Growing Up Amish: A Memoir

Growing Up Amish: A Memoir

by Ira Wagler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414339368
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 06/28/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 318,503
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.60(d)

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Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Ira Wagler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-3936-8

Chapter One

No one seems to remember exactly what was going on at the old home farm that day. Can't say I blame them. There is no particular reason they should.

The one thing everybody does seem to agree on is that it was a typical late August day. Stiflingly oppressive heat. Barely a wisp of a breeze. Not a cloud in the sky. Not that I could confirm or deny any of it. I wasn't there. At least not when the day dawned.

Some of my older siblings claim the threshers were there—though it was awfully late in the season for threshing oats. The menfolk were probably clattering about in the barn loft, sweeping the old wooden granary bins where the oats would be stored. And soon enough, the neighbors would have come rattling in with teams and wagons to haul the bundled oat sheaves. The threshing machine would have been there too, pulled by an ancient hybrid of a tractor and set up by the barn before the first loaded wagons came swaying in from the fields. Sweating in the dust and heat, the men would have been pitching the bundles onto the conveyor belt that fed the belt-driven threshing machine, where they would have been chewed up, separated, and deposited into the barn as oats and straw. The late harvest was under way.

I'm guessing some of the younger kids were picking strawberries in the field out by the old hickory tree. Seems late in the year for strawberries, too, except for the Everbearing kind. Those plants produced from June until the fall frosts killed them. My father planted gobs of them every year to sell as produce—and to keep the children busy.

If Mom felt extra tired or stressed that morning, I'm sure she didn't let on. After breakfast, she and my older sisters were probably doing what they always did: washing dishes, cleaning the house, and preparing the noon meal for everyone, which on that day would include the threshing crew.

But then, my sisters remember Mom abruptly stopping what she was doing. Stumbling to a wooden chair by the kitchen table, her face twitching with sudden spasms of pain.

"Go fetch your father from the barn," she instructed Rosemary and Magdalena. And off they went.

"Mom said for you to come. Right away," they gasped. Dad dropped his shovel and rushed to the house, the girls tagging anxiously behind him.

Mom was sitting there at the table, white faced. "It's time," she told him. He turned and dashed off to the neighbors' place a quarter mile to the east. "English" people who had a car.

Moments later, my sisters stood silently by and watched as my mother—still sitting in her chair—was carried to the car by my father and one of the threshers. After easing the chair to the ground, Dad helped Mom shift into the backseat. Once everyone was situated—Dad, Mom, and the English neighbor—they headed off to the hospital in nearby Tillsonburg.

Except for Rosemary and Magdalena, I doubt the rest of my siblings had any clue what was going on. They may have noticed that Mom had gained some weight lately and that she seemed tired a lot. But in those days, in that setting, no one spoke of such things. Especially to young children.

Dad didn't return home until supper time, and when he did, Mom was not with him. My sisters remember the children gathering round.

"Where's Mom?"

"We have a little baby," Dad announced, beaming. "A boy."

They murmured excitedly. "A baby!"

"Mom is staying at the hospital tonight. We'll go get her tomorrow."

I'd like to think my birth was an important event, and to some extent, of course, it was. But in Amish families, the arrival of a new baby isn't treated the same as it is in English families, where everyone fusses rapturously. For the Amish, where it's not at all uncommon for families to have upwards of ten children, a new baby just isn't that big a deal.

By the time I came along, my parents already had eight children. Four boys and four girls. An even number of each. I broke the tie. Number nine. I'd like to think, too, that the choosing of my name was the source of much somber thought and measured consideration. Serious weighing of various possibilities and combinations. Perhaps even reciting the finalists aloud a time or two, just to make sure the name would fit in the flow of all the others in the family.

I'd like to think it was an important ritual. But again, I know better.

Earlier that summer, Dad had hired a strapping young man to help with the farmwork for room and board and a couple of bucks a day. He was Dad's nephew and my cousin, probably around twenty years old. He was a fine, upstanding fellow, by all accounts. Hardworking, too. His name was Ira Stoll.

And by the time Dad had fetched Mom and me from the Tillsonburg hospital the next day, someone—I suspect it was my two oldest sisters—had come up with the fateful suggestion: "Why don't we name the new baby boy Ira?"

"After our cousin?" I can imagine Dad stroking his long black beard thoughtfully.

Mom, resting in bed, did not protest. In fact, I'm guessing she was even a little relieved. And so it was settled, in the most lackadaisical manner imaginable. With zero fanfare or fuss, I was saddled forever with the name Ira.

No middle name.

Just Ira.

Ira Wagler.

And thus began my life in the Old Order Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario.


