Friday, November 29, 2013

First Chapter Reveal - Amanda Weds a Good Man by Naomi King

Amanda Weds a Good Man
One Big Happy Family: Book 1
By Naomi King
Chapter 1

Amanda Lambright paused outside the Cedar Creek Mercantile, clutching her basket of pottery samples and prayed that Sam would carry her handmade items in his store. She had also come to share some exciting news: she stood on the threshold of a brand new life in a brand new family, and the prospect thrilled her. But it frightened her, too.

When Amanda stepped inside, the bell tinkled above the door. As her eyes adjusted to the soft dimness of the store, she saw her teenage daughter Lizzie and the four-year-old twins making a beeline to the craft department while her mother-in-law Jemima ambled behind her cart in the grocery aisle. Several shoppers, English and Amish alike, lingered over their choices of cheese, locally-grown apples, and other household and hardware necessities, but she was in luck: the bearded, bespectacled man at the check-out counter didn’t have any customers right now. She approached him with a smile.

“And how are you on this fine September day, Sam?”

When Sam Lambright looked up from the order form he was filling out, his face lit up. “Amanda! How gut to see you. Things are going well at your farm, I hope?”

Amanda gripped the handle of her basket. Should she break her big news first? Or make her request? “The work never ends, that’s for sure. The last hay’s ready to cut, the garden’s gone to weeds, and Jerome’s training several new mules.” Jerome was her nephew by marriage, the boy she and her late husband Atlee had raised after his parents died in a fire.

“Your girls are growing up, too. I had to look twice to realize it was Lizzie, Cora, and Dora waving at me.”

“They change by the day, it seems. And, well . . . I’m making a few changes myself.”

Sam gazed at her in that patient, expectant way he had. He was Atlee’s cousin, and his expression, his manner, reminded her so much of Atlee that at times she’d not shopped here because she couldn’t deal with the resemblance. But that sadness is behind me now . . . and nobody will be happier than Sam, she reminded herself. “Wyman Brubaker has asked me to marry him. And I said jah.”

Sam’s smile lit the whole store. “That’s wonderful! Abby—” He gazed up toward the upper level, hailing his sister as she sat at her sewing machine by the railing. “Abby, you’ll want to come down and get the latest from Amanda. She’s getting hitched!”

“That’s so exciting,” Abby called out. “Don’t say another word until I get down there.”

Amanda noticed several folks in the store glancing her way, enjoying this exchange. It made her upcoming marriage seem even more real now that it had been announced so publically. She and Wyman had kept their courtship quiet, because they wanted to be very sure that a marriage blending two households and eight children was a wise decision.

“Months ago I suggested to Wyman that it was time he found another gut woman,” Sam said, “and I’m so glad he’s chosen you, Amanda. I can’t think of two finer folks with so much in common.”

“Well, we hope so. It’ll be . . . different, raisin eight kids instead of just my three girls,” she replied quietly. “But Wyman’s a gut man.”

“And with his grain elevator doing so well, it means you won’t have to worry about money anymore,” Sam replied quietly. “You haven’t let on—haven’t let me help you much—but even with Jerome’s income, it couldn’t have been easy to keep that farm afloat after Atlee passed.”

As Abby Lambright rushed down the wooden stairway to hug her, Amanda forgot about her four long years of scraping by. She felt lifted up by the love and happiness this maidel radiated. Rain or shine, Abby gave her best and brought that out in everyone around her, too.

“What a wonderful-gut thing, to know you’ve found another love,” Abby gushed. “And who’s the lucky man?”

“Wyman Brubaker.”

“You don’t say!” Abby replied. “I couldn’t have matched up a more perfect pair myself—and as I recall, his Vera and your Lizzie first met while both families were shopping here. And that started the ball rolling.”

“Jah, as matchmakers go they were pretty insistent,” Amanda replied with a chuckle.

“And when’s the big day?”

