Levi’s Amish Childhood

One of our earliest subscribers and most loyal commenters goes by the handle ‘mi2tn’ on YouTube, and ‘Levi’ on GreenTractorTalk. His name is Levi.

We had an opportunity to visit Levi and his wife Lucy over the Christmas holidays in 2016. We had an incredible visit. First, I’ll link the playlist here of the videos we shot at while there.

Levi wrote up a detailed article about his upbringing. Rather than attempting to summarize this, I am reposting it here (with his permission) so that you can hear it in his own words:

I was asked to write some about how I was raised. My real name really is Levi. I had 8 brothers, two that have died. One in ’85 and the other in ’01. No sisters, and Mom wanted some. She has always said the after the first son, the rest were supposed to be daughters. All she got was 9 boys that caused a lot of trouble. For Dad it was a gold mine. Anybody needed any help it was, “get some of Bert’s boys”. Dad and Mom are still alive, Dad is 92 and Mom is 91.
We raised pigs, milk cows, a bull now and then, chickens (we sold the eggs) and maintained horses. We had a 110 acre farm that we actually farmed about 85 acres of. Milked around 15 to 18 cows, can’t tell you how many pigs as that number always moved up and down. Pigs have big litters. Chickens, probably around 50 or so. Had 3 work horses and a buggy horse that was used as a work horse when needed. Got a regular buggy horse when my 2 oldest brothers were 16 and 17 years old. It was a retired race horse. It was killed not long after by a drunk driver that ran into the back of the buggy. Both of my brothers were thrown out. Both were taken to the hospital, one stayed over night for observation. Horse ran into the other lane and an on coming car hit it and killed it. Buggy was in a pieces.
The first chore I got was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I had to get up with everybody else as my chore was setting the table. Then when I got tall enough I also had to make our toast in the cast iron skillet. Dad always made breakfast because he had some fingers and thumb chopped off at various places so he couldn’t help milk the cows. Cows were always in the barn at 6 am and at 6 pm. My next older brother was in charge of making sure of that and Dad enforced it. It was the chore that I couldn’t wait to get old enough to do so I didn’t have to do the “girl’s” job. Seeing as we didn’t have any sisters we had to wash and dry the dishes. All Mom had to do was say she needed help and we were out the door and nowhere to be found. Thinking back, she probably planned it that way. We had a creek at the end of our property so we did a lot of swimming.
This is a tractor thread so I can’t leave out our tractor. We had a McCormick Deering. All steel wheels. It was used for filling the silo, thrashing, mixing our feed and just when ever Dad had a notion to use it for whatever, but never for doing field work. It was probably the best maintained tractor in our Amish community. We had a east, west and middle church. We went to the middle church. They each had their own rules. Our buggies had to have steel wheels while the east church could have rubber on their rims. East church could also have bicycles with air rubber tires as could their tractors but they couldn’t use the tractors for field work. East church had a young man as a preacher while we had my Grandpa on my Mom’s side. Preacher made the rules that their church had to go by. When Grandpa quit we got another old guy, so it was always old school church rules.

The first part of this are things I thought you should know to begin with. And this is all from my perspective. Not all Amish churches are the same so you might have seen things that our church could or couldn’t do. Indiana Amish were some different then us Michigan Amish. In some ways they were stricter and other ways not so much. I did like the Indiana Amish ways of getting a date better then Michigan.

Did your group go farm to farm for church services, meaning one or two weeks at your place , then the farm down the road from you for the next two weeks..and on to another farm the next time.

Oh yes, church was every 2 weeks and a total of twice at each place. I still don’t know why we had church every 2 weeks instead of every Sunday. We had a enclosed wagon that had all the benches in it and it would be taken to where church was going to be next by the one that was going to have the church at his place. It would be there for 4 weeks and then off to the next place. Usually it would go to the next one that was the closest. I was glad that church was only every 2 weeks as church was long. The families would take breaks in groups as church wouldn’t stop for lunch. Who ever had church would put out pickles, sandwiches, peanut butter, jelly, canned food that was fast like beets, I guess it’s what we call fast food now days. The men and the male kids would go to the barn to take breaks too. Usually to talk and have a smoke, the men, not the kids. Us kids were just glad to get out of the house and off the hard benches. It’s hard to sleep as a kid with your arms folded across your knees and your head resting on it. Knees are down hill and it’s hard to sleep that way. If you do fall asleep you end up on the floor head first. In the house the men sat in one section and the women sat in another section. Men usually in the living and dining room and the women in the side porch and kitchen. It depended on how the house was configured. Sometimes the women had the dining room and kitchen and the men in the living room and side porch. The boys with the Dads and the girls with the Moms. It was more important for the men to hear the sermon then anyone else. I didn’t know about God and Jesus till after we broke away from the Amish. And they preach in what we call high German so us kids didn’t even understand it. Well they would read the Bible in high German and preach in Amish. Two different languages. The preacher would pick a spot that was between the men and the women. At our place when we got ready for bed we would kneel and Dad would say the prayer. He would read it from a prayer book and it was all high German. Never understood any of it. And then it was bed time and shut up time.

