December 2, 2011

Return to Bloomfield…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:42 pm


There is the bridge we crossed…and the creek. There is a field
of wheat, a hedge, a dusty road, an apple orchard, and the
sweet wild tangle of a wood upon a hill…And there is six o’clock
across the fields again…We shall not come again, we never
shall come back again…

—Thomas Wolfe

It had the makings of a classic gathering from the moment the plan was conceived. The younger elements of the clan, all my nephews and nieces and their families, were invited back to Bloomfield for Thanksgiving.

My nephew, John Wagler, lives a few miles north of Bloomfield, with his wife Dorothy and their children. John left the Amish church years ago, but did what I could not do. He remained in the area. Nurtured the construction business he had launched as a young Amish man, kept it going. And developed it into the primary metal roofing business in the tri-state area. He met and married Dorothy (or Dort, as she is known), and planted roots just outside the fringes of the area where he was raised. Bought a farm and built a fine log home. All outside the fold of the Bloomfield Amish church structure.

Months ago, he emailed me. He was inviting all his cousins, all my nieces and nephews, to his home for Thanksgiving. Would I consider attending as well? Of course, I said yes. My brother Nathan lives in the area and works for John. So a couple of the uncles would be there as well, to celebrate with their kin. And to keep the younger guys, our nephews, straightened out.

I had to return to Bloomfield sometime, I knew. At some point, after the book was out. I had to return. Just to see the land again, the community that now seems so strange and foreign, and those few of my old friends who remained.

And it wasn’t long after the date was set that John and Nathan were making noises about having a book signing in Bloomfield. It would work, they claimed. The English people would come. Maybe not the Amish, but the English would. I thought about it. It should work. Then John texted me the number to the Get-Togather Room, an old store front on the north side of the town square that had been converted to a community place. One could rent it, John said. I called the number and spoke to Pam, the nice lady who takes care of the scheduling. Yes, she said. The Room was available around Thanksgiving. The cost would be $35.00 for three hours. So I got it scheduled, then rescheduled to Friday afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving. From noon to 3 PM.

And then I put the whole thing on the back burner. Didn’t think about it much. The time would come when it came. As it did, soon enough. I had half a case of books at home. I ordered two more for the trip. A total of around 93 copies. That should be enough for any book signing.

I planned to start out on Sunday, before Thanksgiving. Meander my way west past Indianapolis, stop for the night, then cruise on in to Bloomfield on Monday. When I went to Enterprise to pick up my rental car on Saturday morning, the nice lady kindly mentioned that she had a couple of new Dodge Chargers on the lot for just a few bucks more than the compact model I had reserved. My choice of colors. Black or cool-orange. My ears perked up. Dodge Charger. I’ll take the orange one. The nice lady seemed pleased.

She brought it up to the front, and it was one cool car. A mean-looking powerhouse rum-runner’s wheels. I practically drooled. This would be a good trip. I wouldn’t be running moonshine, though. I’d be running books.

The Book-runner.

For an 8-day road trip, I pack a lot. Throw everything I might remotely need into a large red suitcase and a couple of duffle bags. That night, I began packing the Charger. Lugged out my cases of books. The cool glossy sign of my book cover. And the next morning, by 8:00 or so, I was pulsing down the road in one of the coolest cars I’ve ever driven. Unbelievable power. And unbelievable fuel mileage. On that trip, I averaged better than 30 mpg. The fuel gauge didn’t go down, hardly. It just sat there, unmoving.

Bloomfield has a brand new two-story motel. A national chain, no less. Cobblestone Inn and Suites. I don’t know why anyone would have built such a thing in that town, but there it was. And John had negotiated some reduced rates for the “Wagler group.” By Monday afternoon, I was unpacked and settled in a clean new room with a king-sized bed.

Out then, for the evening at John’s house, halfway up to Ottumwa. The boy (to an uncle, a nephew is always a “boy”) has done well for himself. Very well. Some years ago, he built a big beautiful log home on his wooded farm, toward the center. And lately he’s added a big new wing off to one side, with a tower out the top. A garage below, bedrooms on the second floor, then the tower. The view from the tower is breathtaking. I’m thinking John might be “hunting” deer from the warm comfort of his own house in the not too distant future.