Excerpted from GROWING UP AMISH by IRA WAGLER Copyright © 2011 by Ira Wagler. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Growing up Amish 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
skstiles612 More than 1 year ago
I have always loved reading and hearing about the Amish life. There are several reasons for this. I grew upon a farm in Indiana. My parents became Christians when I was five. With no one to guide her in her walk, my mother decided it was better to err on God's side. Board games, dancing of any kind, and most television shows became off limits or a sin. My books and comic books were scrutinized. My mom's first question whenever I told her about a new friend was, "Are they a Christian?" I had few friends growing up because they did not fit into my mom's "category" of what a Christian was. I worked on the farm just as the Amish do. When we moved to Florida I learned that what we called a garden the people down here called a truck patch or small farm. I learned how to can and freeze fruits and vegetables. We smoked our own meat. In the winter we filled a concrete tub in our 'milk house' up with snow and put perishables in it. It was a tough life yet one I miss. It may be these memories that have always drawn me to Amish fiction. I can see so many parallels. I was thrilled to read Ira Wagler's book Growing Up Amish. In this book we get a look at the "real" Amish. Not the ones so often written about in romance novels, which make the Amish come across as a people who do, or think no wrong. We find a man who has struggled to find where he truly belongs. He wanted to be a part of the Amish world he was born into, yet felt it was not for him. At age 17 he left his Amish home in Iowa. He later returns, and must admit all of his sins to the congregation before he is allowed to join the church. He tries, but still doesn't seem to feel as if he is where he should be. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to once again make a decision to leave his Amish life. He subjected himself to this pain many times before leaving for good. The pain of being shunned by everyone you know is hard enough. Their belief is if you left the church then your soul was headed for damnation. I was happy to learn that Ira finally asked God about his situation and got an answer. He found salvation outside of his Amish culture. Unfortunately it is not only the Amish that are like this. We see this in many denominations. They become so legalistic that it seems they forget what Jesus was all about. I thank God each and every day that his love for us is not based on a set of laws. We see where that got people in the old testament. This book is a great look at the Amish. However, I believe the message I it is clear. We all need to take a look at our lives and ask if we are where God wants us. If not then maybe we need to talk with him to find out where he wants us to be. I do find it funny when I think about how they try to separate themselves from the English. When we get to heaven Go is not going to separate us, say, "You Baptist over there and You Amish over here. We who have found salvation through Jesus blood are all God's children and he has prepared a home for us in heaven, together. This is a must read book for anyone who enjoys learning about the Amish.
TimInBrooklyn More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book and tore through it with great interest. It was an honest, open and heart felt account of the author's intense personal struggle of choosing one way of life over another. I empathized with him throughout the book and found myself far from envious of his predicament of having to choose between personal freedom to live his life as he chooses in the modern world, with all of it's excitement, danger and opportunity or the security of family and a faith tradition that was stable but contrary to what his heart told him was best for him. The reason I give it three stars is that unless I missed an important detail, I found it anti-climactic in the sense that there was no mention of what his relationship with his Amish family is now, which leaves the reader wondering if he's been all together shunned or if there is nominal familial contact (though there were hints in the book that make me tend to believe it's the latter). Enjoyable and insightful all the same and I definitely recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wagler's story started out interesting, but I soon tired of his soul-searching and seemingly aimless quests for life outside the Amish community. I really never fully understood his life experiences, the influential people he met were never fully woven into his story: what did he learn about living among the "English." Then when he made the final decision to leave his fiance and the community was like he outgrew an old coat to be tossed aside with little regard to emotional toll on the fiance and family. In the end, I had no sympathy for his situation since his story was like a man-child searching and not knowing where his life was taking him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the first hand account of a man who grew up Amish. He describes his family and upbringing in a way that is easy to relate to and hard to put down. He doesnt glamorize the lifestyle and explains interesting aspects of the culture I haven't read before. I think this is the best written autobiography of someone raised Amish and I have read all that I could find. Although the book focuses on the divide between Amish and outside culture, much of it is about adolescence and events within the Amish world that all of us have experienced or can relate to. I highly recommend this book about a former Amish person's experiences that are all too human. It will make you think twice about what it is like to live Amish.
Countrysunset More than 1 year ago
