Amish Not Irish

By John Paul Jarvis

I own rural property that needed a few large trees cut and sold for timber.

Bid process on the internet is how it is accomplished with local lumber mills interested in local oak.

I settled on one bidder, primarily because he used horses to draw the felled trees out of the bush, accordingly minimal damage to existing trees.  I contacted the mill and was vocally introduced to James who had an accent that I mistook for Irish as there was a lilt in his voice.

We arranged to meet and walk the woods to consummate a deal.  In one glance James shattered my vocal interpretations because he was clearly Amish not Irish.

James was out of the l800s with beard, suspenders, boots and jacket all in black set off with a pullover shirt without buttons.  I discovered James was not Old Order Amish, as this clarification and many more turned into a 3-hour conversation that provided him viewpoints from outside his world and a full education for me.

I offered him refreshment, which he accepted, warily, due to religious fetters on alcohol.  Orange juice proved acceptable and I let him see me pour it into a glass with ice cubes and no additives.

The lumber deal was done in 20 minutes as he could estimate the number of board feet in a tree at a glance.  Initially, out of curiosity, I asked him a few questions about Amish lifestyle.  He was cautious until he began asking me about the ‘English’ as we are called and we sat and talked until dark.

He explained that he had a Grade 3 education enabling him to read and write, allowing him to run his mill.  There was no requirement for further outside knowledge.  He was an elder in their community and one of the few who monitored the internet as it had become a necessary business tool but not one that they were prepared to let loose on his community.

James’s forbearers emigrated from Switzerland to North America 300 years ago to avoid religious persecution and have experienced intrusion by governments ever since.

I was curious about Rumspringa, the only opportunity for Amish adolescents to experience the world of the ‘English’ for a short time in their teen years.

“Once the world gets its grip on you, the probability of return to Amish life recedes into impossibility,” was his Amish position.  The loss of youth from their community to the outside world is a very real problem.  The person who leaves is forever shunned by all relatives and all Amish.

We had shared values with regard to family, business and government intervention.  We weren’t so different after all and surprisingly we have had phone contact over the ensuing years.

John Paul Jarvis has enjoyed a full corporate career as CEO of four subsidiaries of foreign multinationals and served on six boards. Board and boat sailor, tennis player, terrible musician all tempered by eclectic friends – affords a basis for views and opinions on a broad range of topics.

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