A few guests had already trickled in, John’s siblings. More would arrive Tuesday. And the rush would come Wednesday. I hung out that night at the house, chatting with John and his brother Glen, and their brother-in-law, Josh. Nathan had slipped off to the Des Moines airport to pick up his girlfriend Juanita, a lovely lady he met a few years ago in Canada. They arrived around 9, welcomed by clamorous shouts.

On Tuesday, I putzed around. Nathan and I drove out to see Titus. He was in the office of his truss factory, Midwest Truss, stressed and busy. For the first time in their history, they are running behind in filling orders. Which is a good thing, to have all that work. Titus manages the place, and logs a full day of work every day. Better that way than sitting around, twiddling your thumbs. Better too busy than too slow.

That afternoon, I stopped by the offices of the local weekly paper. The Bloomfield Democrat. There, I met Scott Spurgeon and his father Gary. The local press. The week before, Scott and I had talked on the phone for about an hour. He had read the book, and promised to do a write-up on it. He would announce my Friday book-signing to the Bloomfield world. To both the English and the Amish.

The new edition of the paper arrived at Scott’s office around 4:30. He beamed as he handed me a copy. And there it was, on the front page, top left corner. The first spot that catches your eye. “Growing Up Amish” author will hold book signing. Scott had kept his promise. The article was informative, well written, and accurate. I couldn’t have asked for better publicity. I bought ten copies, thanked him profusely, and left. That night I hung out at John’s home with the ever growing crowd of guests.

On Wednesday morning, I drove to West Grove to see Mrs. C, the lady who ran Chuck’s Café decades ago. The café is gone now, leveled back sometime in the 1990s. But their home is still there, the same place where I used to watch a bit of football, now and then, as a young Amish man. Mrs. C, now 80 years old, but looking much younger, welcomed me with a big hug. She beamed and beamed. She had read the book, and seemed very proud that she and her family played an important role in it.

With Mrs. C and her daughter, Linda Clark.

And then I headed on out on the gravel road to the old home place. The farm two miles north of West Grove. My nephews Glen and Mervin, and their brother-in-law, Jason Stutzman awaited me. They had agreed to walk back with me to the northern pasture where I had buried the Stud. To visit his grave with me.

The old rickety wooden bridge that spanned the Fox River is gone now, too. Washed away, many years ago. In its place, a brand new modern concrete bridge. They even changed the curve of the road; it now sweeps way north and slices into the rich black bottom fields I used to plow.

The mud-spattered Dodge muttered and bumped along the rutted lane as I approached the old homestead. A tattered cluster of buildings nestled into the hills. The place has been crumpling for decades. It was far from a tidy operation back when I farmed. But compared to its current condition, it was pretty much picture perfect back then, neat as a pin. Some Amish man and his family from Wisconsin bought the place and moved in six or eight years ago. The guy apparently has an issue with simple maintenance. Might be against his religion, or something. Seems like a shame, but it’s his place now, and he can do what he wants.

Approaching the “tattered cluster.”

The old house is in bad shape.

The old washhouse, where Mom was working when Nathan walked out and left.

Few emotions surfaced as I approached the tattered buildings. Those were all pretty much burned out of me last year when I immersed myself and went “way deep down” to relive the scenes so I could write them for the book.

I thought I remembered the draw where the Stud was buried, and Glen claimed he could lead me to the spot. We set out, tramping up the old lane to the north, navigating a number of single-strand electric fences that somehow had sprouted in haphazard and completely random patterns through the fields. Around the first draw, then down to the dry creek at the bottom of the hill, dodging the wicked electric wires. And then Glen walked right up to it. The post I sank beside my horse as the sun went down on that long ago night.

It leaned dangerously, right over the Stud’s body. Weathered with age, the top covered with moss, a few raggedy remnants of his halter still clinging to the top. And there I stood, on that spot, where I had buried my horse twenty-five years ago.