What number brother were you?

I was number 6. The 3 oldest had already ran away from home before Dad and Mom broke away from the Amish. The 2nd oldest had even already joined the Army.

It’s still AM so I’ll start with breakfast. Dad being the one to make it, it was whatever he wanted or was easiest/fastest to make. Lots of oatmeal and mush. I guess you can call the mush, grits or some variation of it. We always had milk and used sugar to make the oatmeal and mush taste eatable. Us kids hated it. Then there were times we would have eggs and always toast. Breakfast was served after the cows were done being milked and let out. Mom would usually only milk 2 cows and then go back to the house to help with the cooking. Dad had a factory job to help with the income. Had a milkman come every morning to pick up our milk. After breakfast the cow stalls and gutter had to be taken care of. You know the saying, “manure out the barn”?! Then the day began. Dad always let the older brothers know what had to be done that day. Dad was always in the shop after he got home from work and on Saturdays. Taking care of all the equipment we had or making something. Fixing things. Seems like a lot of times after he got home he had to spank one or more of us kids because Mom couldn’t get to us so she would tell Dad and NOBODY disobeyed Dad. When he said come, you didn’t walk slow. We usually ran from Mom till we learned that it was better to go to Mom then wait for Dad to come home. Dad used whatever was available at hand but Mom…There was this row of hedges along the road in front of our place. That’s where her switch came from. I found her switch one time while they were grocery shopping and broke it in small pieces and threw it away. What was the first thing she seen upon entering the house? Yep, it was gone. She asked where it was and me being very young and dumb (4 or 5) told her I broke it and threw it away. She told me to go get another one and it better be a good one. Still young and dumb, I did just what she said. Upon giving it to her, yep she used it on me to make sure it was a good one. It was. Never did that again!
The horses and cows got feed at the same time and after breakfast the pigs and chickens. The farming started after the barn got taken care of. We got up at 4 or 5 in the morning, every morning. It didn’t matter how old you were, if you could do it you did it. If you couldn’t, you were taught how to do it.
When I got old enough or should say my next older brother got old enough to do other things I got his chore of bring the cows to the barn. I loved it because now my next younger brother got to help Dad make breakfast. I failed to have the cows in the barn at 6am one time. It was cold that morning and still barefooted with a very lite home made jacket, (all our clothes were home made) I was cold. So back in the field I would make the cows get up to start going to the barn. Well the first thing a cow does after getting up…it ****s. I would go and stand in the fresh cow **** to warm my feet up. This one morning it was just to cold so after getting my feet warm I needed the rest of my body warm. I thought about where the cows were laying. You guessed it, I went over where one got up and layed down on that warm spot to warm up. Next thing I knew was Dad standing over me waking me up. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was cold and was trying to warm up. He surprised me so much at what he said and did that to this day I can’t forget it. He said “well come on we have to get the cows to the barn, it’s already late”. And then he helped me get the rest of the cows to the barn. I thought I’d get the spanking of my life. On the way to the barn he told me, “it is kind of cold today”. Never did get a spanking for that. But I was never late after that either. I was always afraid of Dad and he was such a big figure in my life that the first time I really got to talk to him man to man was when I got home on leave after boot camp. Since then my relationship with Dad was different. My respect for him threw out the years since has grown. Which is the one reason I don’t regret my up bringing. Even though at the time, I hated it.


Religion, it’s a way of life. When we got old enough to know what we were doing and wanted to join the church is when we were taught about the Bible and the high German. I would sit at the table with my older brothers as they were learning this stuff. It’s how I learned the German alphabet. They never joined the Amish church but they were being taught what it was all about. My oldest brother just a year or so ago joined the Amish. His wife was always Amish and his kids are also Amish and always were. It was a kind of mixed up family all these years when it got to the religion part of their family. They were married Amish and he later broke away. My brother told the Amish that if they wanted his wife to have a horse and buggy they would have to provide them and the feed for the horse. He would make sure the buggy and horse were taken care of. He had his vehicles and electric in the house with electrical appliances. His wife and family got to use all the stuff he had but never drove his vehicles. He would use it to go places and they would go with him. His wife and kids would use the horse and buggy to go to church. I never understood some of the Amish ways so I would ask questions.


