The Black Mennonite Chapter 8 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 8

Like Father Like Son


The next day while her husband was away taking care of business and the children were away at school, Mamm Stoltzfus searched in the bushes for her son’s carving. “Denke You, Gott,” she muttered as she spied it under some leaves. She took it and put it away safely in her keepsake box in the cellar, a place she knew her husband wouldn’t look. Pulling the box out a thought came to her which she immediately tossed aside: Why not let Jacob carve and design you another box; this one is so drab. The image of her husband’s reaction that flashed into her mind caused her whole body to shudder even as a small smile played across her lips.

Mamm Stoltzfus allowed herself to go down memory lane as she reached into the box and pulled out its contents. She ran her hand across a cross. It was the cross with a unique design her husband had carved and given to her as a gift to make their courting official. “How ironic,” she said softly to herself. “This is where Jacob got his gift from – his father.” She remembered encouraging her husband to make a business out of his gift of carving.

“That would be a blessing to so many people.”

“You could make a living doing this, and I could help you polish and brighten the wood.”

Joseph was just as excited as she was as they planned their future, but a few days later he seemed a different person. Something happened which caused him to totally turn his back on his gift and their plans. He reacted harshly each time she brought it up from then on. In the early years of their marriage as she tried to get him to put cabinets in their kitchen with carved designs on them, make a fancy chest of drawers for her clothes, and even etch a cross above the entrance to their home, all attempts were met with a harsh “No” and “Don’t ever bring that up again!”

She had laid the matter to rest. How strange that it should resurface after 13 years. 

Jacob did not let his father’s negative reaction dampen his spirit or cause him to give up his love for carving. He secretly carried on his hobby for almost a year before anyone else knew about it. 

Jacob’s father had been bishop for as long as Jacob could remember. He had a formal, some would say, stiff way of carrying himself that made others, especially those who dared question any of the church ordnungs, uncomfortable when around him. His stiffness manifested itself within the four walls of their house as well, so much so that Jacob and his sister Rebecca dared not cross him. They lived on pins and needles whenever he was around. Thank God for Mamm Stoltzfus whose motherly arms they often sought for comfort from his harsh, overbearing ways.