On the way back, we walked over to the old pond. Where we used to play hockey on the cold winter nights, way back. Where Sarah and I sat on the bank, where she wove that ring. I stood at the spot where we sat. The pond is a mud hole now, and no grass grows on the banks that produced the woven ring all those years ago. The ring that I still have today.

The spot where we sat.

The woven ring.

John had cooked up a huge pork feast for that evening, but Nathan, Juanita and I headed out for a meal with Titus and Ruth. And their boys, Robert and Thomas. They all welcomed us. Ruth bustled about, preparing a large pot of milk-based bean soup. The same recipe Mom used, way back. Laced with bacon, bits of greens like celery. It smelled simply mouth-watering, and, smothered in corn bread and covered with ketchup, it tasted even better. Exactly as I remembered it.

We later joined the huge crowd at John’s house. They could not all make it, his cousins, but a good many did. From all over. Canada. Indiana. Missouri. Kansas. Minnesota. And maybe a few other places I’m missing. My sister Rhoda and her husband Marvin even showed up that night, with their children. I had not seen them since the book was published. We greeted each other joyfully. It was a loud, boisterous crowd.

Thanksgiving Day arrived, and it was all it could have been. A great many people from diverse places, from various degrees of “plainness” to flat-out “English” like myself, all assembled in peace. Around sixty people, total. And children, children everywhere. This is how it should be, how it should have always been. This was my family. My blood. Eating, feasting and enjoying the company of each other.

After the Thanksgiving feast, the group photo.

John had set up a vast U of tables in his new garage. There was smoked turkey. All the fixings. And some of the finest pies I’ve ever tasted. Including my old favorite, raisin cream. The Lancaster people, those of shoo-fly fame, could learn a thing or two about pies from the Midwest Amish. The garage echoed with the clamor of our feast. And of our joy. That afternoon, people relaxed. A van load of us, including John and Marvin and Rhoda, took a tour of the old Bloomfield community. Somehow we ended up at our old home place again. It was probably the first time Marvin and I stood together on that soil since the days we farmed it long ago.

The day passed at hyper speed, as all such days do. I went to bed late that night, slightly stressed about my book signing the next day. Would many people show up?

The next morning at 9:30, Nathan, Juanita, my nephew Reuben Wagler and I met at the Get-Togather Room. Surveyed the situation. A smaller room up front, where we would set up the table with the books. And a much larger room in back. And in the back storage room, a host of tables and chairs. We set up tables in the back, for people to sit and visit. And my book table up front, decked with a tablecloth I borrowed from the very kind lady who operated the flower shop a few doors west. I lugged in my books. Two-plus cases. A total of 91 copies (from the original 93, I had given Scott Spurgeon and one of his workers a copy each). Set them up. I then ran out to buy some incidental stuff I needed while the others raced back home to fetch a large coffee urn and Styrofoam cups. They had decided we needed coffee for my readers.

We were all back and settled in and set up by 11:45. Five minutes later two ladies strolled in. They were the first. From that point on, for the next 90 minutes, the little front room was crammed with people. Some brought their own copies for me to sign. Most wanted to buy a signed copy. Nathan sat beside me at the table and took the cash and made change. I smiled and signed books and thanked each person for showing up. It was all very intense and it was all very good. The stuff memories are made of.

The rush is on.

I had rented the Get-Togather Room for three hours. The minutes rolled by, then an hour. People came and some hung around and some left. All clutching books they had purchased, books I had signed. In the back room and behind the old counter to the right, my nephews and nieces milled about, talking, drinking coffee, visiting, absorbing it all. And chatting with those who hung around for a while. Scott Spurgeon, the news guy, lurked about with his camera, taking pictures for a follow-up article in his newspaper. It was a bustling, flowing scene, and I could catch only snippets of it, because I was too busy signing books and chatting briefly with those who had come to see me.

The crowds kept pressing in, and grabbing my books at an alarming rate. And right at the 90-minute mark, halfway through, the last book was sold and gone. Every box was empty, the table was bare. This was truly a remarkable and unprecedented thing. At least for me, it was. I had not expected such a turnout.

