More Adventures in Amish Country: Milking Water Buffalo (Part 2)

The little excursion through my old hick town of Corinth was secondary to my real purpose for being in Aylmer, but I was glad I did it. And I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t impact me more negatively, and make me jittery or even a bit emotional. Nothing. I was good.

I drove west, down the back roads I had discovered that morning, memorizing paths from Corinth to Carter Road, where I would again visit my Amish friends. I parked my car, and walked toward the house.

Nate and Ira greeted me at the door, offering bear hugs and a warm welcome. Nate hasn’t shrunk and inch, still towering over me, making me feel petite, at 5′ 10″. And Ira is as warm and friendly in person as he is on the phone and in the virtual realm of Facebook. (That is, when he’s not all riled up talking politics and such.) It was great to see them both and to meet Ira for the first time.

When Ira asked a while later where we should get our pictures taken, I said, “In front of a buggy, of course!” He groaned. And obliged. At least I didn’t make him sit in it, or give me a ride.

Inside the house was quiet. Rosemary, who bustled about the last time I visited, sat quietly with her leg elevated. She developed an ulcer and needs to take it easy–something she does not do easily, or naturally. Her eyes twinkled with that same warm welcome I felt the first time I came.

Her daughter, Edna, sat in a chair across the room, nursing a very sore back. One of those back pains that shows on the face, the kind I have not had in many years, but can still feel when I see it. In spite of this, she was pleasant and enjoyed pleasant conversation.

In my previous visit I met Magdalena and Ray Marner and delighted to meet their daughter Janice, from Phoenix Arizona. A beautiful red-head with a ready smile, looking very ‘English’, it took me off guard when Pennsylvania Dutch flowed smoothly from her lips. Even though I knew it is her background, to hear her speak so comfortably made me smile.

