Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My Amish Brother. My older brother Buck's birthday is in a few days. He joined the Amish church a few years ago and now lives in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. He built a house which has no electricity. It has running water because there is a windmill behind it on a hill that pumps water, but no indoor toilet. I've avoided the outhouse when I visit.

He wears Amish clothes and has learned German. His Amish friends think of me and others as "English." When I visit the little children stare with wide open eyes, dressed in miniature versions of their parents' clothes. I try to dress conservative when I visit- blue jeans and long sleeved blue shirts. But my facial hair isn't right and I wear sandals instead of black work boots. So I'm used to being stared at, although when you are surrounded by a half dozen kids and they are chatting away in German while pointing, you do feel a bit freakish.

Buck was scared of everything when he was a child. If my parents were late from some trip he knew they had been killed in a car accident. I remember driving ona trip to North Dakota with him and mummy and everytime a vehicle passed in the opposite lane he would gasp out loud and grasp the door. Finally I couldn't take it anymore, "What the fuck is the problem?" I shouted. "You are going to get us killed!" he said. I replied, "I've driven across the country several times and never had an accident!" "There's always the first time!" he shouted back. My mother sat between us, I'm guessing she was pretty miserable by then.

My father bullied him at times, mercilessly teased him. As a result Buck was always timid, shy, and withdrawn. The Amish attracted him. They offered safety and security, not many surprises. His life is fairly structured, he's basically debt free and owns a 20 acre farm. As far as I can tell he is content. Although we live such opposite lives (I doubt many Amish men would be allowed to do some of the things I have), we still have a family bond. Next month I'll send him a package of things- not Christmas presents because the Amish don't believe in that- just a few items that he might find useful.

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