I asked a guy named Al that is married to my 1st cousin why the Amish think that vehicles and RV’s are a sin and can’t have them but will hire someone to take them places and help build the RV’s. He told me he had to think about it and would tell me the next day. He gave me the most honest answer I’ve ever got. He said it’s not a sin, it’s just a tradition. It’s the way of the Amish and that’s all. I asked one time, why the beard and not a mustache. The answer I got is, the beard is to let people know that they believe in Jesus. They can’t read in the Bible where Jesus ever cut his hair or shaved. Why not the mustache? No answer! The one thing they fall back on is where it says in the Bible where you are to do away with worldly goods. I always had a come back to that and then they could never give me a straight answer. This past August we went to our family reunion. Lots of Amish. It is where and when I learned a few things that the Indiana Amish do with their buggies. I knew the young folks would put radios and such in their buggies till they joined the church but they came up with a new one for me. I was told that I’m behind times. Some of the buggies there had fenders and brakes on them. I never knew this but was informed that they had that for years. I’ll post a few pics. If you look close at the wheels you can see the fenders and look at the hub you can make out the brakes.

have you seen ‘for richer or poorer’?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Richer_or_Poorer

Did your buggie have to have a little red light on the back? and if so, how was it powered?

To answer this, I thought I had watched the movie but I can’t remember it. I think it was one of those things where I wanted too but never did. All the shows/movies I’ve seen are not even close to what I experienced. The one thing that was right was in the Amish mafia show was the language. That I understood.
I my day we had a kerosene lanyard on the back of the buggy, sometimes two with a red lens at the back part. And then the triangles came in too. And yes, today they have turn signals, head lights and tail lights. Talked to some that have a small generator on their buggies. Today buggies are more air tight then what we had. They have sliding doors and windshields. The east church allowed windshields but our church didn’t. Our doors were the roll up kind. And our heat…in the summer we had it, in the winter it was a buffalo blanket. We would get covered in snow even in the back seat of our double buggy.

Dating Amish in my day.

Have to say I’m not sure how the Michigan Amish did it as I didn’t date many from Mi. because the ones I knew, most of the time I was related to. So when I dated an Amish girl she was from Indiana. Being engaged is called going steady. I went steady with one Amish girl…twice. First time I broke it off, next time she informed me she was going to join the Amish church and I broke it off again. There was no point in getting married to her if she was going to be Amish because I, in no way shape or form was ever going to be Amish again. And I wasn’t going to do as my oldest brother did, having an Amish wife and me not be Amish. After that time I started drinking a lot at the Amish parties. Oh yah, they have parties. In my time it was all whiskey and beer. The bands were made up of all Amish young folks that hadn’t joined the church yet. There was 3-4 bands at any given time. The parties were at an Amish place where the parents were gone for the week-end. They would use generators to power the instruments. One group would sing Tommy James’s songs and sounded better then Tommy James. When you’re single, it’s better to go to the parties alone. If you wanted you could get a date there and take your pick. A lot of girls came alone. I took a blind date to one (1st and last time on a blind date) and found her behind the barn making out with another guy. Had them get her stuff out of my car so he could have her for the rest of the week-end. I partied a lot, dated a lot, got drunk a lot, fought a lot. Till I figured out this wasn’t what I had in mind for my life. Quit going out with the Amish and quit going to their parties. I was going on 20 then.
Back to dating. In Indiana if I wanted a date and didn’t know who yet, I would go to an Amish place that I knew had a girl of age. I would go their place, after dark most of the time, and just walk in and look for her bedroom with a lighter or flash light. Usually there were 2 or 3 of us guys together doing this. That way none of us were committed to dating the girl. If we didn’t know her and she was pretty, one of us would ask her out. We did this all night till we all had a date. Or till the party started, where ever it was. The girls would usually go with who ever asked her as it was her ticket of getting out of the house for the week-end and going to the party. She would also tell us where there were other girls that needed/wanted a date. The date started on a Saturday night whenever you asked her till in the early morning hours of Monday. Yes, we slept together but most of the time didn’t have sex. Everything but. Not to say it didn’t happen but very seldom. Not having any sisters, girls held a very special place with me. To me if she said no in the heat of the moment it meant NO. Three of us guys went to this Amish place that one of the guys said had a daughter and they were having church the next day at their place. I used a lighter that time. Went into this bedroom and flicked the lighter on… right in the face of the Dad. He pretended to be sleeping. I got out of that room. The other guys had found the girls bedroom and she wasn’t there. She already had a date. So, knowing they were going to have church we knew they had food prepared. We took a pie and some silver wear and left. We ate the pie and went back and put the pie pan and silver wear in their mailbox to make sure they got it back. I did get dates this way but was never a fan of it, at least not without a few beers. Like they say… when in Rome. The first time seeing the only Amish girl I went steady with, I met her in the day time. I was talked into going there to see her and maybe ask her out. I was told she was pretty. Didn’t believe it. Went anyway. I walked up to her front door and knocked. Guys laughed at me for knocking. Her mother answered the door. I asked her if ***** was there and she looked at me funny, then smiled. Told me she was in her room, go right up. I asked her where that was. Looked at me funny again and then smiled and told me where it was. She turned out to be pretty, so much so that I asked her out every week-end after that to the point of going steady. This was going to be the one…till she decided to join the church. First time I broke up with her was when I did something stupid. Went out on her. I had to tell her as I didn’t think it was right that I did. Some time later she had a part in a wedding that I went to. That was the first time I seen her since. I took her home that night and we started up again. We were on a date when she told me she was going to join the church. Didn’t take her long to find the guy she ended up getting married too. Took me awhile. Married my wife when I was 25. I finally figured it out. I don’t know if they still do it this way but it wouldn’t surprise me if they do. With ***** I would always knock on the door. Her parents thought I was funny for doing that. I think they liked it. And I always showed up sober. So there you have it…the dating scene with the Amish. Try that with any other religion or non-religion and you will either get shot or end up in jail. I’m glad that part of my life is over.

