horse-and-buggy, headed towards Amanda’s Amish Restaurant to meet his old friend, Brian McDonald.
He reflected on their friendship.
It was a year since Milton had seen Brian. It was over thirty years since they had played college football and roomed together at Wichita State University.
What an amazing journey Milton had taken, from Humble to Wichita and back. From the simple life to the modern life. From hand milking dairy cows to protecting Brian in ferocious football games. From traveling in a slow moving horse-and-buggy in sub-zero weather to experiencing ear-popping, barf-bag air travel in order to participate in distant intercollegiate competitions.
And off the field Brian had protected Milton. Choosing a future life was difficult. Both Amish and English living were appealing in their own way. Because of Brian, Milton had experienced the English world long enough to determine that he wasn’t meant for it or it wasn’t meant for him.
With several years of English exposure, it was surprising, but Milton rarely recalled his adventurous youth until Brian’s annual postcard arrived as a precursor to sitting down to relive the good old days.
As a parent, Milton had learned what every other parent eventually accepted. Your children could be a test for you, especially if they acted the way you did as a teenager. Irene, Milton’s wife, had reminded Milton on numerous occasions that as much as they wanted their children to join the church, sometimes God worked in mysterious ways, on his own timetable. Milton was proof of that!
For a few years as a teenager and young adult, Milton had even owned a car. When home, he parked it behind the dairy barn. Everyone in the Amish community knew of his extended rumspringa, and some neighbors were quite judgmental about his worldly choices. The parents who criticized the loudest would be fortunate if someday they didn’t find themselves in a similar dilemma with their own children or grandchildren exploring English temptations, including drugs, sex, and violence. In fact, Milton could think of two friends who had never joined the Old Order Amish Church. One had joined the Beachy-Amish and the other found a Mennonite congregation to his liking.
Ultimately, after the university’s football program disbanded in 1986, Milton’s sophomore year, he decided that the world outside of the Amish was too fast-paced, too foreign, and too isolating. For a few years he’d been fascinated with all the worldly possibilities. Why drive a horse-and-buggy when there were fast cars? Why work day and night and go to church when one could party? And why stand out as Amish when English clothes could soften the feeling he had of always being stared at and judged when he was away from his Plain People?
Ultimately, his friends and family, especially Irene, had been a stronger influence than football, English friends, and worldly conveniences. Choosing Amish friends and family also meant choosing Amish traditions, rules (including following the Ordnung, a code of conduct that the church maintained), and religion. At times he found the rules difficult to accept. Had he been a church member and decided to further his education past the eighth grade, especially attend college, he would have been excommunicated by his bishop. But, since his participation in two years of college preceded his formal church membership, he wasn’t punished at all.
Eventually, his fears and his faith caught up with him. Every time his football team traveled by air, during every landing, he imagined a fiery crash and the horrors of hell if he died outside the Amish church. And during safe times, when he was home with his parents, siblings, and extended family, his people constantly prayed for him and pressured him. No English outsider could ever fathom the level of stress a young adult felt while deciding whether to leave or stay.
Irene was pivotal in his decision to join. Although she attended some WSU home football games at Cessna Stadium to watch him protect his English friend, Brian, she had no desire to ever leave her Amish community—and Milton never expected her to.
After the biggest decision of his life—joining church—he consciensously participated in his baptismal classes taught by his ministers and bishop. Upon completion of the instruction, during a church service held in his parents’ own house, Milton proclaimed his willingness to serve God in faith and obedience. He was warmly welcomed as a new member of the Old Order Amish. Within three months he and Irene were married.
As Milton, in his buggy, passed by Humble’s public elementary school, he recalled meeting Brian McDonald. Milton viewed the baseball field, thought he heard echoes of cheering, and remembered his participation in a three-legged race with Brian during the town’s Frontier Days. Their friendship began at the summer celebration when they took a liking to one another, each respectful and curious of the other’s culture.
It was a day of many firsts for Milton. Up until then he had never known an African American.
As Milton’s horse automatically halted at the familiar two-way stop sign, he swished his tail at bloodthirsty flies. Milton prepared himself for his visit. Approaching Amanda’s Amish Kitchen parking lot, Milton tried to recall what sort of vehicle Brian had been driving the previous year.
After parking his horse-and-buggy in the shade under some trees, he walked through the restaurant’s parking lot already smelling the aroma of fresh bread. Milton nodded his head when he saw a State of Illinois license plate and recognized a familiar college icon—a window decal of a Wichita State University Shocker.
To be continued.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!