Goshen News, Goshen, IN

October 5, 2013

THE PLAIN SIDE: Trip West finds friends playing ball, singing


— Modest, Calif., spreads across a well-irrigated valley a few hours east of the Pacific Ocean. The town is prospering and growing rapidly — probably due at least partly to the proliferation of orchards surrounding it. Bee hives and dairy farms also have their niche in the area.

This is a land of milk and honey. It is also home to a well-established settlement of German Baptists (GBs).

The eight of us Amish youth pull into Modesto on the train in the late forenoon of this sunny July 5. As promised, my friend Lowell Beachler is there to meet us.

After Lowell and company get us settled in, he takes us to the church’s community building. There is another GB extended family holding something of a reunion here. There are volleyball nets in here, as well as basketball courts. The Rumbles welcome us warmly and we help them play volleyball.

AFTER THE volleyball game, we boys gravitate toward the basketball court. This is where it gets interesting.

These people don’t know us. We are thousands of miles from home. And there are ample opportunities for chicanery. This is way too good for friend Mike to resist.

“So what is the game called?”

“Basketball, you say?”

“What is the object of the game?”

“How did you say you score points?”

This is like Henry Ford asking how to put an automobile together.

Mike shoots a few awkward shots underhanded to continue his ignorant act. Then, resigned to teaching us the game, some of the friendly and athletic Rumble men agree to play Mike, Calvin and me in a three-on-three match-up.

BEFORE WE actually get started, Mike does confess that basketball is his favorite game. Then the three of us manage to win all our games. Who would blame the Rumbles for feeling like twisting our ears?

We have a good conversation with one of the patriarchs, John Rumble, who serves as a missionary in China. He relates some interesting accounts of his experiences.

John asks us four boys to sing for them. We oblige. I think we owe them that. We stand together and sing the “Lob Lied” (“Praise Song”) to the tune of “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” Rumble and Co. reciprocate by singing for us and send us off with a sno-cone.

THAT EVENING we enjoy our time around the campfire at Jon and Bev Flora’s place, where our four ladies are staying.

The ice is melting and our hosts are beginning to realize that some of our number have an ornery streak. We spend time on the important things, too — singing hymns together. Per their request, we sing a verse of our “Lob Lied” in our normal slow fashion.

The next day we awake to a gorgeous Saturday morning in California. Oh, this is pleasant!

Lowell and his wife, Doris, take us through Modesto and to the home of Tim and Mitzi Frantz.

We get a hint of what’s in store for us there as we pull in the driveway past a field with Tim’s zebra herd in it.

From the backseat, Mike comments on the strange spots that herd of horses has. Calvin, Steven and I have been burned way too often to even think about rising to that one. But Lowell hasn’t.

“Those are zebras,” he corrects Mike.

Then Lowell realizes that is exactly what Mike wanted him to say. This 82-year-old, warm, Christian man threatens to wrestle Mike down and pound him. He has to grin soon afterward, though.

TIM FRANTZ greets us and leads us up his shop stairs to his three trophy rooms. Shock and awe. The other boys (who know much more about these matters than I) say Cabela’s pales in comparison.

An entire stuffed giraffe holds court in a room with an elephant, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and an alligator. One other entire wall is filled with trophy whitetails. These are right beside the head mount of an albino buffalo. These are all animals the Frantz’s have hunted down for a jaw-dropping total of 233 different species including the ones still coming from the taxidermist.

Mitzi shows us her collection of Flow Blue china before we leave.

There is a youth gathering tonight.

Next time: How to be late for church twice in the same day? Our accompanying ladies demonstrate.

Loren Beachy is an auctioneer and elementary school teacher. He can be contacted by writing to 14047 S.R. 4, Goshen, IN 46528 or calling 574-642-1180.