But there was a backup plan. I dug into my briefcase and got out a batch of promotional cards Tyndale had printed up for previous signings. With many profuse apologies, I signed and gave out those cards and told people to please purchase the book locally. At Wal Mart in Ottumwa. Which is chronically out of my books, from all the tales I heard. And the Welcome Center in Bloomfield stocked it, too. Try there. Most people took it in stride. One or two, though, were visibly disappointed and upset. Stalked out silently. What could I say? Who could have seen this coming? I was hugely mortified. A big book signing, right in my old home town. Bloomfield. And I had run out of books, for crying out loud. I would have been upset, too. Inexcusable.

But it was what it was. I greeted each new customer with a smile and many apologies, and signed and handed out the promotional cards.

I always keep a tally of books signed at every event. As three o’clock rolled around, I totaled the tally. I had signed 135 books. And 42 promotional cards. By far the most autographs I had ever signed at any previous event. By far.

Many of the old timers who used to hang out at Chuck’s Café have passed on. They were old back then, and the years have taken their toll. But some remain. And a good many of them showed up. I don’t know who was the proudest. Me or them. Probably me.

Of the old-timers I used to hang out with, Chuck Leonard showed up. The man of Chuck’s Café fame. And his daughters, Linda and Margie. And even Bill Gibson walked in, the man who ran the old feed store in West Grove, way back. I didn’t recognize him until I heard him speak. I proudly signed his book.

With Chuck Leonard, of Chuck’s Cafe

And one other important character from my past walked in. DeWayne Cason, and his wife, Debbie. Debbie arrived first, with her daughter, Amy, and Amy’s husband. I greeted them, and practically demanded to see DeWayne. Debbie made some calls. Assured me that he was coming shortly. And soon enough, he walked in. The man who had dropped me off at the Ottumwa bus station, the first time I left home at seventeen. We hugged. And picked up right where we had left off, with our bantering chatter, almost thirty years ago. It was a very special moment among a host of special moments.

With DeWayne and Debbie Cason.

Ed Yoder, too, drifted in with his family. A good friend that I have not seen for decades. Actually, we became good friends through this blog and on Facebook. The last time I remember seeing Ed, I was holding him upside down in our barn after church one Sunday. He was an exceptionally mean little kid. And he was messing around in our milking barn that Sunday after church, doing some sort of mischief that I no longer remember. So I grabbed him and held him upside down and scolded him severely. We both laugh about it now. Ed, as an ex-Amish guy who fled Bloomfield at age 16, traveled the long ragged path so similar to my own. Took off on a few side trails that I somehow avoided. Today he is settled in Illinois, with his lovely wife and children. It was good to meet him after all those years, and to reminisce together about the old days in Bloomfield. Unfortunately, the one lone photo of us together did not turn out well, so there is no visual evidence of my claims.

And right at 3 PM, we wrapped it up. Cleaned up the place. It was over. My Bloomfield book signing. A smashing success. I felt exhausted. And exhilerated. Mostly, anyway.

Often, a writer is given no honor in his home town, at least not from the people about whom he wrote. And that was certainly the case for me in this return. Not a single Amish person from the Bloomfield community came to the signing. Not one. Which wasn’t that surprising, really. The Bloomfield Amish are hunkered down. In denial. That was their choice, not to come. And that’s fine. They are free to act as they see fit. But their absence also speaks strongly about their reactions to the book.

It shouldn’t bug me. I know. The rejection apparent in their collective reaction. But it does, some. I’ll admit that freely. I guess I’m so far removed from their world that I no longer can grasp what it’s really like. At least not in any rational sense.

History, I believe, will judge my book kindly. As one of the first, if not the first, honest stories from someone who had emerged from inside the Amish culture that was ever picked up and published by a major player like Tyndale. The story was honestly told. And respectfully told, without bitterness. At least, I tried hard to make it so.

But that, of course, was not enough. It never is.

Always, there is the manufacture of offense. Always, the obstinate refusal to look honestly into the mirror. Always, the cultural flaws, the human failures of the past are ignored as if they never happened. And heaven help the one who remembers and speaks of them to the world.

