July 21, 2017

Sons of Daviess…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:15 pm


Of wandering forever, and the earth again…For what?
For what? For the wilderness, the immense and lonely
land. For the unendurable hunger, the unbearable ache,
the incurable loneliness…For a million memories, ten
thousand sights and sounds and shapes and smells and
names of things that only we can know.

—Thomas Wolfe

I remember how it all came down. Right at nine years ago, I think it was. Not that long after my own world had exploded into dark skies of dust and ashes. And not long after I started writing. The news came trickling through the family grape vine. Joseph was not feeling well. My oldest brother. The Amish preacher. He was tired a lot. Something seemed to be wrong. And soon enough, another message came. There was something seriously wrong. He had a deadly blood disease. Multiple myeloma. It was a harsh and heavy thing.

He staggered with the blow. Took it pretty hard. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s tough, to face your own mortality. To see death lurking near, stalking close. And he grieved, as it all sank in. Wept quietly and intensely. He had just passed sixty. And he had so looked forward to settling in, when old age came. To take care of his wife, Iva Mae, who had dealt with her own health issues over the years. And now, now all those dreams were threatened. And he told his sons. If he could only last until seventy, that would be enough. It would be a tough slog. People with multiple myeloma usually hold on for a few years. It’s a semi-manageable disease. But nine or ten years would be a stretch.

Still. You can only do what you can do. He got up and washed his face. And turned determinedly forward. He would follow the doctor’s orders to the letter. He would fight for every day. As long as there was life, he would live it. This he purposed firmly in his heart.

It’s been a long journey since that moment, with plenty of hard, tough roads. The disease courses through his blood and saps his strength and weakens his bones. More than once, Joseph came very close to moving on. In November, 2015, as I walked up to the gates of death, well, we didn’t quite meet up with each other there. But we could have. At that very moment, Joseph was also in the hospital with pneumonia. He was barely hanging on. And it almost got him, before he pulled back. When my father was told that two of his sons were at death’s door, that they may not survive, he spoke in heaviness and sorrow. “I feel like Job, in the Bible. My sons are falling all around me.”

We made it back from the edge of the abyss. Both of us did. And now it is today. Joseph is still with us. He’s actually doing pretty well, considering everything. He takes care of himself. Rests a lot. He goes to Florida for the winter. He gets around in a little battery- powered cart. And perhaps most significantly, his seventieth birthday is approaching this winter. He hasn’t quite made it, yet. But the chances are looking pretty good that he will.

And a few months back, the word came from Joseph’s children, his sons and daughters. There would be a celebration. For their father’s seventieth birthday. It would be a few months early, in the summer, when it’s warm. The Yoder Reunion in Daviess is always on the third Saturday in July. The Joseph Wagler celebration would be the evening before, at his son David’s place in Worthington, Indiana. Just north of Daviess, where the Yoder Reunion was held last year. That way, you could come for the celebration on Friday night, and stay for the Reunion the next day. Or the other way around. It didn’t matter. Just come if you can. This will be a very special time for our father. That was the message from Joseph’s sons and daughters a few months back.

Well, I figured to go, back when the invitation came. And I didn’t think much about it as the date approached. And it snuck right up on me. The night before, I strolled into the Enterprise place in New Holland to pick up the car I had reserved. I whistled pleasantly to myself and smiled a secret little smile. I had reserved a compact car. But I had a coupon for a free upgrade in size. I fully figured to drive a Charger or some similar powerhouse car off the lot that evening. Maybe even a black Jeep. Who could tell, what surprises awaited me?

Sadly, things did not go well, right from the first moment. The young Enterprise man looked all harried as I walked up. I greeted him and told him my name. He punched at his iPad. Yes, he had a car for me. A compact. I have a coupon, I said brightly. Free size upgrade. He looked grim, as well as harried. “I have one car on the lot, and that’s the one I saved for you,” he said. My pleasant smile faded real quick, just like that. Ah, come on, I said. I have a coupon. It was no use. He rushed out to bring up the car.