Titus sat in his wheelchair at a table, resting. It was a pleasure to meet him and his son Thomas. (I didn’t meet Ruth and Robert until later, after supper.) Thomas is a handful of mischief and a delightful young lad! He was quite taken with Juanita and did what he had to do, to keep her attention. It was fun to watch. What a gift Titus and Ruth have given these boys! And no doubt they feel very blessed as well, to have these little lives trusted into their care.
We visited for a while, and then went up to see Edna’s room, which is almost more like a little bachelor apartment minus the kitchenette. It’s a cozy space, with a china cabinet dividing her sleeping quarters from the sitting area. An open Bible is displayed on the coffee table, and a hymnal lies beside it. Juanita sang ‘Tears are a language..’ as I massaged Edna’s back, attempting to give her some relief from the pain. It probably comforted me more than her… but watching her in pain like that, the least I could do was try, and hope I wasn’t going to make it worse. When I finished she said it wasn’t worse, and it felt okay while I was working on it, so that was a good sign. 
Ira, Nate, Juanita, Janice and I went for a drive around the countryside. The mission was to find an ‘Aylmer’ sign and take some pictures. We had so much fun!
Nate decided it would be a great time to tell everyone how we met. One day, he said, I had knocked on the door at a mutual friend’s home, where he was staying. Upon discovering that Ron and Cindy were not home, when he showed up at the door, he claimed that I practically pushed 5 children into his arms and tried to make him babysit for me. He demonstrated my deep, demanding tone of voice, and how it left him feeling intimidated and helpless. At least that is how I interpreted it.
That was not how I recalled the story at all. So I told my side of the story. I showed up at Ron and Cindy’s late one afternoon expecting to find her home, and intending to ask if my children could play a few minutes while I ran an errand. I was horrified when this big, burly, mean-looking stranger towered over me and asked me what I want. Clearly trembling and traumatized, I, in the most reserved and bashful tone, asked if Cindy was here. He snarled some unintelligible jargon, demanding I leave my children. They would be fine in his care. Fearful that some great harm had already befallen my friends at the hands of this giant, I didn’t want to leave the premises, but fearing our own demise, and out of desire to protect my children, I reluctantly left, carefully counting my children as we drove away, making sure he had not snatched one. Following a restless night, it was a great relief the next morning, when I finally managed to get hold of Cindy and discover that, while big, mean and burly looking, Nate was a friend and more of a teddy bear than his gruff voice let on. And that was how Nate and I became friends.
Ira, Juanita and Janice were far too discerning to believe either tale. They concluded the truth must lie somewhere in between. Just where, one cannot know for certain. And Ira did tell me, “Trudy, let’s just say the Waglers are not the only ones who can spin a good tale.”
I’ll take that as an honour, “Thank you very much, sir!” 
And just about the time we had finished spinning tales, we came across an ‘Aylmer’ sign. Poor Ira! Three women squawking, “There Ira! Pull over!” as he slams on the breaks and pull over. He grumbled a bit about the stone and it not being a ‘real’ sign, but was quite cooperative about having pictures done.
No more had we jumped back in, driven a few hundred feet and the squawking started all over again. A ‘real’ sign this time. So Ira again whipped over and got some pictures of the ‘real’ sign. 
That’s when Nate started talking about the water buffalo. Simon and Kathleen have some. They milk them… “Trudy, you’ll go with us to watch them milk the buffalo, right?” 
“Of course I will!” I said. “What are we talking about anyway? And what time?” Nate explained and I agreed to go.
I have a song for everything, so that little conversation started the Veggie Tales, ‘Silly Songs With Larry’ Water Buffalo song playing in my head. From time to time throughout the remainder of the day I would start singing, “Everybody wants a water buffalo, yours is fast and mine is slow, where do you get them, I don’t know but everybody wants a water buffalo….
We returned to Rosemary and Joe’s farm, visited a while longer and then it was time for the big adventure. We would go to the farm and watch them. As we pulled up to the farm, having travelled a long and winding lane, a thought occurred to me. I knew I shouldn’t…. But I couldn’t miss it for the world… So I gave in to a tiny little temptation. 
I grabbed my iPod and carried it discreetly in front of me, having it turned on and facing out. I wouldn’t be able to focus it properly, but I could snap random shots and hope for something good to show for. I confess, I pushed aside the teensy bit of guilt that threatened. The thought was entirely too appealing, and I didn’t think God would mind nearly so much as they would. As long as I could keep it looking innocent, I’d not really be doing any harm. 
So it was that I wandered about, taking a total off 117 pictures. A few were close up shots of my fingers, many were fuzzy, but a sprinkled throughout were decent shots of the barn, Simon’s young son, and the farm. Now little waves of guilt wash over me as I contemplate posting them here…
Once again, the thought is too appealing to resist and if a family member kindly asks me to take them down, I will do so. Until then, it is all too sweet not to share. With not seeing the screen and focusing properly, and with no light in the barn, the quality is poor, but gives you a feel for the water buffalo farm.
Simon clearly loves his animals. His rainbow eyes sparkle like no one else I’ve ever met. When he introduced us to the buffalo, he placed his arm around the head of one of the huge beasts, placed his face right against the animal and said, “They’re almost more like pet. Like a big dog. Very affectionate.” 
Ivan came out minutes later and demonstrated the gentleness of the animals by jumping on the back of one and jumping from back to back. He was quite pleased with being able to perform for us, and we enjoyed the show.
While Simon gave us a tour, several of his children set up to do the milking, and having come full circle, we stood and watched awhile. “My mother taught me to milk cows,” I said. “This sure brings back memories.”
Simon chuckled, “Would you want to try milking a buffalo?” he asked. 
I lit up. “Oh yes! I would love to!” I said.
He looked almost startled at my answer. Nate looked to be headed into full-blown panic. “You’re not serious!” he said, more than asked.
“Of course I am!” 
“But you’re wearing a white skirt.”
“Meh, what’s a white skirt? It’s washable.” It isn’t every day you get to milk a water buffalo.
And so it was determined that I would milk the most gentle buffalo. Ivan would get it washed up and primed, and then I could have a go at it. 
“We have to get a picture of this!” Nate said. And, coincidentally, I had a camera! How handy was this? I showed Juanita how to use it, and I sat down to try my hand at it.
Teeny, tiny little streams of milk came out. And I didn’t get kicked. That, I decided, was the definition of success in this situation. I would have been there a day trying to get all the milk so I turned it back to Ivan, who produced rivers of milk in place of my teeny tiny streams. Not a career path I’ll pick up just yet, but a very amazing experience!
A little more wandering around and it was time to return to Rosemary’s farm…. 
To Be Continued…. 
© Trudy Metzger
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4 thoughts on “More Adventures in Amish Country: Milking Water Buffalo (Part 2)

  1. Katie Troyer August 22, 2012 / 10:35 am

    Thank you for posting these. I have been waiting on them. Seeing your pictures and reading your account gives me a longing to visit Aylmer again. But I probably wouldn’t get quite the same welcome you did because I am not an outsider. I was inside and left.

    • Trudy Metzger August 22, 2012 / 10:39 am

      Maybe I’m just blissfully naive and they think I’m the scariest person around… who knows for sure? And maybe we could go together. That way I’d get to meet you too. 🙂 I have to say they seemed happy to see Nate and Ira. Maybe time changes things??

      • Katie Troyer August 22, 2012 / 11:14 am

        I would love to go with you. Maybe it would be different for after all I left 22 years ago with the Elmo Stoll/Cookeville movement. And the pain of that movement is not raw anymore. Plus we proved by our actions that we were wrong. But I am now a result of that movement because I am out in the world and don’t wear nothing on my head, plus a few more offenses. I also know the community as a whole has changed a lot since I left. I guess the only way to find out is to go.

      • Trudy Metzger August 22, 2012 / 11:25 am

        I’m in! Would love to be your chauffeur!

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