Paradise Valleyby Dale Cramer
When conflict with Ohio over compulsory education for Amish children forces them to relocate, will Caleb's daughters lose their chance for families of their own?See more details below
When conflict with Ohio over compulsory education for Amish children forces them to relocate, will Caleb's daughters lose their chance for families of their own?
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Paradise ValleyDaughters of Caleb Bender #1
By Dale Cramer
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2011 Dale Cramer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn January of 1922 the Salt Creek Township in eastern Ohio was a pastoral haven of rolling hills and curving country lanes lined with horse fences and dotted here and there with the spartan farmhouses of the Amish. Perched near the road in a little bend above a creek valley sat the home of Caleb Bender, a plain white two-story saltbox with a tin roof. Across the gravel drive to the right of the house lay a long, low five-bay buggy shed, and rising from the knoll behind the house a massive T-shaped barn with a tall grain silo attached to one corner. Though nothing about the farm was ostentatious in any way, the whole of it—from the sleek, fat livestock to the neatly trimmed front lawn and flower beds, to the freshly whitewashed board fence around the yard—spoke of order and loving attention to detail.
By sunrise young Rachel Bender and her older sister Emma had already milked the cows and fed the chickens. There were no eggs, for they had been gathered the evening before to keep them from freezing in the night.
The heavy frost turned barbed wire into guitar strings. Rachel's breath came out in clouds, and brittle grass crunched underfoot as she followed her sister up to the silo after breakfast to throw down fresh silage. The patch of cow-churned mud in the barn lot had frozen solid during the night, and now her toes burned and threatened to go numb, even in boots.
Normally, this would be a boy's job, but in the Bender family there weren't enough boys to go around, so the girls grabbed pitchforks and bent their backs to the task. Rachel could handle a pitchfork well enough, though ten minutes of throwing down silage still made her puff a little. Warmed by the effort, she paused for a second to unbutton the neck of her heavy coat.
Emma kept working, humming an old tune, not even breathing hard. Strong, that one was. Neatly parted light brown hair peeked out the front of the black wool scarf covering her head, tied tightly under her chin.
"Are you and Levi going to be married?" Rachel asked, out of the blue. Approaching sixteen, she would soon be old enough to date, so lately she had spent a great deal of time thinking about boys. Levi Mullet had been courting her older sister for almost two years, but so far there were no wedding rumors. At twenty, it was getting late for Emma. Amish girls were always secretive about wedding plans—it was a tradition—so if Levi and Emma were indeed thinking of getting married, it would not be announced until a month before the wedding. Rachel wanted in on the secret now—if there was one.
Emma stopped and leaned on her pitchfork, grinning at her younger sister's bold intrusion.
She sniffed. "Well, we could be. But don't you think that would be up to Levi?"
"Jah, I suppose, but I'd think you'd know his mind by now. Wouldn't you?"
Emma smiled and averted her eyes, a clear hint. "I do, and it's a good mind. He's a fine man. I'd be proud to be his wife—he already knows that. But he's also a practical man, and he wants to be sure he can support a family. Anyway, there's plenty of time. It's only the first week of the new year, child, and marrying season isn't until after harvest in the fall."
Rachel knew her sister well, and the merry glint in Emma's bright blue eyes told her all she wanted to know. Obviously, Emma and Levi had already discussed these things privately, but it was not yet a matter for everyone else's ears. The things Emma hadn't said brought a bold grin to Rachel's face, her suspicions confirmed.
Emma wagged a finger at her. "Now, don't you go spreading rumors to all your friends, girl. I'll thank you to control your gossipy tongue." But she was smiling as she said it.
That was when they heard the engine.
They froze, listening. Rachel couldn't see, for there were no windows in the silo, but she could hear what was happening. The automobile coughed twice as the high-pitched clattering slowed to a warbling rumble, and she heard the faint but unmistakable crunch of gravel as rubber tires turned up into the Bender driveway.
She seldom saw an automobile out here in the heart of Amish country, though they had become common in town. Only rarely did a car pass by on the road in front of the house, and none of them had ever turned into their driveway before. Dat would not like this. To him, these motorcars were the work of the devil—noisy and smelly and ignorant. Even a stupid horse could be made to see reason, but not so a machine. "Good horses make more good horses, and they eat hay. The land feeds the horse, and the horse feeds the land," Caleb Bender was fond of saying. "Gott made it so." The automobile, Dat said, was just another assault on the family—like most modern contrivances, a wedge to drive them apart from each other and from the land.
Emma leaned her pitchfork against the wall. "What on earth could that be about?"
The noise stopped abruptly, the automobile's motor clanking and grinding to a halt. Emma backed through the hatch, scrambled down the ladder and ran to the barn door with Rachel close behind. Rachel bumped into her when she pulled up suddenly at the edge of the door.
Excerpted from Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer Copyright © 2011 by Dale Cramer. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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