I walked out. The car was a Hyundai Accent. A partial hybrid. It looked exactly like a little red jelly bean. I was just flat out horrified. Look, I said. I can’t go out to attend family events in a car like this. I’ll never hear the end of it. I got an image to protect. The young Enterprise man had lots of things on his mind, apparently. He wasn’t all that interested in any real solution. He told me I could call and stop at any Enterprise dealer, and they would switch me out. Now, go away. He didn’t say that, but he clearly thought it. I wasn’t very happy about any of it, but I squeezed myself into the red jelly bean and took off.

And then I frantically called all the local Enterprise places in the area. I have a compact car, I just picked it up. I have a coupon for a free size upgrade. Do you have anything for me? And every one of those places sang the same sad refrain. They had SUVs. They had pickups. But not a single place had a car I could upgrade to. At least that’s what everyone claimed. I grumbled savagely to myself. Enterprise, I have always been loyal to you. I’ve always written and spoken highly of you. Give me a break, here. If I have to drive a red jelly bean to Indiana, that’s going to make me a grumpy man.

Well, there was nothing else to do the next morning, except load up and hit the road. The jelly bean actually had interior space for my head. It was getting in that was hard. I could not do it without banging my head on the door frame every time. I merged warily into the flow of traffic on Rt. 30, then headed west on 283. The skies lurked in the west, looking sullen and angry. And sure enough, half an hour in, the heavens opened and the rain swept down in sheets. You could not see forty feet ahead. I slowed way down and just followed the tail lights of the car ahead of me. Huge tractor-trailers sloshed by, sweeping cascading waves that washed over the jelly bean like a flood. Around Harrisburg, the rain slowed. And the pavement gradually dried as me and the jelly bean skittered west on the toll road.

And on and on we went. In western Pennsylvania, the sun came out for the first time that day. The car didn’t have a lot of zip, I had to rev it up and slingshot around if I wanted to pass. Kind of like a Nascar driver, I thought. And by the time I reached the halfway point and stopped for fuel, I had figured out a couple of things. If the jelly bean had cruise control, I could not locate it. And the car apparently ran on nothing. I filled up the tank for $18.00, and kept pushing west. Through Ohio, into Indiana, then on through Indianapolis. Then about forty miles west, then south to Worthington, and my nephew David’s place. I pulled in right at six. Eleven hours on the road, riding alone.

The place still looked the same as it did last summer. Except the pond had been pushed in. I remembered David had posted about that. The pond was leaking, so he just got rid of it. Just as well, I guess. David and Barb have small children. No sense tempting the water gods. They are always lurking, looking for an easy sacrifice.

A good-sized crowd was already seated around a large camp fire. I pulled up behind the house to the shop. David’s older brother John met me there. I parked the jelly bean. John glanced at the little car, but refrained from snide comments, at least for the moment. We carried my bags into the shop. David really has that place fixed up. On the one end, there are four or five little rooms, completely self-contained. Complete with bed, a small bathroom and shower, and a tiny kitchenette. The air conditioner hummed from the window. Wow, this sure is nice, I said to John. We chatted as I hung up my shirts and washed up a bit. Then we walked out to the campground to mingle with the other guests.

John told me as we walked out. The whole gathering was a total surprise for Joseph. He and Iva planned to come and stay with Davids, then attend the Yoder Reunion in Daviess the next day. They arrived, and soon the guests started arriving, too. Joseph still wasn’t quite grasping what was going on, that a large event was about to come down in his honor.

We walked out to the large circle of people. Joseph and Iva were seated over close to the pavilion where the food would be served. The seats of honor, I guess. I walked up behind him and put my hand on his shoulder. He looked up. Surprised, I think, to see me. He’s looking pretty good. All gray haired, now. Which is no big deal, I got mostly gray hair, too. We chatted for a few minutes. I greeted Iva, too. She looked better than I’ve seen her in a long time. She lost over a hundred pounds. She took my hand and smiled and smiled. I glanced at the people seated around. Most were unfamiliar. Oh, well. Might as well do the Amish thing and walk around. So I did. Slowly made the circle, shaking each person’s hand. I wasn’t recognized by very many of them. Well, I’ve got gray hair, like I said. And a beard. And I’ve gained a few pounds. I ended up behind Joseph and Iva, seated in a lawn chair.