“We haven’t decided, but it’ll be sooner than I can possibly be ready,” Amanda admitted. “What with Lizzie still in school, I’ve hardly packed any boxes—not that I know where to stack them if the wedding’s at my house,” she added in a rush. “And with Jerome training a team of mules now, we can’t clear out the barn for the ceremony. And I can’t see me driving back and forth, cleaning Wyman’s house in Clearwater—”

“Or keeping it wedding-ready until the big day. His Vera’s a responsible girl, but looking after her three brothers and Alice Ann is all she can handle,” Abby remarked in a thoughtful tone. She looked at her older brother. “Sam, what would you say to having Amanda’s wedding at our house? What with preparing for Matt and Rosemary’s ceremony next week, and then for Phoebe and Owen’s that first Thursday of October—”

“Oh, no!” Amanda protested. “I didn’t mean to go on and on about—”

“That would be just fine.” Sam gazed steadily at Amanda. “We’re setting up the tables for the meals in mamm’s greenhouse—leaving them up between the two weddings, anyway. So if you pick a date in the first few weeks of October, it would be very easy to host your ceremony, Amanda. And I would feel like I’d finally given you some real help when you needed it.”

Amanda nearly dropped her basket of pottery. “My stars. That would solve a lot of my problems . . .”

“And with Wyman living in Clearwater and your house being on the far side of Bloomingdale, Cedar Creek would be a more central location for your guests,” Sam reasoned.

“And it’ll be gut practice for Sam, delivering another wedding sermon,” Abby added mischievously. “Right after he was ordained as our new preacher last spring, Rosemary asked him to preach and then Phoebe insisted on him, too. So he should be pretty gut at it by the time you and Wyman tie the knot!”

Sam flushed. “Jah, but if you want the preachers from your district to—”

“It would be an honor to have you and Vernon Gingerich officiate for us.” Amanda squeezed Sam’s arm, her excitement mounting. “Wyman will be so glad you’ve settled our dilemma, because if we choose one preacher and one bishop from our own districts, we’ll still be leaving out the other bishop and three preachers.”

“And you don’t want them all to speak! Six sermons would make for a very long day,” Abby added wryly.

As their laughter rose toward the high ceiling of the mercantile, Amanda relaxed. Wasn’t it just like these cousins to offer their home when she would never have asked another family to host her wedding? What a relief, to concentrate on moving her three daughters, Atlee’s mamm, and herself into Wyman’s home rather than also having to prepare for a couple hundred wedding guests.

Abby leaned closer to Amanda, watching Lizzie and the twins fingering bolts of fabric. “So how are your girls taking the news? And what of Jemima?” she asked quietly.

Amanda smiled. “Truth be told, it was Lizzie and Wyman’s Vera who got Wyman and me to the same places at the same time,” she confessed. “And bless him, Wyman said from the first that he had a room for Atlee’s mamm. It won’t be easy for her, living in a home other than her son’s. But we’ll all be together.”

“One big happy family!” Abby proclaimed as she hugged Amanda’s shoulders again.

“And what of Jerome?” Sam inquired. “He’s lived with you since he was a boy, but he’s what? Twenty-two now?”

“Twenty-four,” Amanda corrected. “And with him being so established with his mule breeding and training, I’ve asked him to stay there on the home place. It’s what Atlee would’ve wanted for his nephew.”

“A gut decision,” the storekeeper agreed. “One of these days he’ll be finding a wife, and a whole new generation of Lambrights can live there.”

Amanda nodded, feeling a flicker of sadness. Her Atlee had passed on before they knew she was carrying the twins . . . but cogitating over the other children they might have had together—or which ones might have taken over the Lambright farm—wasn’t a useful way to spend her time. A little gasp brought her out of her woolgathering.

“What’s this in your basket?” Abby asked as she reached for the handle. “My stars, these are such pretty colors for pie pans and cream pitchers and—” Her brown eyes widened. “Did you paint these, Amanda?”

Amanda’s cheeks prickled. “I make the pottery pieces on my wheel and then I glaze them, jah,” she said quietly. “I was hoping that—rather than packing away my finished pieces—you might want to sell them here.”

“These are pieces any woman could use,” Abby interrupted excitedly. She was carefully setting items from the basket on the counter so Sam could get a better look at them. “A pitcher . . . a deep-dish pie plate . . . oh, and look at this round piece painted like a sunflower!”

“That’s a disk you heat in the oven and then put in your basket to keep your bread warm,” Amanda said. “I sell a lot of those at the dry goods stores north of home. Seems English tourists like some little souvenir when they visit Plain communities.”

“I can see why,” Sam remarked. He was turning the pitcher this way and that in his large hands. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen kitchen pieces with such bold colors. And if you make them, Amanda, I’d be happy to take them on consignment. Folks hereabouts would snap these up.”