I’d like to shake them, the Bloomfield Amish. (And the Aylmer Amish, too, come to think of it.) Shout in their faces. But I won’t shake them. I won’t shout in their faces, either, at least not literally. I’ll speak to them on this blog, though. And I have a few things to say.

The book should not be feared. It’s simply my story, from what I saw and felt and experienced. From my perspective. I have never claimed it to be anything other than that. Everyone’s journey is different. This was mine.

In your hearts, you know that I held back on a whole lot of hurtful stuff. Prurient stuff. Embarrassing stuff. And even some really bad stuff. I really did hold back. Because the really bad stuff was never a part of my own experience. Because I respect the good things in the culture, the good things that are so much a part of who the Amish really are. I always will respect those good things. And deeply admire them as the rare qualities they are.

Stop. Focus on what I just said. Just this once, instead of honing in like a laser on all my perceived offenses. Try it. Try being honest. You will experience vast new dimensions of freedom such as you have never known.

The book is what it is. And it will be what it will be, in the future.

I sprinkled a lot of pictures, or photos, on this blog. Far more than I normally do. They show the actual spots where things came down, and some of the actual people that were in my world way back in my Amish days in Bloomfield. And one might ask, as some have. Why weren’t those photos included in the book? A valid question. But I think back to something my father told me years ago, when I was grumbling to him about the fact that the Amish have no pictures of their people, or of their past.

“You don’t need pictures, not if your writing’s good,” he said. “The words paint the pictures for the reader.”

I’ve thought about his words many times since he spoke them. And what he said is true, at least to some extent. I won’t say never, but I don’t think you will ever see any pictures of places or people in any books I might write in the future. The words will produce those in your mind. This blog is the proper place for real pictures, to reinforce the mental images you have already formed.

And that, pictures and all, was my return to Bloomfield. A journey I will always remember fondly in my heart. Wildly successful in many meaningful ways, an utter failure in others. I don’t know when I’ll make it back again. I don’t expect to ever see the old house on the homestead again. Word is that the guy from Wisconsin who now lives there is making noises about tearing it down and building a new one. I don’t blame him. The house is literally falling apart. In some of the more populated areas of the country, like Lancaster County, it would be condemned as uninhabitable. And to be truthful, most if not all of the buildings on that farm should be bulldozed. Just leveled out. That’s how dilapidated they are. The deterioration has reached a point that is painful to see.

Next time I come around to the old home farm, it will no longer be the place I have known. The place I left so many times, the place that drew me back like a magnet again and again. That place is gone. Just….gone. It’s hard to grasp. The end of one era has passed. Another has begun.

The tides of time roll on, the seasons and the years. As they always have, and always will. Absorbing the new generations, the new blood that rises to replace that which was before. But the land remains, silent and enduring, until the end of time. And it will always harbor in its soil the remnants of memories of long ago. Memories of all those who settled upon it, and the woven tapestries of their lives. Even if they lingered there for only the briefest of moments in the long slog of the human march through time and history.

The memories remain, rooted in the land. Memories that will all too soon be lost, in the dark fog of time and history. Unless someone writes them.



  1. It was a special time, the whole weekend. I too wandered across the old home place. The house is in sad shape, but the basement smells exactly like it did all those years ago.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — December 2, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

  2. I like the way you write, Ira; Fabulous!!! You put me there with your words, and I need that in a writer. When I read a book or a writing, I want to visualize and hear what the person is saying. I see and hear you, Ira.

    Oh, by the way, I’m not pumping you up without justification; You deserve it!!! I cannot say anymore; Perhaps in the very near future, I can express myself better….

    …..Will be contacting you in the very near future.

    Comment by Deborah A Cataldi Barnhardt — December 2, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

  3. WOW is all I know to say, so happy for you and the huge success in returning to Bloomfield. Thank you for sharing the pictures on here, but I do know your way with words would have given a vivid picture alone. God has given you great writing skills. Blessings as you continue to use them. Steve

    Comment by Steve Beiler — December 2, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

  4. Your writing moves me to tears; in your book, you paint such a vivid picture of the grave, the house, the pond, they are so similar to how I pictured them in my mind, except I viewed the grave to be on a slight hill and not in the middle of woods. It was a wretched scene in my mind, sad, somber and just horrid.