My sister Maggie and her husband Ray arrived, then. Me and Maggie were the only ones who made it of all the siblings, and from all the extended family. That’s just how things work, sometimes. I greeted my sister, and we hugged. I’m so glad you made it, I told her. She held me tighter.

Supper would be served soon. Grilled chicken by the master griller, Marcus Marner. Turned out we were waiting on a busload of Daviess people. They were running late. David had set up a speaker with a mic, and he started the festivities. All of Joseph’s children who were present were called up. Almost all of them made it. John, David, Reuben, Glen, Laura, Mary, and Samuel. Three were missing, I think.

I can’t recall the exact sequence of events, but at some point all of Iva’s siblings who were present and their spouses came and sang a song. The Monroe Hochstetler family. Monroe and Mary lived in Aylmer for a few years when I was a child. That’s where Joseph and Iva met. Some in that family I had not seen in many, many years. We reconnected that night, and the next day. Anyway, then all of the grandchildren who were present came up and sang songs to their grandpa and grandma. Glen’s wife, Luann, had coached them well. Their eager childish voices rang out. Joseph smiled and smiled.

David had called me that day on the road. And asked. Would I say a few words tonight, just before we eat? Something in honor of my brother. I felt dubious, but didn’t let on. Sure, I said. I’d be honored. If I was going to say a few words, I’m glad he told me when he did. That way, I would mull over things, and figure out what to say. My time with the mic would be brief. I don’t like long-winded speeches.

After the children sang, David spoke again. In the meantime, the bus had arrived from Daviess. A large crowd of friends and relatives emerged and lurked at the back around the edge of things. David introduced me. I walked up and took the mic. And I spoke a few words.

That day, on the road, I thought of a little incident between me and Joseph. Way back when I was eight or nine. I was saving up to buy a BB gun. Nickels, dimes, quarters, any kind of change I could hoard to reach that distant goal of ten bucks. And one day it was discovered. Joseph had a box of candy bars in his closet in his room. It was Titus, I think, who told me. “He’ll sell you one for ten cents.” So that evening, I approached Joseph, clutching a precious dime. Can I buy a candy bar? I asked shyly. Joseph smiled. “Yes. Yes, you may,” he said. I gave him my dime and he gave me a candy bar. A few days later, I went back for another candy bar, splurging another precious dime. And a few days after that, again. Joseph was always patient and kind. Somewhere along about the fourth time, he kindly suggested something. “Do you think if you keep buying candy bars, that you’ll ever get enough saved to buy that BB gun?” I don’t remember much else, but I remember those details.

And that’s what I spoke, there with the mic. And then I told Joseph I have always admired him in many ways. And I wished him health and happiness for many years to come. The whole thing took no more than a few minutes. After I was done, David called on my cousin, Thomas Schrock, to speak the prayer and blessing. Thomas took a minute in the prayer to thank the Lord for Joseph, that he was still with us. And then it was time to eat.

An enormous feast had been spread on the tables under the pavilion. Grilled chicken and all the fixings. I wandered about as the line formed for the food. Iva’s brother Sam Hochstetler walked up to chat a bit. “I read your book four times,” he told me. I was mildly astonished. Well, there must be something in those pages, if you got drawn back to read it four times, I told him. And I thanked him. There are a million other choices out there, when it comes to books. If you choose to read mine, I’m always grateful.

All right. Moving right along, then. Or this blog will get way too long. As I mentioned, a lot of people from Daviess showed up. John and David had invited many relatives and many of Joseph’s friends. One of the more notable things. Mary and Eva Sue Wagler, the spinster daughters of my late Uncle Noah and Aunt Fannie Wagler, were among those who came from Daviess. Those ladies had not crossed the border line out of Daviess County in more than thirty years. Until tonight. They came to honor Joseph. We all greeted them with joy and wonder.

