The Black Mennonite Chapter 10 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 10

Corn-husking Day


On corn-husking day, Bishop Stoltzfus and Jacob left early to join the men at Kenan Wilder’s farm. Mamm and Rebecca and some of the women joined them around the noon hour with a prepared lunch. After lunch the men returned to work. Bishop Stoltzfus noticed that Jacob was not with them. He walked around inquiring about his son’s whereabouts. He even took a trip home thinking he may have gone home with his mother.

“Oh, don’t worry about him,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “He probably took off with the Mensla boys and is down by the creek taking a quick dip to cool off.”

“There is no time for dipping when there is work to be done,” Bishop Stoltzfus said.

When he returned to the Wilder farm Peter and Paul Mensla were working alongside their father.

“We have no idea where he is, sir,” Peter and Paul said when he asked them if they knew where his son was.

Bishop  Stoltzfus set out on a search for his son. A little ways from the creek as he entered the bushes he heard whistling. Following its sound he stumbled upon Jacob sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree trunk with wood and knife in his hand whittling away. He watched him for a few minutes before making his presence known. 

“Why are you sitting here idling the time away when you should be out there husking the corn?” Bishop Stoltzfus said.

“Huh!” Jacob said. He looked up wide-eyed as he shoved the wood and knife under his legs.

“What are you hiding? Give it to me,” his father said, holding his hand out.

Jacob eyed his father as he pressed his legs down further on his carving objects. He shook his head from side to side.

“Give it to me now!” his father demanded.

With trembling hands, Jacob reached under his legs to retrieve the hidden objects. He reluctantly handed a wood carving of a tree, a bird in flight, and an unfinished carving of a man. Bishop  Stoltzfus examined each object his eyebrows furrowing deeper and deeper. 

“Do you like it?” Jacob said eagerly.

A grim look came over his face when his father did not immediately respond.

“Who taught you this? Didn’t I tell you some time back never to do this idolatrous thing? Don’t you know this is worldly and will take your mind away from Gott? These are idols,” his father said. “Who taught you this?”

“No one,” Jacob said.

“Don’t you lie to me. The commandment says ‘Thou shalt not lie.’ Who taught you this?”

“Honest. No one. I just knew how to do it,” Jacob said.

“Impossible! You waste my time and your time cutting out idols when you should be out in the field helping with the corn husking—a work that will teach you how to be a man and how to work hard using your muscles, but you choose to do this slothful work sitting on your behind cutting into a piece of wood. No son of mine will follow the way of the world.”

Bishop Stoltzfus snapped one of the wings off the bird’s body. He threw the body to the ground and stamped on it until it was partially buried in the ground. He threw the tree and half-carved man as far as he could into the bushes. 

“No, Daed! It’s mine! How could you?” Jacob shouted. 

“That ought to teach you,” his father said.

Jacob gritted his teeth together in an attempt to hold back the tears that were springing to his eyes. “My carvings! How could you throw them away?”

His father yanked him up from the ground by his shirt collar.

“Don’t you ever let me see you doing this again. Is that understood? I have a great mind to give you a thrashing right here and right now; a thrashing you will never forget. Answer me, boy!”

“Yes, sir,” Jacob mumbled. 

Jacob was more concerned about losing his works of art than he was about the questioning eyes that followed them as his father, still holding him by the shirt collar, marched him to his place among the men.

“Now get to work and produce your fair share,” Bishop Stoltzfus said. 

Jacob used his anger to fuel his work. Just before sunset when the men were bidding each other good night, he ran off to where he had been carving. He found his knife by the tree trunk on the ground. Thank Gott Daed did not ask for the knife, he thought. He searched in vain for the tree and half-finished man. But he did find the bird’s body. He stuck it in his pocket then ran home as fast as he could.