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
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 a silent prayer before eating.
Lively conversation and laughter are always as welcome as the generous and
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
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
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.