Have you ever thought how it would be to live without electricity, a car, or even store-bought jeans? Come follow this eye-opening account of "Growing Up Amish" and get a glimpse of what that life is really like. Ira Wagler's life, in his eyes, begins rather uneventfully in his family of 11. His daily existence is pure and simply led through the basic lifestyle of the Old Order Amish. By the age of seventeen, see how disenchanted he has become and how he must go through several years of trials and tribulations before he can finally be at peace with himself and where he needs to be in his life. Being a fan of Amish fiction, I knew I would enjoy reading this personal story. Mr. Wagler gives such an honest account of his feelings throughout the story that you really feel them with him. It makes you want to turn page after page to see where he will end up in the end. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the Amish lifestyle. This book was kindly provided to me by Tyndale House for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Growing up Amish myself this book caused mantears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a huge fan of amish books but this one really disappointed me. To me it wasnt enjoyable at all to read. Maybe it was just the story itself that i didnt like, being it was the author telling the story of his rough life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. It is not an 'on-the-seat-of-your-pants' kind of book, but a good story of a boy in a unique lifestyle trying to find his way. Such a hard lifestyle - having family or not being able to have them. Everyone needs family - a good read. The simplicity of life for them is so foreign to most of us - that element also kept me wanting to know more. You want him to succeed & find his happiness. A good unique story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been interested in following the Amish religion and culture for many years. I found the book very interesting, could not put it down, and it certainly was climatic. I would recommend it because it occurred in an area of Iowa that I was familiar with. It helped me understand what was different between each of the different settlements throughout the various locations in several states. Have experienced a similar situation in my family but it was a different religion.
aimee mattson More than 1 year ago
Im sorry to say that i found this book rather tedious. Author incessantly complaining and stating the same personal revelations again and again. When i bought the book i hoped for more on Amish culture, and i never expexted it to be a personal Christian testimonial. I didnt like the book because i expected what the preview provided, and will not recommend it for the same reason. amyjoe
Laurie_Carlson More than 1 year ago
This book was provided to me by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review of my opinion of the book, either positive or negative. I can honestly say this is a truly positive review! This book was a true joy to read, as is very interesting and captivating. It drew me in from the very first sentence. I could not put this book down but only for the demands of life. Ira, the author, was born into a very large Amish family. His father is the editor of an Amish periodical that is subscribed to by just about every Amish household that exists. It is quite amazing how this periodical came to be and still exists today, which is explained in the book. As Ira meets strangers and tells them his name, he is recognized by other Amish people as his father's son by his last name alone by recognition of his father's name, and is often asked if he is 'the writer's son'? This is how popular and a good writer his father is. (Ira's fathers' talent for writing has rubbed off on his son, Ira, the author of this book, as you will see if you choose to read this author's wonderfully written, descriptive, and talented book.) It shows how dedicated his father is to living and believing the Amish lifestyle is the only way to live and the only way of life. This creates a lot of tension between Ira and his father. Ira tells the story of his life as he is confiding his deepest, darkest secrets in you. You feel like you are right there, sitting right next to him, listening to all his trials and tribulations of his Amish life. You feel what he feels as he grows and experiences all that he does. Is the Amish way of life the life he wants to live? You also learn the real, nitty-gritty rules of Amish life, things you would not know unless you read this book. The rules all differ as to what is accepted and what is not accepted in many different ways; the differing communities, communities from county to county, from state to state. I was not aware these rules even existed the way they do. Again, the many different ways/rules of doing things and living that are or are not accepted, right down to the type of buggy wheels the Amish were allowed to use and even the clothing they wore. I learned so much about the Amish in this Non-Fiction book than in any fictional book I've ever read. Ira, being from a very large Amish family, he pretty much had a normal childhood, until the closer he got to the age of 16, when the children were then considered adults. This is about the time when the young Amish youth, now adults, start to experiment different ways of living and doing things socially. Ira had been feeling uncomfortable and confused living the Amish way of life. He did not know or feel as if 'this' life was for him. He had many questions about his Faith, and exactly what it meant to him. He went on many journeys seeking answers to his questions several times. When he would come back home, he would try to readjust and live the Amish way again, but he just could not do it for any length of time. Something was missing from his life; he felt a void. One of the lengthier times he came back home he tried dating. He was continually trying to find just what that void was. What did fill his void happened one day when he met a special man in another Amish community. This opened up a new way of thinking about faith for Ira and where he ends up going, doing and ending up. To pass this book up and not read this would be a loss for people who are curious of the Amish!
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Amish1949 More than 1 year ago
Read from August 15 to 21, 2013 I thought this was a very upfront story of this man,Ira Wagler. I think the truth is what it is, and I admire him for being honest. Mr.Wagler has a blog that tells more after the story, and you will find it if you click on his name above, there it will give you more info. I do not rate this story upon my expectations on what the Amish should be like,and therefore,since it's not what I expected, I don't agree with it,and will give the story a low rating. I have read lots of Amish books-fiction and nonfiction, and I understand that the Amish communities are all different in the way they live. I will not judge them, but accept what each one, is. Saying that, I highly recommend this book! Excellent job, Mr.Wagler!
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Yall may think im being a b*tch but im a technology freak. Otherwise pretty good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Message if hope can be found in the midst of the despair
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read
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