And Aunt Sarah, Mom’s younger sister, held a seat of honor, too. After getting my food, I sat beside her at a table. We chatted. Sarah is as sharp as ever. She recognized me, even with my gray hair and beard. The Daviess people had fetched along three large tubs of homemade ice cream. Few desserts are more tasty than hot fresh cherry cobbler and homemade ice cream.

Celebration food

After supper, I just wandered here and there, visiting. Off to one side, my nephew John was holding an animated conversation with some Daviess people. I walked up and inserted myself. Turns out the Daviess guys were my cousins, from Dad’s side. Kenny Wagler and his brother Loren. The sons of Wallace (Wally) Wagler, the son of Dad’s late sister Magdalena and her late husband, Joe. I think I got that untangled right. Anyway, John and Kenny were deeply immersed in a discussion about Daviess blood and the Daviess people. My ears perked up. John introduced me. And we all sat around and talked.

Kenny knows a lot of people from a lot of places. His passion is genealogy. And I soon realized that I have only one other friend as knowledgeable about such things as Kenny was. My friend, Amos Smucker, the horse dentist, right here in Lancaster. He can give you names, dates, places, what blood crossed what blood, and family lineages that go back generations. He never gets tired of talking about any of it. Some day, I’m going to connect those two guys, and stand aside and listen.

When it comes to Daviess, there’s not much Kenny does not know. Daviess has the most concentrated blood in this country, he claimed. There are only four bloodlines, from which all the Daviess people come. Wagler. Graber. Knepp. And Lengacher. Every single person who was born in Daviess, or has parents who were, like I do, comes from those four surnames. That blood has crossed so many times that Daviess now has its own unique medical problems, just like Lancaster County does.

The Daviess people took off for home before too late. Before they left, John had made arrangements with Kenny and his father, Wally. Tomorrow afternoon we would drive down to Daviess and pick Kenny up. We would then go over to visit the Stoll graveyard, where many of my ancestors rest. That will be exciting, I told them both. I’m sure looking forward to it.

After the crowds had drifted on, we sat around the campfire, just the extended family. I caught up with my sister Maggie. Off to the side, David and half a dozen other people picked guitars and sang. And there was a harmonica in there, too. The setting was calm and peaceful, the kind of thing you remember for a long time.

Saturday morning. Breakfast would be around the campfire around nine. I showered and wandered out for coffee. John had a large black pot hanging over the open fire. I lifted the lid and peeked in. Sausage was simmering. There would be gravy. I looked at John suspiciously. Are you sure you know what you’re doing? John looked indignant. Of course. We sat around and drank coffee and munched on homemade Amish donuts. John soon added flour and milk to the sausage and stirred the whole mess with a great wooden spoon. I was impressed. I didn’t know the boy had it in him, to cook up a batch of gravy like that.

Campfire gravy

Reuben Wagler and his wife, Barbara, came from the house, then, carrying large pans of fresh biscuits and scrambled eggs. John carried the large black pot over and set it on the table. And we feasted on a good old country campfire breakfast. Crumple the biscuits on your plate, throw some scrambled eggs on the side, and cover the whole thing with rich thick sausage gravy. Spread ketchup liberally over the top, and you got some food seriously worth eating.

We lounged around then, just catching up. Soon after one, David brought his big new bruiser of a van around. We piled in, all the guys. David drove, I rode shotgun. John, Rueben, and Glen sat in the back. The rich southern Indiana corn fields flashed by as we approached it from the north, the land of my father’s blood.

Off onto a small gravel side road, then, to pick up Kenny. The Daviess Amish keep their places neat. Not freakishly clean, like the blue bloods of Lancaster do. But nice and kept up. We pulled in past the big shop where Kenny and his brother manufacture little sheds and barns. Kenny came bounding from the house in a few minutes, clutching a book of some kind. The Amish in Daviess County, Indiana, by Joseph Stoll, my cousin. “The most informative book ever written about Daviess,” Kenny claimed when I asked him about it.