“You’ve got several pieces with you, I hope?” Abby asked.

“This is such a blessing,” Amanda replied quietly. “I’ve got three boxes of this stuff in my wagon, along with an inventory list. I figured that if you didn’t want it, I’d stash it all in Wyman’s basement until we get moved in.”

“Don’t go hiding these in the basement!” Abby insisted. “We’ll set up a big display down here, and I’ll arrange the rest of them up in the loft.”

Sam started for the door. “I’ll help you carry in your boxes, Amanda. You can decide which items might sell better over at the greenhouse and work that out with Mamm.”

“Jah, I will. Denki so much, you two. Let me show you what I’ve brought.” Amanda’s heart skipped happily as the bell above the door tinkled. This trip to Cedar Creek was going even better than she’d dreamed, and she was eager to set her wedding date with Wyman now that they had such a wonderful place to hold their ceremony.

As they stepped outside, however, an ominous crash rang out, followed by a yelp and another crash.

“Simon! Get your dog out of that wagon!”

Amanda’s face fell. Oh, but she recognized that authoritative voice. And there could be only one Simon with a pet who had stirred up such a ruckus . . . and only one wagon full of pottery with its end gate down.

As she rounded the corner of the store with Sam and Abby, the scene in the parking lot confirmed Amanda’s worst fears: the Brubaker family was gathered around her wagon, coaxing Simon’s German shepherd out of it while Wyman lifted his youngest son onto its bed. When the five-year-old boy grabbed his basketball from the only box of her pottery left standing, the picture became dismally clear.

“Oh, Amanda,” Abby murmured as the three of them hurried toward the Brubakers. “This doesn’t look so gut.”

Amanda’s stomach clenched. How many days’ worth of her work had been shattered after Wags had apparently followed Simon’s ball into her wagon?

“Gut afternoon to you, Wyman,” Sam said. “We just heard your exciting news, and we’re mighty happy you and Amanda are hitching up.”

Wyman set his youngest son on the ground and extended his hand to the storekeeper. “Jah, I finally found a gal who’ll put up with me and my raft of kids. But I can’t think she’s too happy with us right this minute.”

Amanda bit back her frustration as her future husband lowered one of her boxes to the ground so she could see inside it. The other boxes had been overturned, so some of her pie plates, vases, and other items lay in pieces on the wagon bed. She had considered padding her pottery more carefully, boxing the pieces better, but who could have guessed that Simon’s energetic, oversized puppy would follow a basketball into her wagon? A little sob escaped her.

“And now, Simon, do you see why you should always check the latch on the dog’s pen when we leave?” Wyman asked sternly. “Not only was it dangerous for Wags to come running up alongside our buggy, but now he’s broken Amanda’s pottery. What do you say to her, son?”

The little boy, clutching his basketball, became the picture of contrition. Simon’s brown eyes, usually filled with five-year-old mischief, were downcast as he stood beside his father. “I . . . didn’t mean to break your stuff,” he murmured. “I bounced my ball too high and Wags had to play, too. I’m real sorry.”

Chastising this winsome boy wouldn’t put her pottery together again, would it? “Things happen,” she replied with a sigh. “I was hoping to sell my ceramics here at the mercantile, but . . . well, maybe we can salvage some of it.”

“Tie Wags to the wagon, Simon, before he causes any more trouble,” Wyman murmured.

Abby had stepped up beside Amanda to carefully lift the contents of the box onto the tailgate while Wyman set the other two boxes upright. Amanda was vaguely aware that the rest of the Brubaker kids were nearby: his teenage sons, Pete and Eddie, went on inside the mercantile while seventeen-year-old Vera came up beside her, cradling little Alice Ann against her hip.

“See there, all is not lost,” Abby remarked as she set unbroken dishes to one side of the wagon bed. “Still enough for a display, Amanda—”

“And look at these colors!” Vera said as she fingered some of the broken pieces. “Dat told me you worked on pottery, Amanda, but I had no idea it was like this! So, do you paint ready-made pieces or do you make everything from scratch?”

Amanda smiled sadly as she held up two pitchers that no longer had their handles. “I form them on my pottery wheel, and when they’ve dried I glaze them and fire them in my kiln.”