    Nevertheless, you are one gifted sonofagun, Ira, and I’ll bet you a pizza that a few copies are being circulated and read by the kerosene lamp and discussed in hushed whispers amongst the Bloomfield Amish. So happy you had a delectable Thanksgiving and spent some cherished days with family.

    Comment by The pizzalady — December 2, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

  5. I was hoping that at least a few brave souls from the Bloomfield Amish would drop in for the book signing.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — December 2, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  6. you forgot to mention the the time spent on thursday evening watching the football game with the nephews, oh thats right you were rooting for the dolphins

    Comment by andrew — December 3, 2011 @ 12:41 am

  7. I was drawn to your book as it sat in a display section of the Deschutes County Oregon library and am so thankful it was there. While reading I’ve found myself holding you close in prayer….and wanting that young boy/man to know he is loved beyond measure. Struggling is part of life for all of us in one way or another. Hope and Grace and Love save us.

    While googling Bloomfield I happened upon your blog. Your post about Thanksgiving brought a few tears. Reconnecting with our roots can be painful and healing. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Marcia Houston a.k.a. an Oregonian from Iowa

    Comment by Marcia Houston — December 3, 2011 @ 1:13 am

  8. Well done Ira- I’m sad I missed Thanksgiving! Maybe next year but at least it is well documented!

    Comment by Janice — December 3, 2011 @ 1:15 am

  9. Ira, what a ride! And I’m not only referring to the cool car. Rather, the literal walk down Memory Lane, complete with persons of interest and flavors from the past. Thanks for sharing so candidly. Many of us would have contemplated the many feelings and emotions involved, unsure of sorting them all out, let alone expressing them to the general public. You do it exceptionally well. Thanks for practically taking us along for the experience.

    Comment by Rhoda — December 3, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  10. Great blog, Ira! (Great little sermon, too!) And what your dad said is true: words paint a picture. Another truth: pictures illuminate a lot of words. When I saw the picture of the pond, the wash house and then the picture of Stud’s grave (with the rotted harness still hanging on the post, no less!) I thought, “Wow, I know those places! This man is telling the truth!” The picture clarified and validated what I had read. I don’t know how I could have given your book a higher review than I did, but with pictures, I’d figure out a way.

    Comment by John Schmid — December 3, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  11. Hi Ira,

    I would have loved to be at the Thanksgiving and almost certainly would have been but Poland is just not quite in that neighborhood, unfortunately. I agree very much with Grandpa’s statement about letting your words paint the pictures. Cameras, films, etc. are the enemy of creative writing. But I say you’re keeping the skill alive. Cheers, Gideon

    PS I think I could get you set up to sign books in Poland, should you have any interest in that regard. Surely Europe is on your bucket list?

    Comment by Gideon Yutzy — December 3, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  12. Such a great trip for you – a lot of emotions were involved I’m sure. I bet after driving around and seeing it all again, you could’ve written 5 more chapters at least, right off the top of your head. What a feeling having all those people wanting you to sign their books, bookmarks, etc! FUN! Now you know how the Beatles felt. LOL

    However, I don’t know how you can say the trip was both a success and a failure. What failed? I think you want the Amish to see your point of view and give their nod of approval. I would guess many silently are, but no one will ever know. Either they’d all show up or none – you know you wouldn’t get just a few. No matter how much it makes sense, you’re not going to convince the salmon to swim downstream. They’ve always gone upstream and they always will. You’ve been there, you know they’re good people but they have to stick together and make a point. Giving you approval gives the next one that’s considering leaving a thumbs up. Not gonna happen. The ones whose opinions matter were there – your close family and friends (which is about the size of a small country). I think the failure lies in the fact the Russos were unable to make it. Admit it. HA HA

    Good post…and I agree with John Schmid about the pictures. Maybe save that for your children’s book. :)

    Comment by Bethrusso — December 3, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

  13. And…..I missed it. I so wanted to meet you and here you were in Iowa and I went to MN to see my mom. BUT, I did get my book a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I’m passing it on to my mom for Christmas as she grew up in a Mennonite community in MN and will most likely relate to many of your stories.