We drove south on Montgomery Road, then east, past K&K Trusses. Then down a side road and over. And there it was, on the right. The Stoll cemetery. I had seen it before, but not for years.

We pulled up and parked just outside the ancient double gates. Metal framed with mesh wire. It was a beautiful, beautiful sunny day. A little over warm, even. I unhooked the chain, and we walked in. And I absorbed the breath and feel of that place. Here. Here they were buried, so many of my ancestors. Here was their final resting place. John S. Wagler, the original migrant from Canada. His sons, including Christian, who died by his own hand. A serious stain on the family name, that was. And Joseph K., my father’s father, who got overheated and died on the threshing wagon, unloading bundles onto the threshing machine. Waglers, Stolls, Grabers, Lengachers, Knepps, and a host of others. All of them slept here, on this hallowed slab of land.

graveyard gate

The night before, Kenny had told us a little story. Well, there were many stories. This was one. A long time ago, there was a certain man who lived in Daviess. Kenny spoke his name. Peter Wagler. The son of John S. Anyway, Peter decreed that he and his wife did not want their graves marked. No gravestones at all. He felt too humble to be remembered like that. I stared hard at Kenny, when he spoke the story. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, I said. I think it’s silly, for any man to say such a thing. You should never be ashamed of your identity. Kenny looked grieved. He thought Peter was very humble. Nah, I muttered to John. That was actually a form of pride, if you ask me. Peter was proudly humble.

The man wanted to be obscure and forgotten. So no gravestones were ever set above him and his wife. That of course assured that his story is told and retold today, just like Kenny told it to me. And those plots were among the first ones pointed out that day, out by the fence under a tree. “Here they are buried,” Kenny told us. “Peter and his wife.” And it struck me again how requesting an unmarked grave could well be and probably is a form of pride.

Soon after we arrived, Kenny’s father, Wally came striding over from his farm across the road from the graveyard. Wally carried the same book about Daviess history that Kenny had with him. So we had two copies to consult. Wally is the man who oversees the graveyard. Makes sure it is maintained and mowed. He lives right across the road. He’s been involved in that work for many years.

We wandered about. Here was my great grandfather, Christian Wagler. The man who shot himself in the head at age thirty-six. Wagler blood is brooding blood. And Christian carried the curse of that brooding blood to the ultimate conclusion. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I sure wish someone at the time would have taken the time to just simply write the details of Christian’s death. He was a deeply haunted man, that much is clear. Still. What was he like, in the last months? The last weeks? The last days? Who saw and heard him speak in his last hours? No one knows. All of it is lost, the journey of his tortured soul. And here is where they laid him down for the final time. Right here, on this spot.

Wally and Kenny led us here and there. Toward the back of the graveyard. We stood, and listened to them speak. Story after story flowed from them. There was one irritating factor. Directly beside the graveyard, and I mean right on the property line, there was a long, new building. Amish neighbors. The new building was a dog kennel. Little yapping dogs ran in and out of their exercise areas. Barking and barking and barking like demons. The incessant noise was beyond annoying. It was maddening. John and I grumbled pretty savagely at Wally and Kenny. Those dogs should NOT be right beside the graveyard like that. I mean, what are people thinking?

Reuben and Kenny had connected the night before, at the celebration. They both love genealogy. Reuben long ago subscribed to Ancestor.com. And as he and Kenny discussed a certain name on a certain gravestone, Reuben got out his smart phone and did some quick research. I saw him and Kenny hovering over the phone, discussing what they were seeing in lots of detail.

And over here, kind of toward the front, there was a nice new gravestone. Replacing an old worn one. And it connected, when I saw the name. Sarah Lengacher Wagler. My grandmother. Dad’s mom. She died in 1963. And I stood beside the grave and reflected that I had stood close to this spot before, way back when I was two years old. It’s one of my very earliest memories. Not standing right there. But attending Grandma’s funeral.