School

When we went to school (public school) we were the different ones. There were times we got teased but as a rule we weren’t treated any different then the other kids, by the other kids. When there were races between teams and someone got to pick who was on their side we were one of the first ones to be picked. We could run fast. ‘Course we were also the only ones barefoot. And of course when we went some where we walked or ran, we weren’t taken in a vehicle by our parents. Till we moved. Going to a different school that weren’t used to us got us picked on. We then had to prove ourselves. I can remember when our haircut became cool. We were still Amish at the time when the Beatles became a big hit. I had kids ask me where I got my haircut, like it was different then before. That first school didn’t even notice till then. So before we moved we were cool. The home made clothes with patches and all. That first school just didn’t care. So the Beatles made us cool. When we moved, not so much. But then the Beatles came out of favor because of what they said about being more famous then Jesus. I liked that first school. When we moved to a different school they weren’t used to the Amish ways. We were the only family to go there. When I became the oldest in our family (7th grade), it started. Didn’t take long. Ph. Ed. took care of most of it. In the 10th grade, going out for football took care of the rest. For me, not my younger brothers. I wanted to be the first in our family to graduate high school. Being stubborn and the principle took care of that. Standing up for what’s right doesn’t always end up right when you’re stubborn. We could quit school at 16. So a few month’s from turning 17 I quit and got a job. Dad told me as long as I’m in school I didn’t have to pay rent but if I quit rent starts. At 25 dollars a week. The job payed 90 dollars a week. At 18 the rent went up to 35 a week but then I was able to get a factory job. That started at $3.00 an hour. Living in high cotton then. And at 17 with my own car I started to hang around the Amish, mainly for the parties and dates. Beachy Amish dates didn’t go so well. Being young and stupid didn’t help. I could relate to the Amish better then the Beachy. A Beachy Amish preacher called my 2nd cousin and I out once. Wanted us to come to church early. We did. He told us he heard we smoked and went to drive-in movies and drank beer. Which we did, told him so. I had a pack of cigarettes in my shirt pocket so I pulled it out and showed him. He wanted us to repent in front of the whole church. I said no. My cousin said he would. He sat in the bench up front, I sat in back. You must know what the sermon was about. When it got to where my cousin started to say about how sorry he was and started to cry I walked out and never went back. The next week-end that same cousin was with me at the drive-in drinking beer and smoking. I wasn’t into false confessions. So…I started hanging with the Amish. Having a car made you popular. Can’t say I didn’t like that. Being from Mi. got me in a lot of fights with the In. Amish guys. They didn’t like Mi. young folks except the girls of course. Got my butt handed to me a lot. Drinking and fighting doesn’t go good together. Toward the end of hanging with the Amish I got to where I didn’t drink so much. Didn’t like having my butt handed to me. The last Amish party I went to I had one beer. Was asked to help another 2nd cousin out in a fight he was in. I said no. This beautiful date I had looked at me and asked, “isn’t he your cousin?”. I said yes and she says “you have to help family”. Did I say she was beautiful? So I figured, what can it hurt to look in on it. In the middle of a dirt road layed my cousin out cold surrounded by all these In. Amish. This one guy goes to the ditch and picks up a tree limb about 3 feet long and says he’s going to finish him off. Nope that wasn’t going to happen. I stop him before he gets to my cousin, we had words. He looks at me as asks, “aren’t you the one that got beat up at shorty’s party last year?”. I said yes. So he informs me his going to do it to me now. I told him to go for it but to remember, tonight I’m not drunk. It all ended there as far as the fight was concerned. Had to take my cousin to the hospital. He was ok but the night was ruined. My last Amish party and Amish date. I started dating “English” girls and a year later or so, joined the Marines. My life got better after that. Still had a few fights but the Marines teach you an attitude when it comes to that.

