Last year about this time I found some excuse to drive into south Pontotoc County, my mother and father’s old stomping grounds, to work on a story. I forget what the topic was, probably something drummed up, and I figured I’d take the opportunity to visit my grandparents in Randolph and cruise the old neighborhood.
I got out and walked around the old Randolph High School building, long since abandoned, where my mother’s family held reunions for years. I drove down Waldo Road where I once watched people kill, dress and roast a goat, and saw a wild man, who looked like John the Baptist, plug a pair of electric clippers into an extension cord in his yard and shave his own shoulder-length locks until he got the clippers snagged and had to cut them loose from his scalp with a fillet knife.
I drove down past the old high school, out to where the Amish have settled. I was in my pickup so I figured if I saw a rocking chair or a quilt that would make a good Christmas present, I’d make an offer.
Around the first bend was a young fellow, no more than 23, working in his shirt sleeves and hat at the end of his long driveway. He had two or three sheds in various stages of completion and one that was so perfectly finished, so tightly seamed it looked like it would bob like a cork if dropped into the nearby lake.
The muddy ground was covered in sawdust from the one or two electric tools he allowed himself, including a circular saw
I slowed to a crawl in the narrow road and watched as he sawed a length of board, measured, sawed again, then ascended the ladder with a hammer in his hand a nail in his mouth.
A drizzly rain began to fall and, seemingly more out of concern for his tools than himself, he started gathering up his things and placing them inside another shed that served as his office.
I pulled into his driveway, swinging wide so he’d be sure to see me, and walked over to him in the casual manner of a man who didn’t plan to ask him for anything, just to talk.
I didn’t speak, just raised my hand and he did the same. He took a rag from his back pocket and wiped his forearms and face and gently kicked aside a sleepy mutt that was laying across the threshold of the shed.
“Can I help you?” he asked with that tinge of German accent the Amish have, one you almost have to listen for.
I explained that I worked for a newspaper and that my family lived in the area and I was just out riding the roads, looking for something interesting. I complimented his work but if he heard me he didn’t respond. He invited me inside where he had a thermos of black coffee and a Tupperware bowl full of oatmeal cookies.
He told me his wife, who was up at the house with his boys, made the cookies and that he’d learned to build sheds from his father and that he didn’t want to be rude but his people generally didn’t like to comment for newspapermen.
I had a cookie and some coffee with him and petted his dog and he let me use his comments in a story anyway, once he’d gotten my word that the article was for religious purposes and that I wouldn’t come around and bother him too much.
I meet a lot of good, holy people in my work, but never one better than that young man, building sheds in the mud of Pontotoc County.
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal