This story begins in a Coffee shop in Nappanee, Indiana.
It was April of 2016 and time for our two-week-long service appointment for our recently purchased 2013 Mountain Aire.
Each morning when the Newmar Service Team picked up our coach – it cued John and me to make a bee-line to the Main Street Roasters Coffee Shop.
We savored our wake-up brews as Amish employees pulled fresh baked sour cream coffee cake from the oven. I couldn’t resist most mornings. The warmth of that first fork full was pure ecstacy.
A young Amish man would arrive at Main Street Roasters about the same time we did. He’d politely remove his straw hat, placing it on his table, then walk up and order coffee. He sat at his table reading a book and occasionally jotted notes on a legal pad.
Lead pencil memories
What caught my eye was the yellow pencil in his hand.
When was the last time I had held a #2 lead pencil? Memories from grade school flooded my brain and made me smile.
The second week at the coffee shop the young Amish man paused at our table.
He stretched out his hand “Hi, my name is John Yoder. I’ve noticed you two these past weeks and am curious why you are here?”
After sharing the reason for our visit, we asked about the book on his table. He replied that it detailed Toyota’s assembly line processes- something his company was interested in implementing.
John Yoder had been given a two-week sabbatical to study Toyota’s ideas in preparation for the changeover on their assembly line.
The following morning we were greeted at the coffee shop door by our new friend. “I was wondering if you two would like to come to my home tonight and enjoy a buggy ride?”
We blurted out an astonished “Yes, indeed!”
It only took ten minutes to drive to John Yoder’s farmhouse that night. His five-year-old son Derrick greeted us on the driveway eager to be our tour guide and introduce us to his mom, Vera, and his three-year-old sister Brianna.
The tour culminated in the barn where we met Princess, the Yoder’s black horse.
Not our usual Horsepower
“No tricks this time, Princess” John whispered as he approached the mare.
We watched John double loop the harness around her neck as he attached the buggy. It seems that Princess occasionally became Houdini. By dropping her head she had learned to slip the bit from her mouth and sidestep to freedom.
I climbed into the One Horsepower buggy and back in time.
My eyes adjusted to the dim confines of the interior as John coaxed Princess for her duties. I leaned against old leather that encased the creaking metal frame. John covered my lap with a heavy woolen comforter proudly describing his great-grandmother who had woven it.
The small rear window curtain was sewn by Vera. A light rain began. John twisted a small wooden knob on the dash manually moving the small windshield wiper left and right.
Our twenty-minute ride took us past neighbors who stared at us and waved.
What a random surprise. We found ourselves as the minority in their ‘Hood’!
Carrots and other treats
As we made the last turn toward the Yoder farm, Princess began to speed up. “She always goes faster along this stretch knowing that her treat is waiting for her back in the barn” John explained.
It was fun giving this beautiful animal a handful of carrots as a reward for a ride well done.
Next, we entered the house where Vera had a spread of food waiting for us.
Chunks of homemade venison sausage, a block of cheddar cheese, iced spice cake, and fresh lemonade adorned her table.
Did this really happen?
After feasting on all the deliciousness we watched Vera climb on a chair to light the propane lanterns that rimmed the large room.
She used a bic lighter.
Yes. This really happened.
As she lit the lamps Vera explained how each Amish community is governed by an Amish bishop. John and Vera’s bishop had given approval for the propane lights and even gave special permission for a telephone (used for emergencies only) located in their barn.
We played with Derrick and Brianna and read them stories. Soon it was time to say goodbye. Before we left, Vera took my hand leading me to the basement.
Hospitality in glass jars
“You must take some of my canning home with you” she insisted.
Their generosity was heartfelt and scrumptious.
We enjoyed our time so much we wanted to meet again before leaving Nappanee. The plan was to take the Yoder’s out for dinner three nights later.
Our Buggy the Jeep
Getting them to the restaurant took some improvisation since our Jeep only held five people.
I got dropped off at the restaurant, then John drove to the Yoder’s farm to pick up the family.
Sharing more than a meal
We shared laughter and giggles while we ate. Our discussion revolved around the similarities and differences in our lifestyles. We easily dove deep into discussion.
Our topics including racism, God, prayer, family dynamics, pornography, bullying, genetic disorders, and drug addiction.
The longer we talked, the more we found in common.
We invited them back to our Coach to show them what living in a 450 hp machine looks like.
Our rich discussion continued and covered struggles with depression, questions of faith, and finding good medical care. All the while, Derrick and Brianna played with Penny, pushed many buttons, opened drawers, and explored each room.
I won’t forget the gift of juxtaposition between our RV life and our new Amish friends.
- Barefoot Amish children on dirt roads vs. My Sanuk sandals on asphalt.
- Reading books by ‘bic lit’ propane lights vs. reading my Kindle on a cell phone app.
- Traveling by one Horsepower vs. traveling by 450 Horsepower.
- Fueling a horse with carrots vs. fueling a Coach with Diesel Fuel.
Sometimes a horse named Princess leads you to the best lessons in life!
Lifelong lessons and friends
We remain in contact with John and his family.
In fact, during the summer of 2017, we invited them to our family cottage and a celebration of my cousin’s wedding anniversary.
You can see Derrick (green shirt) and Brianna (blue dress) in the photos below.
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Your Unlikely RVer,