I don’t remember Dad’s mom as a person. I do remember seeing her lying in a coffin, wearing wire-rimmed glasses. And I remember the train trip to the funeral, from Aylmer to Daviess. We traveled through the night, and there was no water to drink. I cried and cried and begged Mom. I want water. She sliced an apple and gave that to me. It was the closest thing she had to offer as water. And now, here I stood, at the grave that was filled that day so long ago.

We had to be moving on. We had another stop to make, then the Yoder Reunion at five. Still. We walked around, stopping now and again to check out another gravestone and listen to another story from Wally or Kenny. Under an evergreen tree up close to the front, Kenny pointed it out. The gravestone of John S. Wagler, the original Wagler who migrated from Canada to Daviess. It was a tiny, nondescript stone. And Kenny told us a little tale.

When he was a young man, he talked to a 90-year-old woman in the Daviess community. She was still sharp, Kenny claimed. And she told him. When she was young, she saw and knew John S., the Wagler patriarch in Daviess. The original Wagler. She told Kenny. John S. was a small man. Shorter than his wife. It was all just astonishing to me. Here stood Kenny Wagler, my cousin. And he had connected with a woman who knew the original Wagler in Daviess. It’s just fascinating, to think about that.

We could have spent much more time there, seeing our ancestors. And listening to the stories. But we had another stop. The old home place, where Dad was raised. It was about four miles away, right around the corner from Parson’s School. I wanted to stop by the old home place, because of something I had heard was there that I had never seen before.

My brother Stephen told me, a few years back. He had stopped by. And out behind the barn, he had seen it. Way back, an addition had been attached to the original barn. And in the mortar between the blocks, Stephen told me, there were some initials scratched. The addition was attached to the old part of the barn back in 1933. When Dad was twelve years old. He and his brother Abner had scratched their initials in the mortar. It was all inside, all protected from the weather. And you could see it clear as day, Stephen claimed. And that’s what I wanted to see. My father’s initials that he scratched into the mortar between the blocks when he was twelve.

Wally made noises to walk back to his home, but we invited him to come along. We’ll bring you back. It’s not a problem. So he agreed, and got in the van with us. We cruised through the Daviess countryside, and pulled into the old home Joseph K. Wagler place. I had been here before, many times, but not for years.

My cousin Ray Wagler, who now owns the home place, ambled out to greet us. We had seen him the night before, at Joseph’s celebration, and we had told him we were stopping by. I guess we kind of invited ourselves. We all piled out of the van. And the first thing we talked about was the death of Joseph K., on that long-ago day when they were threshing. Wally and Kenny and Ray pointed out the spot in the barnyard where the threshing machine was set up. Joseph K. was working on the straw stack. He got real hot, and wanted to get down. He started walking to the house for some water. His youngest daughter, Rachel, met him in the yard. She was heading to the fields with water for the men working there. Joseph K. took a long drink of the water she had with her. She left. And Joseph K. got up onto the wagon beside the threshing machine, to help unload. Within minutes, he collapsed there on the bundles. His son-in-law, Peter Stoll, grabbed him as he slid off the wagon. He was carried to a little shed nearby. It was too late to do anything. He was gone. It was surreal, to stand on the spot where all of this had come down.

Ray then led us through the barnyard to the addition on the back. And there, in the mortar between the blocks, there they were, clear as the day they were scratched in, 84 years ago. My father’s initials. DW. And his brother, Abner’s. AW. And the date. 1933.

Dad's initials

It was time to wind down this part of the day. We loaded up, and headed out to take Kenny home. And I asked him. What’s the most common Amish surname in Daviess? He didn’t hesitate. “The most common blood is Knepp. But the most common surname is Wagler,” he said. “The Waglers had more male children, to carry on their name.” I marveled. Daviess has right at thirty church districts, if I remember right. And Daviess has to have the largest concentration of Waglers anywhere in the world.

I shook Kenny’s hand as he got out. Thanks for the time. This was a fascinating day. And then, back to Wally’s home. We dropped him off. He was telling stories pretty much right up until the time we pulled into his drive. We thanked him, too, for his time. Our Daviess cousins who we never knew. I mean, how does such a thing ever come to be? Better to connect late than never, I guess. It had been a very memorable afternoon.

