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The Life of an Amish Boy, 1945 (part 2) – guest columnist Merle Headings

January 26, 2019

Another Way for week of January 25, 2019

The Life of an Amish Boy, 1945 (part 2)

Guest column by Merle Headings

Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a guest column by Merle Headings, a long-ago friend of columnist Melodie Davis, whose family went to her church when she lived in north Florida. Last week he wrote (dictated to Deven Eileen Lewis) about a month his family spent in Sarasota as a boy, and this week about his normal life in Amish country of Ohio.

When we got back from Florida, it was time for my younger brother Chester and I to go back to school. Surely leaving Florida was the worst idea my family ever had.

School did not go well for me. I had missed a lot of school and got behind in my work, plus I made it worse by not doing my work right to begin with. My third grade teacher, Miss Greaser at Canaan School, had us doing some coloring and I did not take the time to be neat. Miss Greaser asked me, “Is this the way they did it in Florida?” I looked up at her stubbornly and said, “Yes.” Boy was that the wrong answer!

School wasn’t the only thing I had to come back to after my tropical paradise. I was milking cows again both morning and evening in the bitter cold. I can still remember laying my head against the warm cows as I milked in that freezing cold barn.

That spring, Mom and Dad started talking about moving from our farm in Plain City, and we would no longer have cows to milk. Dad found farm land for rent on the south edge of Columbus, and an old gas station no longer in use. Dad told us that we were going to fix up the gas station and live in it. This was outside the Amish/Mennonite area and it meant traveling 18 miles every Sunday to the Beachy Amish Church.

Dad fixed up the gas station which consisted of one bedroom that, to my nine-year-old eyes, did not look like much. Dad told us he would build us boys a nice bedroom. Well, that nice bedroom turned out to be a 10 by 20 foot chicken house that he built on wooden skids so that later he could move it to use as an actual chicken house. He pulled it up to the station’s back door. That was our new bedroom with no insulation and no heat. We woke up some mornings to find snow had blown through the cracks and settled on our beds.

For two winters, we all slept in that that cold bedroom and according to Mom, no one ever got the flu or even a cold. They slept at one end of the chicken coop and Chester and I slept at the other end, with three-year-old Elton in the middle to stay warm.

Chester and I were happy since we no longer had chores to do mornings and evenings. Our happiness, however, was tempered with a fair amount of anxiety since we had to go to a new school. That first day of school as Chester and I walked just 1000 feet to the school building, the increasing feeling of dread that came over me with every step became almost palpable by the time we reached the entrance. I had never excelled at my old school. I had myself in such a state that morning that it was a wonder that I made it to school at all.

Merle and his eventual wife, Verna.

But my anxiety quickly transformed into excitement! It turned out that my old school back in Plain City was far more advanced than this new school. It wasn’t long until I was number one in my class. This gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment that I never felt before. It lit a fire under me and I stayed number one for the entirety of my days at that school.

We did help drive the tractor in the fields my Dad farmed. It just so happened that this field bordered my school and one day after school my teacher, Mrs. Bishop, saw me driving the tractor. Well, this chance encounter could’ve gone a couple of different ways, but Mrs. Bishop said, “Is there anything you can’t do?” Those six little words lifted me up and I’ve never forgotten them!


What a great reminder of how much a few words of praise can mean to a child–or anyone!

Try it!


What are your memories of praise from a teacher?

Comment, here, or send stories to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Caro-Claire and Martin Wiles permalink

    Another great read Always enjoy your writings and those of your guests

  2. These photos remind me of those my parents kept stored in the compartment under our piano bench.

    Memories of praise from a teacher? Miss Longenecker in elementary school told me that my vocabulary test scores rivaled that of a 10th grader. Of course, I was pleased. 🙂

    Thanks you, Merle, for this story, and Melodie for sharing it!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Marian. Interesting place to store photos but I think my parents did too. That’s funny, my piano-playing daughter and I spent some time going through my piano bench resurrecting old old items from lesson-taking days. I need to do a Marie Kondo number on them.

      Miss Longenecker was also your aunt, right? Still, what an esteem booster.

  3. What I great post! I really enjoyed reading it. Our house heater is out at the moment, so we’ve been making do with small space heaters scattered about in different rooms. It has seemed sooooo cold, even though Texas winters are much milder than your Indiana winters. But after reading about the chicken coop bedroom…why, I feel quite delightfully warm and toasty!

    • Glad you enjoyed this Trisha. My parents lived in north Florida when I took my finance to Florida with me for Christmas, which was one of the coldest Christmases in that part of the state for many years. And of course, our home down there had less than adequate insulation and heating. Husbnd still says he’d rather experience Virginia cold than Florida cold. I’m glad the chicken coop story made you feel grateful! 🙂

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