Which Amish?

When we were Amish we were the “old order”. Beachy is what I call one step up away from amish. I think Beachy is just the name of the guy that started it. Still dress the same but get to have cars, tractors, electric, ect. Still no TV’s, radios and if you have a record player, gospel music only. You have to remember that this was then and may not be now. Rules change as time goes on. “New order”, I think, don’t know for sure, is liberal amish. Andy Weaver and Swartzentruber Amish is the name of that group and the name is probably the name of the preacher or the one that started that particular group. They could still be old order. Old order are the stricter ones. But even they have some liberal groups. Sometimes there is a guy in the church that wants to change things and has a following of some that want the change too. The smart thing is to make their own group unlike the guys in Ohio that did it the wrong way and went to prison for what they did. I can’t comment more on them as the info I got is what most people got, what was in the paper or on TV. But all the different groups each have their own rules in where something about one or more of the rules is different then the others. As a whole they are basically the same. Such as one group might have the women wear white caps and some might have them wear black. Some have them wear either color, being the woman’s choice.

Dad and Mom still dress like they did when we were amish. This is a pic of them earlier this year. As you can see Dad still doesn’t wear pants with zippers in them.

Did you guys use buttons? Did you grow crops? How did you bring them in?

We used buttons on our pants and shirts. Coats had the hook and eye going on. We also wore a hat all the time except when swimming, in the house, school building ect. or the wind blew it off our head. Yes we did grow crops. Had to if you have cows, horses, pigs and chickens. We grew corn, wheat, oats and hay for the most part. Everything was done with horses. Plowing, cultivating, planting, spreading the cow and horse manure, thrashing the wheat and oats. A team of horses pulling a wagon for picking corn and then cutting the stalks and loading it on a wagon to be chopped up and blown into our silo for silage to feed our cows. Corn stalks were cut with a blade that was strapped to our ankles so they could be cut close to the ground. Corn was picked by hand and thrown into the wagon and put into the corn cribs. Wheat and oats, we used a horses drawn combine that cut and bundled it. We would go along and pick the bundles up and stack them together. I don’t remember how many bundles to a stack. Something like 5 or 6. It stayed that way till the thrashing machine came at which time all the families that helped (usually the whole church) came with their own horses and wagons and would go into the fields and load up all the stacks and bring it to the thrashing machine to be thrashed. The thrashing got done where the owner of the farm wanted the straw stack to be on their property. At our place it was close to the barn because we used the straw for bedding for the horses and for various other things. Pig pens got straw too and a few other buildings for whatever reason we were using them for. Some lean-to’s the cows used in the winter. Dad had a new shed built where we stored the wheat and oats and on the side of that he had a place built for his tractor. The part for the tractor didn’t have doors on it but the rest where the wheat and oats were was completely enclosed. We had a mixer that mixed all our feed. Had a machine that stripped all the corn off the cob, 2 in fact. One that was operated by the tractor and one by hand. All our equipment that was operated by the tractor was belt powered except the mixer which was PTO. The milk house was actually an add on to the barn where we milked the cows. It was made of cement blocks to keep the heat and extreme cold out. We had a gas engine in it to pump the water into the cement tank where we stored the milk cans. Also used that engine to pump water to the outside tank where the cows and horse drank behind the barn. We had 2 hand pumps for house use water. One was right outside the back porch and one in the kitchen. On another note, just thought of this. We had a 2 hole outhouse. And a what you could call a urinal built into the back of it. It had a part built out in the back with a lid we could raise so we could pee into it and it went into the same hole that the 2 seats were used for. Mom hated it when someone would pee on the seats. Went through a lot of catalogs. Always had one or two hanging inside the outhouse. I’m going to have to quit leaving that thought in your head. Well, one more thought. The outhouse tipped forward so that when it had to be emptied. That was done by someone with boots on, went down in there and with a shovel threw it out on the ground or into the manure spreader if he could manage it, and if not then someone had to pick it up and throw it into the manure spreader. I lucked out and never had to go down inside as I wasn’t big enough yet when we moved. I had bigger, older brothers that were.