And then, we drove over a few miles to the church where the Yoder Reunion was fixing to come down. Just before five, we pulled in. I saw many of the people I had met at last year’s Reunion. Aunt Sarah was there, smiling as always. And soon we were feasting on food that could only have come from Daviess County, Indiana. Their cooking is absolutely unique. It’s the food my mother raised us on. Some of the most delicious food in the world.

We left before it got late, then. The Yoders don’t usually hang around long, at their Reunions. By nine, we were back at David’s home in Worthington. With Joseph and Iva, and all their children who made it. And Maggie and Ray. And me. We sat around the campfire and talked. I could feel the tiredness sapping into my bones. I headed for my room and bed by eleven. Tomorrow, the jelly bean and I had a long drive ahead of us.

I slept fitfully that night. Tossed and turned a good bit. The alarm rang right after six. I groaned. I don’t feel like getting up. But I did. No one else was stirring, after I got cleaned up and loaded my car. No one else but one man.

It was my brother, Joseph. I had told him I would leave around seven. And he was out there, puttering around in his little battery-powered cart. Waiting for me. After I got loaded and was pulling out, I stopped close to where he was. He pulled up to my driver’s side window. We faced each other in the fresh morning dew.

He held out his hand. I reached out and grasped it. He thanked me again for making the long trip. Eleven hours. Stay one day. Then eleven hours back. He was still coming to grips with the fact that all those people had assembled on Friday night, just for him. I wanted to come, I told him. I wanted to be here. We chatted for a few minutes. And then it was time to leave.

I pulled out of the drive and pointed my car north, to the interstate, then east. Home is where the heart is. And I was heading home. But now and then, the heart will roam far and free to hang out with family for one day.



  1. Excellent blog, Ira. Thanks for coming, and thanks for writing it down. We all appreciated it (I’m sure Dad can’t wait to get his hands on a printed copy).

    Comment by Reuben — July 21, 2017 @ 6:52 pm

  2. This was long, but well worth reading and I hoped it would be longer. (I took a dinner break though, meatloaf & mashed potatoes with beef gravy, and fried summer squash & onions) Then I got back to reading. once more you took us all on a road trip back to visit with your family and we all had a great time. (except for those noisy dogs)

    Comment by carol ellmore — July 21, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

  3. Beautifully composed and preserved for future generations. A heartfelt thanks from the Joseph W family for you showing up and adding a special touch to Dad’s party.

    The afternoon with Kenny and Wally was indeed a rare glimpse back into the lives of our southern IN ancestry. The dogs do need to go.

    Comment by John Wagler — July 21, 2017 @ 7:59 pm

  4. Well written as always. I’m intrigued how you relate to your family and how they relate to you. I’m former Amish, and my extended family can still be harsh. Side note. Monroe Hochstetler. I know him well. He’s my mom’s uncle. I have a lot of good friends in Worthington. Hopefully one day I will get to meet you.

    Comment by Kenneth Schlabach — July 21, 2017 @ 10:10 pm

  5. I am tired tonight, but I had to read your blog. I took a mental trip back in time with you and met some of your kinfolks. It was a lovely trip.
    God Bless you.


    Comment by Linda Morris — July 21, 2017 @ 11:14 pm

  6. Dear Ira,
    Thanks for another enjoyable story. I have been reading the word Daviess in your writing forever, but I have no idea how it is pronounced. I’ve been too shy to ask a silly question, but now it’s driving me crazy. In my head i pronounce it Dah-vee- s. How far off am I? Thanks, Susan

    Ira’s response: It’s pronounced the same as Davis.

    Comment by Susan C — July 21, 2017 @ 11:35 pm

  7. This was a great story,Ira. Well worth my time! You bring things to life with your writing. Thank you!

    Comment by Joe Mast — July 22, 2017 @ 12:02 am

  8. Mr Wagler, you crack me up. “I have a coupon.” I hope I never see the day you write about asking for the jelly bean. Means gas prices have gone to orbit.