“Would you mind if I take the broken stuff?”

Amanda considered this, surprised. Vera’s eyes were lit up with interest, as though she truly loved the pottery even though it was shattered. “I don’t know what you’d do with it,” she murmured, “but it’s not like I can sell repaired plates and pitchers, either.”

“I’m sorry this has happened, Amanda. I’ll pay you for what Simon broke,” Wyman offered as he squeezed her shoulder. “At least you won’t be needing the income after we marry, jah?”

Amanda sighed. “Denki, Wyman. That’s generous of you.”

As much as she had come to love Wyman Brubaker during these past months of their courtship, a red flag went up in Amanda’s mind. He—and most men—didn’t understand that her pottery was much more than a way to earn money. It had been her salvation after Atlee had lost a leg to gangrene and then lost his will to live. . . a way to focus her mind on cheerful designs and colors instead of becoming lost in the darkness of her grief after he died.

Wyman ran the only grain elevator in the area so he was able to provide quite well for a large family. Yet as she considered mixing her Lizzie and the twins—not to mention her opinionated mother-in-law—with the three rambunctious Brubaker boys, Vera, and toddler Alice Ann, Amanda wondered what she was getting herself into. Everyone seemed amiable enough now, but what if their good intentions went by the wayside once they were all together in one household?

Would they be one big happy family, as Abby had predicted? Or had she let herself in for more major changes than she could handle by agreeing to marry Wyman Brubaker?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Spotlight - Amanda Weds a Good Man by Naomi King

The Amish community of Cedar Creek is celebrating a wedding! When Amanda Lambright, widowed with three daughters, marries Wyman Brubaker, a widower with five children, she envisions joining their two households into one big happy family. But it isn’t quite that easy.... Amanda Lambright loves Wyman Brubaker, and after four years as a single mother, she is grateful for his support and for this new chance at happiness as his wife. She’s confident that their children will get along just fine. But once Amanda’s clan moves into Wyman’s home, the tight quarters and Wyman’s reluctance to make changes to accommodate Amanda cause friction. The older kids are squabbling. The little ones are frequently in tears. Tiny Alice Ann isn’t speaking at all. Amanda and Wyman can’t find any privacy. And Amanda wonders if she’ll ever have a chance to pursue the pottery making that means so much to her. Amanda believes that family lies at the center of any well-lived Amish life. Can she find the wisdom to guide the reluctant members of her new extended family toward the love that will bind them together?
Author: Naomi King
Publisher: New American Library Trade
November 2013 ISBN: 978-0451417879
Buy it HERE on Amazon
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Naomi King (a.k.a. Charlotte Hubbard) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest Post - Paul Stutzman Author of The Wanderers

I’ll shut up and listen

Amish novels have become quite popular with the reading public. Most writers of those novels are women. Why would a man even attempt to enter this crowded field? Either he doesn’t know his limits or he chooses to believe there are no limits. Perhaps in this instance ignorance really is bliss.

The impetus for my sticking a toe in the water....or, rather, my foot … okay, I actually jumped into the literary pool with fear and trembling because I believed I had something to offer from my male perspective.

My perspective has been shaped by being born into an Amish home and raised in a strict Conservative environment where the man is in charge. As an adult, I spent 25 years working in food service with a workforce that was 90% female. Throughout the years, I observed and interacted with these workers and reached my own conclusions on the feminine world. I now believe women really are in charge and are just letting us men think we are in charge to protect our fragile egos.

Early in my career I was a fixer—that’s what we men do. If something is broken, we fix it. Initially, that was my approach to any issue or problem an employee encountered. I still believe that’s a god approach (within reason), but it can quickly get one—a man—in trouble. Many women just want to be heard. Is that so hard? After many frustrating encounters I finally realized the magic of not only hearing but also listening. And the really good part was that I didn't have to fix anything. Just listen. I could hardly believe it was really that easy.

Over the years, I came to respect and admire the many talented ladies I hired, and I saw them as equals in the workforce. In the Amish community, women, although deeply respected by their counterparts, are relegated to the back seat during most decision-making. In my book The Wanderers, I chose to give the ladies equal or perhaps top billing. I took many life lessons learned during my restaurant career and incorporated them into my stories.