    Hope you come back to IA again and I can meet you then!

    Comment by deb — December 3, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

  14. Hey Ira,
    This Lancaster County chick will put her shoefly pie recipe rite up against the Midwest recipe….I say find me a copy & bring it on!! :)

    Comment by Angie — December 3, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

  15. Absolutely amazing stuff, Ira. I read ( and read and read several times ) your book, and to start with, you struck ( I believe ) the balance you sought: truthfulness, bluntness, but not bitterness. Never bitterness. Bittersweet, perhaps.

    I truly wish the Amish community in Bloomfield could see past whatever superficial slights they perceive in it, for it is something truly special, as you say, a book which will, without doubt, be treated well by history.

    Needing no photographs at all, your writing created these places in my mind; the places of strong emotion, of conflict, love, of interaction with family and disappointment and impulse are as real to me visually – via what you conveyed by words alone – as if you had included dozens of photographs or drawings. Perhaps more so, as this gave my mind the freedom to create with your palate of vivid descriptions.

    I’m a long-time reader, who’s never before commented, but just wanted to for this post. I’m so glad you had a wonderful visit.

    Comment by Ellie — December 4, 2011 @ 12:42 am

  16. What an awesome post this is! I don’t think I could have enjoyed this more…

    Your trip was just so incredible and it must have been so rewarding to have been so well-received. As far as those who refuse to face the truth….well, it is often easier to overlook a painful or soul-searching dilemma than to just face it and deal with it. The net result is that it is loss for those who will not just accept you or who you are and get on with it.

    When I read your book, there were several instances where I felt like you had wanted to say so much more, but I could (blatantly) see that you were being respectful and holding back. There is no shame in that, and I think you are to be deeply respected for not being a sensationalist writer who exposes all manner of things better left unsaid. The world is far too full of writers like that, who probably sell tons of books, exposing others and peddling “truth” that makes one’s eyes nearly pop out, reading it!

    Thank you for this wonderful entry. So much to mull and think on. One thing is for sure, you are one fortunate man to have such a family!

    Comment by Kae Catalano — December 4, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

  17. As someone who grew up Amish I totally understand the hurt of not having your book accepted by the Bloomfield Amish. It is my theory that one who grows up Amish and leaves will never be quite good enough. Even if you are a conservative Mennonite, Beachy, whatever, live a good righteous life, there will always be that “oh, they didn’t stay Amish.”

    What I find very irritating about this is that a ‘worldly’ person who lives a good righteous life will be regarded as very credible. I hate hearing: ‘They are good Christians’ from Amish people about ‘worldly’ people because I know that if it was someone that grew up Amish it wouldn’t be good enough.

    Anyhow, love your blog, loved your book, let’s get the next one published :)

    Comment by Rachel Martin — December 4, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

  18. Just read your book. I am a good friend of Andy H. He was your neighbor when you lived in Canada. I too left the fold, and would like to talk to you more.

    Comment by glen — December 4, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

  19. I really enjoyed reading this post. I felt like I was right there with you. How wonderful that you had such a great turnout! You have much to celebrate this holiday season, no doubt :)

    Comment by DJ — December 5, 2011 @ 8:01 am

  20. I dont think our computer takes to your captcha codes,….So happy to hear the Thanksgiving was a success, that is the stuff memories are made of. I was glad you sold out in Bloomfield, our old friends, like Henry Egbert and Roy Harris, and many more have stepped across the great divide. About the Amish people not coming, did you really need them? It was a sell out without them…..

    Comment by Rachel — December 5, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  21. I read your book. In fact, couldn’t put it down. What an exceptional writer you are! Love to read your blog, too. You just have a way of expressing yourself that makes it all so interesting. I enjoyed hearing you speak at Garden Spot Village this afternoon and am so glad to have had the privilege of meeting you. Can’t wait for your next book!

