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Horses, Boys and Baseball


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Horses, Boys and Baseball or Abner II

BY Paul_and_Paco

This is our first summer in a new home. Because of that, each day seems to bring something new. Around our house it is the weekends that really seem to make or break a week, at least during the school year.

When we were visiting in Pennsylvania last summer, Abner spent several nights with us at the house we were staying in, so he knew something of our home life and routines. He might not have been ready for what he found here, though.

The major difference between how things work here and how Abner saw them last summer is… somewhere along the way I picked up four brothers and an extra set of parents. OK, maybe not extra parents... Abner had met Pop's friend last summer, ‘Uncle’ Jack, but since then Uncle Jack—who is my boyfriend’s father and was with us on vacation in Pennsylvania, too—had acquired a partner and his son. To add to the confusion, Pop had added a new son. Abner had met four of us in Pennsylvania; now he had to sort out five more, because now we are nine. They are: Pop, me, Uncle Jack, Paco, Uncle Jack’s partner, his son, Pop’s partner, and my two brothers. Confused yet? Pay attention: there’ll be a test later.

We all live together on a ranch, with horses. They play a prominent role in our lives, but our parents do not depend on the horses to make their living, at least not yet.

Abner had to learn who’s who when we arrived home from the plane trip. He had five new faces to sort out. He had some catching up to do.

Now, you might know that Amish families are usually quite large, with aunts and uncles, even grandparents living in the same house. But, around our homestead the only whiff of a girl you will get is when my dads’—yeah, I count both Pop and Uncle Jack as my dads—housekeeper comes during the week. Miss Ella does not really count as a girl, however, as she is about sixty years old and not interested in boys any more... I don't think. That was a joke.

In Amish families the family jobs are pretty much gender-determined. Men do not keep house, cook, sew, or many of the things the nine of us do in a normal day. Abner had been a bit nervous up north when he saw Pop and me cooking. It was OK out on the grill, but inside... an absolute no-no, something that just wasn't right. It took a long time for me to convince him how much we loved to cook, to explain that there was nothing wrong with us doing it, and if we didn't to it, there would be a lot of hungry people sitting at the table giving us evil glares and refusing to leave till they were fed.

The first morning that Abner came down to breakfast with us, there was Pop at the stove cooking up a storm. I jumped right in and started helping, telling my little brother to set the table. At our house, mealtime can be a bit overwhelming. I think for Abner we were just adding more sand into his gears. When every dish was on the dining room table and we were all seated, I looked at Pop when Abner folded his hands and bowed his head.

Our family is pretty diverse with lots of different histories, but one thing we all seem to agree on is organized religion has never done any of us any good. Pop is a Buddhist, and my uncle Jack is a lapsed cafeteria Catholic. Their partners... well, they are mostly nothing. So, having someone in our midst beginning to pray was a little unnerving for us. I figured, though, this was that two-way street everyone keeps talking about, or maybe Abner's way of getting back at my youngest brother, Vincent, for pouncing him that morning... landing right on Abner’s nuts with his boney knee.

The look on Vincent's face when I held his hands under the table to keep him from digging into our waiting breakfast was priceless. Pop cleared his throat and told everyone to bow their heads. When Pop clears his throat, we pay attention. Pop did an amazing job with an off-the-cuff “thank you for the food.” It did not faze Abner, of course, but the other five of us kids were amazed. We’d all overlooked the fact that Pop grew up Amish. That had to be the reason he could do that so nonchalantly.

After breakfast, though, Vincent had to start asking why we had to do that “god-junk” before we ate. That started a rather intense discussion with Abner that lasted most of the morning and never really ended. Sometimes I just want to strangle my little brother. Well, not really. He can be a pain, but an awfully cute pain.

OK, like I said, a while ago now it seems, usually we exist through the week in anticipation of the weekend and all its freedom and excitement.

One event that happens every weekend, the first thing on Saturday mornings, is a sandlot baseball game that all of us kids participate in. I call it a game, but really it is just playing, because there are no teams or sides... everyone plays every position. It is sort of a round-robin affair. There are maybe fifteen kids from the town where I live that show up, plus our rather large horde, making for a good-sized number on the field.

The fact that my brothers and I ride our horses to the game was just the icing on the cake for Abner. You see, Amish kids are really into horses. And baseball. The game is low-tech and very much American... no violence, the way we play it, and only the occasional disagreement.

Last night, the anticipation of today's game was almost palpable. Gloves and caps were laid out. Paco had his bat polished up gleaming bright. (No, not that bat! Get your mind outta the gutter!) And Pop even had a couple of new balls he had picked up during the week.

Oh, I forgot one thing... adults are not allowed at the game. Well, not exactly not allowed, but they never come. The game gives them time at home all to themselves and I expect they have just as good a time as we do. Maybe just sitting out back, drinking coffee. Maybe.

Anyway, back to the game. When we showed up there were about five other kids already on the diamond tossing a ball back and forth. We parked our steeds behind the bleachers... they never like waiting, or maybe they want to play, too.

Introductions were pretty quick, mostly because I think our friends were pretty used to new faces showing up in our family. Vincent and I staked our claim on the sidelines as usual. He is a bit young to play ball with the older guys, and I am not quite able to yet. That's OK, though... I get my fun watching my Paco play.

The game started almost as soon as our guys stepped onto the field. Others straggled in in ones and twos till the field was one mass of kids playing ball. There is always laughing and talking going on, catching up on events of the week and such. Abner had no problem at all fitting in. He played as well or better than most of the guys. By the time we took a break and sat around the bleachers drinking cokes and munching on snacks we had snuck out of the house with us, Abner was one of the gang. No one even questioned his long pants or straw hat. (I’ve got to get that boy a cap... maybe a Mud Hens one like mine. Mississippi has no major league team.)

When we got home, the pool was calling us so bad I did not think I could get Vincent to take the time to put on a swimsuit before he dove in the water. Being an all male household, and out in the sticks a bit, swimsuits are not a required garment, normally. With Abner visiting we have stuck to ‘company rules,’ and suits are the dress of the day in the pool.

When we had changed, and everyone was cooling off in the water, Abner slid up next to me and said, “Thanks for today, Paul, it was pretty special. I really felt like I fit in."

***

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In case you're wondering, Paul. Luggie likes to be first to comment. That's what that was all about. He takes his Court Jester title seriously.

I envy the rich texture of your quilt-stitched family and friends. And Abner is a story-maker who just keeps on giving. Wonderful stuff.

James

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  • 2 weeks later...

The first installment is "First Visit to a New World," here in the forum.

Congratulations are in order. I see "First Visit to a New World" is now available at Codey's World. Congratulations, Paul_and_Paco!

I'll assume the next installment (this one) will be there soon.

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