I also wanted to write a book that wove together enough adventure to entice male readers and enough emotion to keep ladies involved. The jury is still out on whether I succeeded. I promise to be quiet and listen while you give me the verdict.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review - The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman

An Amish Love Story About Hope and Finding Home

Everything in God’s nature, Johnny observed, did what it was created to do. Everything, that is, except the human race. Johnny was born into an Amish family, into a long line of farmers and good businessmen. He is expected to follow the traditions of family and church as he grows to adulthood. But even as a boy, he questions whether he can be satisfied with this lifestyle. He wants “more” — more education, more travel, more opportunity.

His restlessness leads him down a dangerous road where too much partying and drinking result in heartbreaking consequences. He’s adrift, and no one seems to be able to help him find his direction.

Then he meets spunky Annie, who seems pure and lovely and devoted to her God. Her past, though, holds sin and heartbreak. She was a worm, she explains, but God has transformed her into a butterfly. Johnny falls hopelessly in love; and eventually he, too, finds the power of God to transform lives. Settling down on the family farm, he forgets about the questions and the restlessness, thinking that he is happy and at home, at last.

But in a few short hours, tragedy changes his life forever, and he is again wondering… and wandering on a very long journey.

Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.
I love reading Amish fiction, in case you haven't noticed by my last few reviews. The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman was no exception. It was, however, incredibly different than the last two I'd had the pleasure of reading. While the novels by Charlotte Hubbard could stand alone, The Wanderers can not say the same.

The correlation between the Monarchs on the cover and the actual story line is introduced fairly early in the story. Surprisingly, though, it's brought back time and time again with such depth that it's actually a little sad at the end. Part of the story is even told from the point of view of the butterflies which was a fairly interesting twist.

Johnny is a wanderer. He doesn't know what he wants or where he wants to do it, he's just pretty certain that the Amish life isn't for him. At least not right away. He wants to be a cowboy and travel to the west with his friends. They have differing ideas, unfortunately, and he's soon left on his own fantasizing about traveling to places unknown. He's restless, and looking for pretty much anything to fill the void he thinks is in his heart.

Tragedy occurs when a large group of Amish teens get together at the quarry one night and the morning brings with it a fatality. It rocks poor Johnny down to his core. He's horrified and ashamed of himself and sad for what his new reputation must have done to his family. His family, however, never waivers in their love and affection for him, and quickly hatches a plan to hook him up with the new school teacher, Annie. But Annie is not without her own demons from the past. However, Johnny and his family quickly grow to love Annie and she returns in kind.

Johnny was kind of a complicated character for me. On the one hand, it was kind of irritating that here he was with a family that loved him and a profession that would set him up for life. On the other hand, he knew there was a world beyond his own that he'd never be able to see if he didn't do something considered drastic to the community he lived in. So I kind of had to admire him.

I absolutely adored Annie. She was so kind and at peace with herself. She never judged Johnny for his wrong doings and mistakes. And I love her explanation to him about the Caterpillars and the Monarch butterflies. She was an absolutely beautiful spirit and a wonderful addition to the story.

I loved that Johnny's family had such unconditional love for him. They accepted him and all of his faults and cared deeply about him. He was mischievous and a trouble maker but they understood him. Annie understood him. And they knew what he needed when he didn't even know himself.

The journey that he takes in this story is incredible. All of the people that he meets and their own stories that they tell to him definitely help to shape the person I feel he will ultimately become.

This book is not without it's downfalls.

I made the mistake of bringing it to read while I waited for my girls to be done with their Girl Scout meeting and ended up trying to make sure I didn't look like a big blubbering mess of ridiculousness. Absolutely heartbreaking in parts. Even in some places I wouldn't have even expected.

There are a lot of ups and downs and emotional bits all rolled in to The Wanderers. Luckily it is just the first in its series because it ended with a complete nail-biting cliffhanger and I NEED to know what happens next. I can only hope I won't have to wait too long to find out.