    Comment by lisa — July 22, 2017 @ 12:19 am

  9. Great blog. I thought of many comments, but one genealogy thought: My wife’s great grandmother died and grandpa remarried to a widow named Veronica Stuckey Overholt. Veronica’s daughter, Catherine, married Joe Wagler and Caroline married Dan Witmer, who moved to Hartville. Great grandpa Elias Gingerich is buried in the Stoll Cemetery.

    Comment by John Schmid — July 22, 2017 @ 7:14 am

  10. I read this blog in its entirety. Very interesting, Ira. I was born and raised (Amish) in Daviess and still live there today so I was riding right along with you and Kenny. Who is an Amish minister, by the way. He’s a very admirable guy. I have a story about him but that will have to wait until another day. My dad, who was a Lengacher, is buried in that Stoll cemetery. Marcus Marner, the master griller, is my cousin. Small world. Maybe I’ll get to meet you some day.

    Comment by Jean — July 22, 2017 @ 10:38 am

  11. A beautiful post. We knew a man named Hugh Gingrich who worked for years on a book on Amish genealogy. I wonder if that book is still around.

    Comment by forsythia — July 24, 2017 @ 7:49 am

  12. I answered my own question. I Googled Hugh’s name ( I misspelled it. It’s Gingerich.) and found out that his book is still in print. It costs $90, so that probably limits its circulation. Hugh told me that the old scripts were difficult to decipher when he was doing his research. The nicknames for Margaret and Rebecca looked similar in the old writing: Peggy vs. Becky. He also told me of a case in which an Amish woman named “Dorcas” was able to take the name of “Tabitha” because the Bible (Book of Acts”) referred to “Dorcas, also known as Tabitha.” Hugh’s wife, who was not Amish, marveled that when they visited his relatives in Kansas, “they swept the kitchen floor every day, whether it needed it or not.” He had a co-author,a Rachel W. Kreider. Her surname is interesting to me because my grandparents were born in a crossroads called “Crider’s Corners” in Cranberry Township in western PA. “Crider” is probably an English spelling of “Kreider.” And now I’ll shut up.

    Comment by forsythia — July 24, 2017 @ 8:06 am

  13. Very good read. Brought to mind a large flat rock that my dad’s cousin found under his dad’s house. Seems it was higher off the ground in the back and kids used to play underneath. The rock has my dad’s initials scraped in it, when Daddy was about eight years old, he thinks. That would have been 1934. That rock is priceless to me.

    Comment by Tammy — July 24, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

  14. Oh my goodness!!!! How I look forward to your wonderful blog, you are an amazing writer, and I love your stories. G.

    Comment by Georgia — July 25, 2017 @ 11:45 am

  15. The pictures really capture the essence of the reunion.The large crowd of people,all related in some way,eating all that good food ,fixed in the way only this culture can do it.Catching up, visiting with people that perhaps one only sees at a family get-together like this.And knowing that by the next gathering ,perhaps some of the older ones won’t be there.Thats the way mine was this past July.Held every two years at my Amish sis and husband’s back in the flat land,it brings out a few hundred people from Mom’s side of the family.And it’s in the big shop,next to the small pond.A diving board and platform on one side to meet the end of the zip line that starts on the other side of the pond,which is where a tiny sandy beach is.A rustic equipment house holds water toys to go with a couple of paddle boats.The water side pavilion has a fancy popcorn machine along with lots of seating.Its sort of a Disney Land for the little ones.And its fun to watch them play. I got to visit with some of my nieces and nephews who are all grown up,with kids of their own.It was great and made me realize what it’s all about, especially since I moved away so many years ago and was out of their lives pretty much.Now the nephew who left the fold and is in a Bible college in Colorado Springs and I have a plan.At Thanksgiving I drive from Phoenix to pick him up.We do a dash across the upper Midwest to the flat land.A rental car.Two days.Two thousand miles.A real road trip.The feast at my younger brothers place.Thats what part of being family is..at least for me..thanks,Ira,…peace to all..

    Comment by lenny — August 11, 2017 @ 10:47 am

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