“Eli,” Mamm prodded gently. “It’s time to get up. Breakfast is almost ready and Datt’s just coming in from the barn.”
5-year-old Eli snuggled farther under the warm quilt, but soon the aromas of frying bacon and Mamm’s cornmeal mush reached his nose, and he swung his feet onto the wood plank floor. It was a new day.
Mattie, Eli’s 7-year-old sister, was already in the kitchen helping Mamm set the table. Datt wiped his feet as he came in the back door, dusty and hungry from the early morning chores. Right behind him were Jonas, John and Roman, Eli and Mattie’s older brothers.
“Good morning, young ones,” Datt said with a twinkle in his eye, “it’s stock trailer day.”
Eli’s and Mattie’s eyes widened. How they looked forward to this! A truck and trailer would be coming from the neighbor’s farm to load up Datt’s heifers and take them and Datt to the auction in Kidron. The children never tired of the thrill of watching the big truck and trailer backing up to the barn.
After breakfast, Mattie cleared the table while Eli raced outside to feed and water the farm dogs. His older brothers were already in the barn helping Datt get the livestock ready to go, and Eli didn’t want to miss a thing.
Soon the big truck could be heard rumbling up the road. Mattie got the first view of it, since she was helping Mamm hang out a load of laundry on the clothesline.
“Can I go, Mamm?” she asked excitedly.
“Go on, then,” Mamm said with a knowing smile, and Mattie ran to the barn to join Eli and the others.
Soon, with everyone’s help, Datt’s heifers were safely loaded on the trailer, and Datt settled in the front seat of the truck with the driver. They waved as they headed out the driveway and down the road to the Kidron Auction, where they would be sold to the highest bidder.
“Wish I could go,” grumbled Eli as the truck and trailer disappeared from view.
“Ach, Eli, you’ll have a chance next time,” said Mattie. “Besides, Mamm said if we picked some apples before lunch, she’d make a pie for supper!”
Well, that was welcome news. A “chore” wasn’t so bad if it involved the reward of one of Mamm’s perfectly sweet, flaky apple pies.
Eli and Mattie helped each other carry the long-handled fruit harvester to the family’s small orchard at the side of the house. They took turns hoisting the long-handled tool up into the tree, pulling down several baskets of rosy, ripe apples. Luckily, only one or two had “bad spots” they could bite out, and then enjoy the rest of the apple as a snack.
The rest of the apples would be picked over the next couple of weeks as they ripened. Datt and the older brothers would press half the crop into sweet cider, and Mattie would help Mamm turn the rest into homemade applesauce, which would be canned and enjoyed all through winter.
With the apples safely delivered to Mamm’s kitchen, Eli ran to get his toy wooden truck and trailer. They had been a gift from his ‘Daadi and ‘Maami” (Grandpa and Grandma) and were almost like the real ones that had just been at their house.
He and Mattie spent the rest of their playtime before lunch rolling the truck and trailer up and down the sidewalk and playing “auction” with their toy barn and animals.
At last it was lunchtime, and Datt was home from the auction with tales of the happenings in Kidron that morning. The auction had gone well, and he’d gotten good prices for all the heifers.
“I had time to stop by Lehman’s and pick up your favorite treat,” he said with a smile, reaching into his pocket and pulling out two…
“Licorice pipes!” Eli and Mattie said together.
After lunch, Datt went to the north field to finish plowing for a planting of winter wheat, and Eli and Mattie helped clear the table, then resumed their playtime outside. This time Mattie insisted on playing “house.” Although Eli didn’t want to at first, he soon was convinced to be the Datt, and Mattie the Mamm, as she rocked her “baby” to sleep in the special rocker and cradle ‘Daadi and ‘Maami’ had given her last year.
The early fall sun was high and hot in the sky, and after a while the children skipped to the kitchen for a drink of cold water.
“Here, take this out to your Datt, please,” said Mamm, handing them a thermos of homemade switchel. “He’ll be hot, too.”
“Race you,” said Mattie, and Eli willed his legs to keep up with her as they ran toward the field. Datt was glad for the cool drink – he always said switchel quenched his thirst better than anything else on a hot day.
“Run and play now, young ones,” he said. When I’m done here you can help with the horses.”
Another treat! Usually it was just the older brothers who were allowed to unhitch, groom and water Datt’s big Percheron workhorses. But under Datt’s watchful eye, sometimes Mattie and Eli could help, too. Although the horses were huge, they were truly gentle and docile.
With the field freshly plowed and the sun starting to sink lower, Datt swung first Eli, then Mattie high up on the big horses’ backs as they plodded toward the barn.
“A good day,” he mused as he surveyed the field. “And now, for a good supper from your Mamm.” With Datt’s strong hands leading the big horses toward the barn, and the Ohio sun casting a golden glow over the farm, there was nowhere else on earth Eli and Mattie wanted to be.
Editor’s Note: “Eli” and “Mattie” are fictional characters based on the children of many of our Amish friends and neighbors. Any resemblance to real people, living or deceased, is purely coincidental.
Find the Eli & Mattie toy collection only at Lehman’s.
Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of German, is the language spoken by the Amish, especially at home. Here’s a quick glossary of terms used in this blog: Datt = Dad; Mamm = Mom; ‘Daadi = Grandpa or Grandfather (the formal term is Grossdaadi); ‘Maami = Grandma or Grandmother (formal: Grossmaami); Ach = Oh!