REVISITING AN AMISH WHEELMAKER
Article on my first visit to the Amish wainwright: An Amish Wainwright (Wheel-making) Shop
“Do you remember me?” I asked the man whose scraggly beard matched his yellowing white hair.
As my husband Monte drove up a quarter-mile lane lined on one side with lush offerings of almost-ripe corn I instructed him and our guests from Singapore—Hung Pheng, his wife Bee Oon and their son CZ—to follow my instructions: when we reach the end of the driveway, stay in the car while I speak with whomever shows up. Monte stopped the car when we reached a plain white farmhouse, its white curtains drawn back, and a large white-washed shed.
“Don’t know as I do,” answered the old-fashioned clad gentleman.
“We met about 1995. Do you remember someone writing a news article on your shop?”
He thought for a moment, rubbing his chin with his yellowed, wrinkled thumb and index finger..
“Yes,” he said hesitatingly.
“I’m the person who wrote the article.”
A smile erupted on his face. “I have a copy somewhere in my workshop.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t remember your name,” I said.
“Jonathan. Everyone calls me Speedy.”
“I have company with me from way around the world. From Singapore. Do you know that country?”
“Well, if it’s 9:00 in the morning here, it’s 9:00 at night there. It’s exactly halfway around the world.”
He pondered that information.
“They are with me now. I wonder. Would you be willing to show them your shop?”
He smiled and agreed. Everyone exited the car at my instructions.
“This is Jonathan. I wrote an article about his shop years ago.” After I introduced everyone Jonathan told us he was 89 years old.
“My wife died 3 years ago,” he shared. Then, looking at me, he said, “You’ll have to find me a good wife.”
I laughed. “CZ told me I had to find him a girl friend. My work is cut out for me.” Turning to my friends I told them Jonathan was a wheel maker. “This is his shop. He said he would show it to you.”
We were in his shop a mere 30 seconds when he said he had something to show us. We left the shop, following him to another section of the building, where he opened wide black doors.
“This is a one hundred year old buggy I’m restoring,” he said, his smile widening and his eyes twinkling.
While we examined the buggy I remembered that he was doing something similar when I interviewed him back in 1995, but I couldn’t recall what. I wasn’t certain enough to ask him.
Jonathan told us more about his life.
“I’m 90 years old,” he said. “One of my sons owns the farm now. My other son has his own shop.”
“Can we take pictures?” I asked.
“You can. But not of me.”
I explained to the others that the Amish didn’t want anyone taking their pictures, but pictures could be taken of the buggy.
“These pictures will be seen across the world,” I told Jonathan.
It was time to go. Unfortunately, Jonathan, distracted by showing us his buggy reconstruction project, forgot to let us see his shop.
“Thank you for stopping,” he said.
“I’ll try to find you a wife,” I responded as everyone thanked him for showing us his work.
When we left we visited an Amish quilt store across the highway from Jonathan’s farm. A blue-dress clad woman, whose dress was secured by pins and who wore the traditional bonnet, was busy sorting receipts.
While everyone else looked around her shop, with its Amish bed quilts and quilted pot holders, aprons, and other assorted goods that appeal to English customers, I told her we’d just visited Jonathan. She looked at me, a surprised look on her face.
“Yes, I wrote a newspaper article on his wheel making in 1995. We were wondering—he told us he was both 89 and 90 years old.”
“Oh, he’s 89—he’ll be 90 in October or so.”
It was an Amish experience our Singapore friends couldn’t have had if they were on a tour of the region. And it was fun for me to revisit one of my most interesting news article interviewees.
Later, I found some pictures from the 1995 visit, labeled “for Jonathan.” I meant to give them to him, but apparently hadn’t followed through.
Time for a third visit…