Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chicken Rustling

About a decade ago, I lived in a Western Pennsylvania community known for its Amish population. I found the Amish fascinating, as I had never lived near an Amish community nor had I ever known any Amish people.

Though most of the Amish didn't strike up friendships with the "English" (non-Amish), I did become acquainted with one family. Initially, they visited in my home, and then the parents, A. and R., began asking me to drive them to various locations which would take too long in a buggy. The mother, A., was a bit of a rebel among the Amish. She allowed her children to watch tv at my house (and they were thrilled to do so, and she was carrying on some sort of suspicious relationship with an "English" man and was consequently shunned for a time for doing so).

When we were in a grocery store in a neighboring town, I noticed A. trying to add up the cost of her grocery choices and it was taking her awhile. I just happened to have a small calculator in my purse, so I offered it to her. She was thrilled, so I told her to keep it. When she finished, she surreptitiously hid it somewhere in the sleeves of her purple dress.

One of the funniest moments in my life involved this couple. One wet, cold November evening, R. called me from a phone booth near his home and asked if I could take them out to Doc's to get some chickens. Doc was the local vet. I said I would, and about a half-hour later, I picked up R. and A. at their home. At the time, I was driving a small Nissan 2-door hatch back, and the two wooden chicken carriers fit perfectly in my little trunk. R. had to get into the back seat because he was so thin, and his knees came up to his chin as he sat wedged into the back seat. A., on the other hand, was quite round and had to sit in the front passenger seat. When she climbed in, the car noticeably tilted to the right. As we drove the couple of miles to Doc's farm, they said Doc had told them they could have his chickens.

We pulled into the driveway and up to the barn. I noted it didn't look like anyone was home, and A. said it didn't matter whether Doc was home or not. So we got out of the car, got the chicken carriers out of the trunk and carried them into the barn. R. scrambled up a ladder into the hay loft, where there wasn't much hay. There were chickens everywhere, however, roosting in the rafters of the barn. The sheep in the back of the barn were nervously bleating and the chickens began to cackle, especially when R. grabbed one of them. I had climbed halfway up the ladder, so R. handed me each chicken which I, in turn, handed to A. She then put each chicken into one of the carriers. I asked them, "Are you sure Doc knew you were getting the chickens?"
"Yah, yah, he said ve could get all ve vanted." I started to laugh because it was so funny watching R. trying to catch those chickens. Wings were flapping, chickens were flying, and sheep were bleating. Then A. slipped on the muddy dirt floor of the barn and fell on her behind in the mud. Her purple and black dress was covered in mud, and she didn't share my amusement at all. Finally, both carriers were full of chickens, so we carried them out and put them into my trunk. I commented that I wished Doc had been there so that he would know we took his chickens. They said it didn't matter.

As we drove back into town, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and asked, "Did Doc know you were getting the chickens tonight?"

"Oh, no, he didn't know ven ve vere getting the chickens. He just said to get them."

I asked when he told them this. The answer: "Oh, about a year ago."

Oh, no, I thought. He could have changed his mind in a year. Then I started to laugh, and told R. and A. that the headlines in the paper tomorrow might read, "English woman and Amish couple arrested for rustling chickens." They just looked at me like I was crazy. Somehow, the humor I saw in the situation escaped R. and A.
Post a Comment

Google Search