Levi’s Wife

My wife…no she was never Amish. She is from down here where we live now in N.E. Tn. A true southern girl. She married the first time when she was 13 years old. She had 2 girls from that marriage. He went out on her and showed her pics of him and other girls so she divorced him and moved to Southbend, In. with her brother and his wife. As she told me, she married the next guy that was older and…not so good looking. Her reason…nobody would want him. Had 3 boys with him. He also adopted the 2 girls. As the girls grew up he started to molest them. When my wife found out, he was out the door. He moved to Az. so he didn’t have to pay child support as Az. didn’t extradite. Still lives there. I seen my wife the first time when she was married to this guy living in Sturgis, Mi. when I had my first job after I had quit school. I worked for a guy that had a trash route and we picked up her trash. No, not her husband. After that divorce she had to go to work. My wife worked hard as a child doing everything that has to do with growing tobacco the old fashion way. The job she got before, during and after the 2nd divorce, she went to work in the trailer factory business. This is where I actually “met” her and talked to her for the first time. We worked in the same factory. The first thing I ever said to her was “ich leva dich”. I think I spelled that right. Said it in Amish. She didn’t know what I said so she asked my Dad, who worked there too. He told her what it meant. She went ballistic on me. Told me off and wasn’t kind about it at all. I just smiled at her and that didn’t help me any at all. In case you’re wondering what I said…I said “I love you”. With the help of one of her girl friends that also worked there I managed to get some closer to my wife to be. It took some time but I finally got her to go out with me. She’s 11 years older then me and with 5 kids. My Dad found out about us dating and that wasn’t pretty either. He told her off and told me if I don’t stop going out with her I had to move out. I moved out. My wife was given a book about the Amish that said what the Amish dating is all about and how they do it. When my wife read it she lit into my Dad at work in front of everybody just what she thought about the Amish and that they weren’t any better then she was. When she found out that the Amish dated for the whole week-end and slept together, she was “hot”. Wife and I hadn’t slept together at that time. We just dated and had fun. When I first worked at that factory I had asked who she was and was told to forget about her as she hated men. This is something she also told me because of what her first 2 husband’s had done. She was fed up with men. One of the boss’s had asked her out and got slapped for it. I had one younger brother that liked her because he was dating her daughter and had got to know her. Everybody else in our family and my friends told me to not go out with her. After all, she was divorced twice, had 5 kids and was 11 years older. Her oldest daughter is 5 years younger then I am. The youngest of the kids is 11 years younger then I am. We dated till after I joined the Marines and went to Cuba. I found out she was pregnant with our child while I was still in boot camp. She quit writing because she wanted me “to have a life”. She married again before our baby was born (stillborn) because her Mom talked her into it. 4 years later after I got out I stopped where she worked at, a restaurant/bar. By this time she was again divorced, he stepped out on her too. We got together that night and haven’t been apart since. Got married some 5-6 months later. As for my side of the family. My wife and I were told that they think we should get a divorce and never remarry again. Not all of them think that but we were told that by one of my younger brothers and his wife. This is Amish thinking. Never divorce and if you do, never remarry and never marry someone that is divorced. They say it says that in the Bible. I proved them wrong but some just don’t listen or read things the way they want it to mean. This is my main complaint I have about the Amish, reading things the way they want it to read. They thought our marriage wouldn’t last 6 months. That 6 months is now 38 years long. When I was looking for a preacher to marry us I was told by one that he couldn’t because my wife was divorced. I proved him wrong about that thinking but he told me the congregation wouldn’t allow it. Called him a hypocrite and knowing that, didn’t want him to marry us as it would be a sham to us. Told him he was supposed to preach the word of God, not what the people wanted to hear. All my Amish Grandma told me was that, “Levi, she’s to small for you”. The only problems we had was with some of my brothers and their wives. And my Mom to some degree. Dad was actually OK with it after he was told off and I moved out. I was told by one of my brothers that I was still his brother. I inform him he was right but I didn’t marry him, I married my wife and she comes first in my life after God and Jesus. He didn’t much like that. Sometimes it’s still strained around my side of the family. That’s also one of the reasons I wanted to move down here. Had to get away from Mi. and In. where they all but one lived. Enough of that.

