The Stuff We Need Out There
By Susan Whistler
As the debate over healthcare heats up and the general direction of our country seems to be in question regarding our Constitution, I thought you might appreciate a recent encounter I had as I went about my usual day here in the ski country of western New York. This is a true story …
After I finished my barn chores one morning, I decided to stop at my Amish friend Levi’s harness repair and feed store on my way home. I was getting low on grain and I had a set of reins that needed a minor repair.
Levi lives at the top of a steep hill. He has a long mud or ice (depending on the season) driveway that seems practically vertical. In the winter, it is frozen solid and deeply rutted from all the horses, buggies and trucks. The journey from the road to the entrance of his shop can be fraught with peril. Once you scale the driveway, you must pick your way across the icy ruts in the “parking area.” For me this involves gripping the door handle of my truck and inching my way, hand over hand, along the front bumper to the closest patch of snow. If you manage to make it that far unscathed you must then crawl over a small and very slippery “bridge,” which consists of three side-by-side railroad ties over a large ditch to the entrance. Trust me … it’s worth the effort.
Walking into Levi’s store is like stepping back in time about 150 years. Once inside, I was greeted by Sparky, a 9-month-old Jack Russell “Terrorist” who was so happy to see a visitor that he crawled up my pant leg and into my arms for a cuddle. Levi was just stoking the woodstove and his bother Andy was working on a harness for a neighbor’s draft horse. There was a cradle near the stove for Levi’s 6-month-old son Daniel for the times that he stayed to “help” Dad in the shop. Daniel was at the house “helping” Mom that day so the cradle was piled high with horse tack waiting for repair.
I greeted Levi and handed him my reins. He offered to fix them on the spot if I didn’t mind waiting a few minutes.
He winked and added, “You can look around and see if there’s anything else you need. I know how a woman likes to shop.”
I glanced down at my muddy muck boots and chuckled, remembering that I was still in my pajamas with my hoodie and insulated coveralls layered over the top. There was nothing remotely feminine about my ensemble.
I picked out a hoof pick and some grain and hung out with Andy by the stove while Levi fixed my reins. When he finished, Levi added up my bill … $1.50 for the repair, $0.90 for the hoof pick and $7.20 for a 50-pound bag of 11 percent sweet feed.
“That will be $9.60,” he said.
When I reminded him about the state sales tax he picked up his pencil and adjusted the total, calculator involved.
Then he looked at me and said, “You know, Sue, this country is going to hell in a hand basket. I hate paying the government any more taxes than I have to.”
I thought this was a remarkable statement coming from an Amish man who doesn’t use electricity, much less owns a radio or TV. I asked him if he ever voted.
“Sometimes” he replied, “but only for things like the road supervisor. We won’t vote for anyone who makes life and death decisions. That’s God’s business. We don’t believe in the death penalty or war, but we don’t mind paying taxes to keep the roads clear and in good repair. The rest is up to us. We take care of our own.”
I’ve decided to start spending more time hanging around the woodstove with Levi and Andy. I think they have the real stuff that we all need out there.