If you're a fan of Amish fiction, I'd recommend this story to you. If you like coming of age stories of any type, I'd recommend this for you. It's long, and a bit slow in some parts, but every bit of every chapter serves a purpose and you really shouldn't miss any of it. Like I said, I can't wait for the second installment.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Spotlight and First Chapter Reveal - The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman

Title: The Wanderers
Author: Paul Stutzman
Genre: Amish Fiction
Publisher: Carlisle Printing
Pages: 374
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984644911
ISBN-13: 978-0984644919
An Amish Love Story About Hope and Finding Home

Everything in God’s nature, Johnny observed, did what it was created to do. Everything, that is, except the human race. Johnny was born into an Amish family, into a long line of farmers and good businessmen. He is expected to follow the traditions of family and church as he grows to adulthood. But even as a boy, he questions whether he can be satisfied with this lifestyle. He wants “more” — more education, more travel, more opportunity.

His restlessness leads him down a dangerous road where too much partying and drinking result in heartbreaking consequences. He’s adrift, and no one seems to be able to help him find his direction.

Then he meets spunky Annie, who seems pure and lovely and devoted to her God. Her past, though, holds sin and heartbreak. She was a worm, she explains, but God has transformed her into a butterfly. Johnny falls hopelessly in love; and eventually he, too, finds the power of God to transform lives. Settling down on the family farm, he forgets about the questions and the restlessness, thinking that he is happy and at home, at last.

But in a few short hours, tragedy changes his life forever, and he is again wondering… and wandering on a very long journey.

Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.
Buy your copy at AMAZON.

Chapter 1:

I was ten when I had my first taste of beer. A late start, to be sure, but I was never bothered much by peer pressure. My friends had all sampled the stuff two or three years before, but I had felt no desire or need. There was only one reason I drank on that hot August day. I was thirsty.

Finished with my morning chores, I started across the hayfield with an armful of boards ripped from the old washhouse. Previous generations had scrubbed and soaked and steamed in the one-room shack in front of our farmhouse; my parents, though, had upgraded to a new kerosene washer, and now the women worked in the coolness under the long front porch. An old kettle still hung above the brick fire pit, but the washhouse sagged like a tired old work horse.

My dad had assigned me the task of dismantling the washhouse. That was fine with me; I had plans for that scrap lumber. I wanted to enlarge the deer stand at the edge of the distant woods. The stand was my hideout, where I spent countless hours contemplating life. It was a haven for my wondering mind, and I called it my institution of higher learning.

Eight years of school at Milford Elementary, in the little village several miles east of our farm, were not enough for me. While most Amish children were happy to be finished with formal education, I wept when I could not attend the local high school.

The English students sometimes mocked us Amish as backwards farmers, but I enjoyed school, excelled in sports, and had the gift of gab. Although I was known as something of a "charmer," I never liked the word. It's true, I could talk myself into or out of anything. You do have to make the most of whatever talents God's given you.

The school of higher education that I did attend was built in a stately oak that stood sentinel at the edge of our woods. Two gnarled branches cradled my hideout, ten feet off the ground, overlooking the fields that my family had owned for generations. Years ago, my grandfather had secured several boards across the limbs and nailed short slabs up the oak's trunk, a ladder ascending to the platform. Over time, the trunk swallowed up most of the rungs, but edges still protruded far enough for deer hunters to clamber up and lie in wait for the quarry.

My first hunt with my dad and my brother was also my last. Finally, I was deemed old enough to go hunting with the men. I climbed the ladder and settled into waiting, tense with excitement. Very soon, a doe came through the woods, paused at the spring to drink, then walked slowly down the side of the ravine. One shot echoed through the quiet morning. We scampered down the ladder rungs and approached the deer, lying bleeding on the hillside. It struggled to its feet, took another tumble, and lay still.

My excitement vanished. I felt only sadness and pangs of remorse. The doe's brown eye was open, staring at me, asking, "Why? What did I do to deserve this?"

Dad had a knife in his hands; I knew what must come next. Backtracking, I was violently sick behind a bush. I was not meant to be a hunter, and no one would ever shoot another deer from that stand if I had any say at all.

I did have my say. Well, my mom did. Although Dad was the authority and power in our house, Mom often held the reins. With tears streaming down my face, I unloaded my sad description of the dying deer. "We can't shoot them anymore. We just can't."

Soon the NO HUNTING signs were posted, and the woods, deer stand, and all of God's nature on our 120 acres were mine.

Well, perhaps not quite everything fell under my protection. Every year, we butchered a pig, a horrible sacrifice for the betterment of our family. My dad and brother would select the offering. I always wondered how the selection was made, but I never asked. They'd grab the unlucky swine by the hind legs, lift it over the fence, and carry it away as it squealed in terror. As the surviving porkers looked on in great relief, I'd run to the house, up the stairs, and cover my head with my pillow. I'd hear the shot anyway.

