· Episode 14 ·
Brian McDonald had mailed his annual postcard to Milton Schrock. The color photo showed a Pennsylvania Amish farm with rows of grain stalks or sheaves standing up in orderly fashion.
The next Saturday, Brian, as was tradition, sat at a table in Humble’s only restaurant, Amanda’s Amish Kitchen. He stared out a window that faced the public elementary school’s playground where he viewed the baseball field.
Memories flooded Brian’s head.
It was 1983 and Brian was seventeen, a senior at Prairie Grove High School. He was the starting quarterback for the school’s football team. As part of the team’s early summer conditioning program, the players participated in various competitive tournaments not directly related to the gridiron.
A tug-of-war contest was the event that had brought him and his athletic peers to Humble, a small town just ten miles southeast of Prairie Grove. And because of the town’s annual Frontier Days, Brian first met Milton Schrock.
Their team, the Bulldogs, defeated a local Amish group of boys thrown together at the last minute. No wonder the locals lost. The Steelies, who had haircuts resembling the Beatles from the early 1960s, had muscle but no experience or strategy. However, one boy easily stood out from the rest due to his size and strength. He, like Brian, was seventeen. Later that day, Brian learned that Milton had already completed his schooling upon graduating from the eighth grade.
After the team competitions in tug-of-war were completed, each group selected an individual player to go one-on-one with the other competitors. After the Amish boy easily defeated Prairie Grove’s strongest player, Brian knew he wanted Milton on his team, playing the O-line, protecting his blind side from hungry defensive players who lived to feast on quarterbacks.
During a three-on-three basketball tournament at Frontier Days, Brian also learned that Milton was quick on his feet. After Milton blocked a shot of Brian’s at the rim, the senior quarterback started recruiting. It was too late for the coming football season. Milton wasn’t even in high school. But Brian was thinking college. Milton was that good.
“Do you like football?” asked Brian.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been to a game before,” Milton responded.
“Well, I’m inviting you,” Brian promised.
“Sir,” the waitress said, would you like to order now?”
“Oh, sorry,” Brian answered, “I’m waiting on an old friend.”
“Have you been here before?” asked the waitress, dressed in Amish garb, a modest purple dress, her long brown hair hidden below her starched white prayer cap.
Brian considered the name of the restaurant, ‘Amanda’s Amish Kitchen.’ The first time he had heard the name he thought it was owned and run by the Amish. Later, he learned that the kitchen’s cuisine was Amish. The restaurant had English, not Amish, owners. Well, at least a lot of the local Amish girls had employment close to their homes, and they, no doubt, earned good tips from the tourists, thought McDonald.
“I get here about once a year, so I never get tired of your delicious food. How fresh is the fresh bread?
“It’s fresh all day,” answered the waitress. “Pies, too,” she added.
“The bread smells too good to wait; I’d like some with honey when you get a chance. But I can’t decide between the chicken and dumplings or the meatloaf,” said Brian. “Are they both available?”
“Yes, and today we also have corn meal mush as well as butter noodles. Both are popular with our customers,” she added.
“Oh no, more good choices!” said Brian, in mocked distress. “Good thing I have a few more minutes to decide. I’m early for our meeting.”
Brian watched the teenage waitress glance at the book he had brought with him; it was lying on the table.
“What’s your name?” asked Brian.
“Rebecca,” she replied.
“Are you a student when you’re not working here?”
“No, I’m out of school.”
“High school?” asked Brian, already knowing the answer.
“No, elementary school. We Amish don’t get past the eighth grade with formal education.”
“Is that true for everyone?” Brian inquired.
“Every Amish I know,” said Rebecca.
“My wife says I ask too many questions. Thanks for putting up with me.”
“It’s okay, I’m used to questions but I don’t always have the right answers.”
“Well, nice to meet you. I’m Brian McDonald. I used to attend college in Wichita. This is a yearbook from 1986, called Parnassus. It’s got a lot of photographs of the students, teachers, and activities. Whenever I look at it, it brings back a lot of good memories.”
McDonald, smiling, reached for the yearbook, its binding loose. It popped open to a well-worn page. “That’s me, number one, throwing a long pass,” he said. “I was the starting quarterback and had a strong arm back then.” As he mentioned his arm he lifted it and rotated his shoulder, checking its range of motion.
Rebecca looked at the black and white photo, then glanced at other pictures on both pages.
“Yes, I’ll bet photographs do cause a person to think back to when they were young,” said Rebecca as she considered some recent photographs of her that were taken at an Amish pasture party. She had them hidden under her bedroom dresser drawer.
“I’ll be back with your warm bread and honey,” promised Rebecca, as she welcomed new arrivals and invited them to sit at a nearby table.
Brian again gazed out the window. He remembered Humble’s Frontier Days and many of the activities during that long, hot August day so many years ago. He didn’t recall the parade, pig races, or buggy races. But he remembered the tug-of-war contest, basketball, and the three-legged sack race when he and Milton had teamed up to win in the category for young adults.
The three-legged race was the first, not the last time, the two athletes played together competitively.
Rebecca approached with her customer’s order and picture of water. She asked, “May I refill your glass?”
“Yes, thank you,” replied Brian as he slid the glass toward Rebecca.
“Where do you live now?” she inquired.
“My, I’d be lost if I ever visited that city!”
“Sometimes I get turned around but I can usually find my way with my car’s help or my phone. I’m used to the city driving now, but there’s way too much traffic. You have it made here. No traffic jams.”
“During our Frontier Days, the town is packed together like an Amish wedding,” said a grinning Rebecca, a term she had no doubt used before.
“Does your family farm?” asked Brian.
“Yes, we dairy farm.”
“I hear that’s a lot of hard work with long hours. Is that right?”
“Yes, its long hours but we’re used to it. My father says it’s better than having to work for someone else off the farm.”
Suddenly, Rebecca watched as her customer’s eyes lit up. His mouth broadened into a wide smile. Someone special that Mr. McDonald admired had just entered the front door.
McDonald prepared to stand as he moved back his chair.
Curious, Rebecca turned her head so she could see the exceptional person her customer called his friend.
“Brian!” said the Amish man.
“Jersey!” the English customer replied.
“Dad!” Rebecca squeaked.
To be continued.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!