Military

My brother’s and I that were in the military can never be Amish. They don’t believe in the military. It’s the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment. They don’t hold it against us, we just can’t be Amish. Perfect for me, I don’t want to be Amish. Three of my brother’s were Army, I’m the only Marine. The first 2 went to Viet Nam. I was destined to go but looking back, I think to this day that God didn’t want me too and made sure I didn’t. I did everything to go but something always happened to nix it. Back then I was in the mind set that I’d come back in a body bag because of what happened with my brothers that went and that I was in the Marines. First brother got shot at but came back ok. Second came back in a full leg cast and was in a lot of fire fights. So, being in the Marines…body bag for me. I was alright with it, I just think that God wasn’t. Don’t know why He didn’t want me to go but I’ll always believe He made sure I didn’t. Dad bought me a mug with a Marine on it. That surprised me and it has a permanent spot in out china cabinet. I didn’t think he thought much about me being in the Marines. I always thought that he thought of it as just being part of my life that I went through and nothing more. To this day none of my side of the family has seen the pics I took while I was in. None have asked and I don’t volunteer. All they know is I was in the Marines and I was a Sgt. when I got out. They probably couldn’t tell me where I’ve been or what I did. Some don’t know that I used to hang out with the Amish.

Shunning

I was asked about this once so I’ll try and explain what happened to us.
When the church found out about Dad and Mom leaving the Amish they of course tried to talk them out of it. Dad and Mom always told us kids to go elsewhere when this was going on. Mom told me when they took a vote in the church about shunning us, there were only 2 that voted to shun us. Both of them were her brothers. Even her Dad didn’t want to shun us. I didn’t know this till last August when I asked her about it during a conversation we were having about her brother that came to their place. Her 2 brother’s somehow got the rest of the church to go along with them. I, myself didn’t really care if they shunned us or not. I was just glad that we were no longer Amish. Being shunned is a small hardship. From my point of view it’s all on them. They no longer have anything to do with us. This was a plus for me. They could no longer ask us to help them do their work. This was also more about shunning my parents then us kids. We as kids hadn’t joined the church yet, so they couldn’t really shun us because of it. One of Mom’s brother’s came over to talk to Dad and Mom. Us kids were told to go away so they could talk. It was summer time so I knew that all the windows were open in the house. I knew he was going to try and talk them into staying Amish so I wanted to know if he was going to succeed or not, so I went upstairs to listen. I, at this time wasn’t sure if we were going to break away from the Amish or if this was all a hoax. I needed proof. My uncle did his best. He even told my parents that they were going to hell if they broke away from the Amish and us kids would too, depending on what we did. This is the one thing that I got to hear and remember. I didn’t much care for him after that. This same uncle now lives in Wi. He came to Mi. this past July to visit family. He had his driver’s stop at Dad and Mom’s place. The driver’s know my parent’s so they liked the idea. Mom told me that her brother walked into their house and got as far as the doorway to the living room. He looked at Mom and Dad and asked Mom if she was ready to come back to the Amish. She said, no. My uncle then just turned around and walked back out to the car and got in and sat there with his wife till the driver’s got done visiting with my parents. No “Hi”, no “bye”, nothing but a question and out the door. All part of shunning I guess. My Grandpa (Mom’s Dad) came over once to talk too and mentioned to Dad that he had given them a 10,000 dollar wedding present. He actually took 10,000 off the farm Dad and Mom bought off of them. This is 10,000 dollars back in 1943. I heard Dad tell him that he could pay him back if he wanted it. Grandpa said, no that was a wedding present. Dad asked him why he brought it up. Another part of shunning is when the ones being shunned go to a gathering, such as a funeral, the one’s being shunned have to sit apart from the rest. And when they serve the meal they have to sit at a separate table and are served from separate dishes that the meal is served in. They can’t take food out of the same dish. It’s all separated. At Grandma’s funeral we were all told to sit in the barn. I took my wife by the hand and went into the house and found us a seat. When asked what we were doing I told them we were there for my Grandma’s funeral. They didn’t ask anymore questions and left us alone. Another one of Mom’s brothers was being shunned too. He had a good laugh after it was over when he found out what we did. When Dad bought a brand new Dodge, Polaris I knew we were no longer Amish. The high light of my life, I was on top of the world. Mom only has the one brother that shuns them now. The other one has died. The one that had a good laugh at what we did at the funeral, has also now died. Dad is the only one left in his side of the family and Mom is the oldest on her side that are still living. I think the only people that shun Dad and Mom is Mom’s one brother. Some Amish are stricter about shunning then others.

Did you guys vote?