While my family processed the departed, I'd venture to the pig pen. I knew each hog by distinguishing marks; and, in dread, I checked to see who was missing. Spotty had survived. Curly was still here. Snort made the cut. We would be eating Limpy. A wild dog or coyote had wriggled through the board fence one night and taken a bite out of Limpy. Our German shepherd, Biff, had heard the commotion and chased the intruder away before he could get a second bite. On the day of Limpy’s demise, I reminded myself that I must take caution; I must never injure myself in any way that might cause my own lameness.

*** My usual route from the washhouse to the deer stand followed the cow path leading from the barn to the pasture field and traveled twice a day by our herd. On this day, the hay field between the house and the woods had been mowed and I took advantage of this shorter route. I might have chosen the hay field even if the route were longer; as a ten-year-old, I drank in the sensory gifts of summer: the aroma of new mown hay, the sweetness of warm strawberries, the smell of an August rain on dusty ground.

"Johnny, go get us some Stroh's!" my older brother Jonas called. He and his friend Jacob were in the field, making hay. Jacob had been recruited to help my brother today because Dad was on a lumber buying trip, and the clouds warned there would be rain by tomorrow. I dropped my boards reluctantly and retraced my steps back to the farmhouse.

My great-grandparents had built this house over a spring, and the cool waters flowed through the basement, filling a concrete trough where my mom stored crocks of butter, fresh milk and cream, eggs, watermelon, and any kind of dish she was preparing for the next meal. Those amber bottles of Stroh's were chilling in a corner of the trough just inside the door. I grabbed two by the necks and rushed back outside, leaving a wet trail of spring water.

The Stroh’s stash belonged to Jonas. Dad was bishop of our Amish church, and I had never seen him drink beer. As a church leader, he was very much aware that anything misused, misread, or mistaken could affect his reputation and influence in the community.

Jonas, on the other hand, had no such reputation to protect. Sixteen, he had recently concluded his formal education and he knew exactly where his future lay. He was not yet a member of the church, but he would join in a few years, get married, and settle down right here in our valley. He had big plans to take over the sawmill that my dad ran as a part-time operation. I was the younger of Dad's sons; my father's hope was that I would be farming the Miller family land someday.

"You thirsty?" Jonas handed his half-empty bottle to me. I was thirsty. But that first taste was not good.

Still, that swallow in the hay field meant that now I was one of the men. I may have been a Miller boy, but now I was a Stroh's man.

Yes, I admit, many bottles of Stroh's beer would find their way to the deer stand in the years to come. For a while, it was not only my thinking stand, it was my drinking stand. More of a beer stand than a deer stand. Stroh's beer would get me into so much trouble; but it would also lead to meeting Annie. And then, for a short time, I had it all. I was an Amish man living the dream.

Until it was all taken from me.

About the Author:

Paul Stutzman was born in Holmes County, Ohio in an Amish family. His family left the Amish lifestyle soon after Paul was born. They joined a strict Conservative Mennonite Church where Paul was raised to fear God and obey all the rules the church demanded. Paul continued to live among and mingle with his Amish friends and relatives his entire life. Paul married a Mennonite girl and remained in the Amish community working and raising a family. After Paul lost his wife to cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart- the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life-and can change yours too. After completing his trek Stutzman wrote Hiking Through—a book about this life changing journey.

In the summer of 2010 Stutzman again heeded the call for adventure and pedaled his bicycle 5,000 miles across America. He began his ride at the Northwest corner of Washington State and pedaled to Key West, Florida. On his journey across America he encounters people in all circumstances, from homelessness to rich abundance. The people he meets touch his life profoundly. Stutzman writes about these encounters in his book Biking Across America.

Recently Stutzman released his first novel entitled The Wanderers. The Wanderers is a story about Johnny, a young Amish boy growing up in a culture he is not sure he wants to embrace. A young Amish girl named Annie wins his heart and life is great for a time. Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.

In addition to writing, he speaks to groups about his hiking and biking experiences and the lessons learned during these adventures. Stutzman resides in Berlin, Ohio and can be contacted through his website at or

Stutzman resides in Berlin, Ohio and can be contacted through his website at or


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