    Comment by Ruthie — December 7, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  22. I just finished your book and loved it and then found your blog, of which I have read only this entry so far (I, too, ejoyed seeing pictures of things mentioned in your book–Stud’s harness killed me). Loved your book and am happy for your growing success.

    I visited my sister in Clever, MO, a few years ago and saw many Amish in their buggies along the roadways, but knew nothing about the people and their culture except what my sister could share with me, which was very little. Then she gave me your book and it opened up a world that I could never have known about otherwise (for example, that there is much diversity within the culture and between the communities), and I couldn’t stop reading until finished. Your story about your experience and your loving family was told with great respect, compassion and love, despite your difficult times.

    I would like to share here that it is good for us outside the culture to know more about the Amish because it allows us to see its deep beauty. And because it is composed of human beings, it also has its human weaknesses and flaws. And that’s OK–alas, it can’t be any other way. To be human in any culture is to be weak, strong, vulnerable, afraid, loving, mean-spirited, secretive, compassionate. Now that I know a wee bit more about the culture I feel more protective of it and would stand up with the Amish, if need be. If we can only know each other better, and I mean all of it–the good and the not-so-good–at least as much as you were willing to share through your book, we can support each other without fear. Your book has informed me, touched me, and has confirmed what I continue to learn about all peoples, that despite our differences, we share just as many, if not more, similarities. Keep writing!

    Comment by Kim — December 8, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  23. Ira,
    Just finished your book……very difficult to put down! Thank you for sharing your story and do please write more.

    Comment by Pauline C. Bisel — December 28, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

  24. It is so bizarre going back in time to a place where you used to romp as a child or teen. I’ve done it a few times myself. Kind of like walking in the past of someone else. For me, some little blond girl who loved being outdoors, exploring, who dreamed of making a beautiful stained glass window with broken pieces of colored glass found in the grass or half covered with earth. Running through the streets after a big rain when the sewers flooded. I can’t believe my mother let us do this. ……

    Comment by Francine — November 19, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

  25. got side tracked there.
    You absolutely glowed in these pictures. I could tell, overall, you were happy. How did you ever pick up that huge piece of wood to mark Stud’s grave? It must have weighed a ton.
    Several years ago, I had a dog that got sick. I took him to the vet after trying to deny his lethargic state for days or possibly weeks. Ended up being, he needed surgery to have a gallstone removed. The poor thing could barely climb into my car. After I got him home he continued to show signs of illness so I took him back a few days later. Turns out, he had a list of things that needed tending to. Needlesstosay, I had my furry beast put down. The thing I most regret is that I didn’t take him to the vet sooner. Why did I do that? Abusive and stupid on my part, at least that’s how I see it. I tried making some sort of amends by volunteering at an animal shelter walking dogs to ease my mind. It didn’t work, didn’t take away the pain.

    Regarding the situation with the lack of Amish support-I get where you’re coming from. I did a lot of heart work concerning my dad. He drank. The rage, the tears, the depression, the feelings of being robbed, betrayed. He never once said I was beautiful, good, smart, a pleasure. Years passed and I decided to send him a letter to tell him that he hurt me, that I always thought it was my fault, that I forgave him, and to see if we could have a closer relationship. That I was willing and desired it so much. That I loved him. Well, it never happened. In fact, he started calling me less. So, I hurt again, got angry again, but I finally saw it wasn’t because of me. It was because of HIM. I healed. He didn’t. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. I continue to have a shallow relationship with him which I realize is all he can give. It stinks! But there it is and I accept it.

    Seems kind of strange commenting from the archives. Oh well, better late than never. I do enjoy reading your wonderful stories. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Francine — November 20, 2012 @ 12:48 am

  26. Growing Up Amish is still selling good in the Davis County Welcome Center. I have been ask if you are writing another? Bloomfield folks would back you again. But please bring more book’s {w/smile} if you do and come back for another signing.

    Comment by Sher Bowersox — September 13, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

  27. Great story!! Reading this Nov 2018. Wishing you a Happy 2018 Thanksgiving.

    Comment by Sho — November 19, 2018 @ 12:31 pm

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