NO, not while Amish.

Cooking

Dad made breakfast as stated earlier. Other then that Mom did all the cooking. We had 2 wood burning stoves in our kitchen. The bigger one had a reservoir in it for water. That way Mom always had hot water. One of our chores was bringing in wood for the kitchen and living room. Kitchen was usually warmer then the rest of the house. Mom had a way of cooking with wood. The one thing she might have a problem with was making bread. Sometimes it fell and that didn’t make her happy. We liked it, it just wasn’t as big. I remember my favorite supper was vanilla pudding. She made vanilla and chocolate, never at the same time. You didn’t have a great supper till you have sat down to pudding and bread for supper. As a kid it doesn’t get much better then that. She’d make a big pot of it and there was never any left. No matter what it was you never left anything on your plate. I didn’t like peas. When we moved to get away from the Amish community after we broke away Mom found our hiding spot for things we didn’t like to eat. It was petrified by then. I was with her when she was taking the dining room table down. She seen it all up underneath the table. She had to smile. She says to me, “so this is where you hide it”. I said “Yah, look it’s hard”. We cleaned it. Never did know what happened to that table, that was the last I seen it. Dad and Mom just about sold everything, including the farm. Dad kept his tools and bought more that worked off electric. He still has all the hand tools. After we moved he did buy a lawn mower with a motor. I hated that reel one we had. I was mowing the yard when that reel mower was still bigger then I was. My older brother’s had farm things to do at that time so mowing was my job every Saturday. Took all day. Dad always got the money we earned working for other’s. We might get a dime out of it. One time we had to go across the road from us to pull corn out of a soybean field. Worked all day in that hot sun. When we got done our neighbor (he owned the field) gave me a half dollar coin. Dad asked what we got paid and I showed him the coin. He took it and gave me a little bitty dime. Was lucky to get that, but I thought…I gave him a big coin and got a tiny one in return. Somehow that didn’t seem right as I did all the work. I was around 8 or 9 at the time and that was a big field. Probably about 50 acres. I didn’t think I was going to get anything till our neighbor paid us. Probably paid Dad in a barter exchange as he always did the hay baling for us, what we didn’t put up loose. Hated his bales. He wanted to use wire all the time till Dad told him he wanted twine. And his bales were always over 100 lbs. Said it was a waste to make them weigh less. Waste of twine or wire. Wire was hard on the hands and we couldn’t use it after, like we could twine. Harder to undo the bales with wire too. That neighbor wasn’t Amish. They had Farmall’s. I can remember when his son that lived on the other side of us bought a new 560. That was the biggest tractor around and man was it beautiful. I love them to this day. He got a new plow with it. 6 bottom plow, that was the biggest plow too. I’d watch him plow for hours. It was a big step up from the 300, the H and the M he had with 3 bottoms. We’d always go out to the road when we heard him coming. He’d drive one of his tractors to and from his place to his dad’s. Dad and Mom say they wished they wouldn’t have sold the farm. I know I wish they never would have sold it. I was just getting into it with the 2 Allis Chalmers Dad bought. WD-45 and a C. I just knew that was our start to greater things. No more horses to do farm work. He had also sold the cows so there was no more milking. Everything was going to be plants of some kind and I was looking forward to it. I knew I was getting a lot of seat time. They sold the farm and it all went away. My wife wonders why I enjoy taking all day to mow our place. I kind of got away from the cooking but I’m just going where my memory takes me. I don’t remember eating much meat while Amish. We did butcher and always had meat then but with no refrigeration, it was either fresh or none. Dad did salt cure some. We butchered cows that were dried up or pigs. It turned into a Amish community thing. Most of the church showed up to help and of course they all got some. The women would make the sausage. That means they also had to clean the guts that we used for it. They would chase the men away when it came to cleaning the guts as they would end up making holes in it. They didn’t like holes. Made their job harder when making the sausage. There was always a man around to turn the handle to grind the meat though. It was usually the men that did all the cutting up of the meat. It was amazing to watch them sharpen the knives. I’d watch and wonder how they kept from cutting their fingers or hands. All the meat was brought in the house and put on the dining room table to be cut up. All them men sure had fun cutting up that meat. They’d show off how fast they could sharpen a knife and how sharp they could get it.

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Ok, that covers it. We hope you enjoyed Levi’s story.

One Comment

  1. Great story Levi, thanks for sharing it with Tim’s readers.
    The Amish lifestyle has always been interesting to me as I grew in in northern Indiana and the Amish were always around but I never new any of them personally.
    I really liked the statement about the “Amish Mafia” TV show .
    Ken

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