of the Pennsylvania Dutch
and a good time! Sound
inconsistent? Just think of it as working hard, and that includes
working hard at having a good time. My Pop used to say, "When I
work, I work, and when I don't work, I don't work." The kids I
knew were strong. Even those with a lot of extra fat were strong,
really strong. That was because they were always active, both men
and women. We didn't care one bit whether you were wide or
we cared whether you could work hard. There were no couch
potatoes in my neighborhood.
the end of a day of
butchering on the farm,
Peach Schlank (one of the main fictional characters in The
Other Side of the Middle) summarizes the Dutch joy in working
comments, "A lot done vee got taday!" Every day was assessed in
terms of how much had been accomplished on that day. I might add
that the butchering session described in The
Other Side of the Middle is accompanied by and
followed by eating. Eating was part of work and part of having
fun, and boy did we
eat! My book has descriptions of some of the wonderful meals that
were commonplace right in the middle of a hard day of working.
Sauerkraut und schpeck, schnitz und knepp, rivel soup (or supp),
shoofly pie, krumkake, and a lot more. "A lot done vee got
value I was taught was faith!
Remember, I was one of the fancy Dutch, and Martin Luther emphasized
the doctrine of justification by faith alone. People I met later
in college, called me "pigheaded," meaning stubborn. But we just
had faith, faith in God, faith in common sense, and faith in ourselves.
Next, we have sustainability.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines sustainable as "a
method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not
depleted or permanently damaged." That was just assumed in my
family. We didn't use up tools, we didn't use up people, and we
didn't didn't use up the natural world. Sure things got old, like
tools and people, but you didn't just throw them away. Wherever
possible, you'd find
a use for "antiques." Find a new way for it to be useful, use
parts in something else, anyway, we didn't throw much away. By
the way, we thought sustainable agriculture was the only kind there
was. When you're done on this page, you might click the
sustainable agriculture link at the bottom.
Then, we have orderliness. "Dere's a platz
(place) foah ewerything, an ewerything balongs in it's platz!"
That didn't mean we had elaborate filing systems. We were pretty
loosy-goosy too. It just meant that you didn't have to look for
the hammer out in the yard someplace -- it was definitely to be found
laying on the workbench. That was just common sense. And by
the way, everybody says our houses were very, very clean, but I want to
sometimes they got dirty too!
Next, we have quality. "If yoah gonna do
sumsing, do it right!" "If ya start sumsing, finish it!" If
you want to see good simple quality, look at the construction of an old
Pennsylvania German bank barn. Which brings me to simplicity.
Keep it simple. One of the characters in the
sequel to The Other Side of
the Middle has a barn built on the edge of
a natural spring which is channeled through the corner of the first
floor and into a stone pool inside the barn where milk cans are placed
to keep them cold. Simple, eh? And natural too!
And finally, we have a sincere love for
nature. On our
first trip on an interstate highway, upon seeing a very complicated
cloverleaf of entrances and exits with all the barren right-of-way
surrounding it, my father said, "Vhy'd dey go vaste all dat gute
land?" Little did he know that it was only the beginning of "the
paving of America." My family taught me to live in conformity
with nature, not to fight with it!
If you're interested in reading about superstition,
witchcraft, and powwowing, click
here, otherwise click Home Again below.