itchin part 2: Simon

As I sit and scowl at my crusty hands and consider how unfair it is that if Albert wanted to he could nap in a bed of poison ivy without contracting a single blister, it occurs to me that my allergy is not nearly as dismal as some.  It’s not as bleak as if I were, say, an Amish boy who was allergic to horses.

Such a boy was our neighbor when we lived at our first farm on Culloden road.  When this lad whom I’ll call Simon came clip-clopping up the road, we could tell him from his Amish contemporaries a mile off.  He was the only one in the community who sat perched on a rusty metal tractor seat nailed to a wooden 3 x 3 towering five feet from the wagon bed to avoid inhaling the dander drifting from the shaggy beast in front of him.

With a long, thin, wheezing nose on a long skinny face attached to a bony, ungainly figure, Simon wasn’t much to look at.  When he chortled over a good yarn with his hands stuffed in his trouser pockets and his boot heels rocking to and fro, it was easy to dismiss him as none too bright either.  But to do so would have been an oversight.  Simon was anything but simple.  He was the brightest boy in the Amish community, maybe the county.  He operated a machine shop in one of his father’s barns where he fixed farm equipment for both Amish and outside customers. He built his own ethanol distillery in the same building.  By collecting used cooking oil from local restaurants, he was able to produce enough bio-diesel to power his entire shop.  When all the generators and motors hummed at the same time, the air surrounding the barn filled with the mouth-watering aroma of hot French fries.

Simon and Albert became fast friends and as a result, Simon was able to experience worldly pleasures in a way that others in his community never could.  Albert dropped by one evening and proposed a trip to London.  When Simon recovered sufficiently from the shock that one could just stop what they were doing and drive twenty-five miles’ distance at the drop of a straw-woven hat, he climbed into the car and they motored to the big city.

As the wife of a mechanically inclined country boy, I often find myself in places that hold little interest for me, like auto supply or hunting shops, but usually there’s at least one interesting thing to look at while Albert conducts his business – an funny bumper sticker or a rack of company t-shirts in pretty colours.  But there’s an exception to almost every rule.   Princess Auto is that exception.  At Princess Auto, rows upon rows of power tools, ball joints, wrench sets and unidentifiable items constructed of welded steel and rubber-coated wires clog every aisle.  My eyes cast about for something, anything of aesthetic loveliness and find nothing.  After ten minutes in the store I push through the double doors, my heart bursting for want of beauty and natural light.  I no longer peruse the aisles of Princess Auto with Albert.  I wait in the car.

Such an idea never entered Simon’s mind.  The very spectacle that brought me despair was a veritable mechanic’s paradise.  The boys topped their night on the town with a donut at Krispy Kreme, a novel experience for Simon who had dined in a restaurant two times in his nineteen years.  He polished off one box of donuts in the store and was working his way through a second one in the car until Albert gently reminded him that he’d intended to share it with his family at home. donuts

Simon tried different ways to cope with his horse allergy.  A seldom-used railroad ran from his home to his second job at a mechanic’s shop some four miles away so he built a railroad pump cart complete with steel rail wheels and a pump lever which propelled him down the track like a bobbing bird desk toy.  The cart looked something like this one although Simon didn’t bother to furnish his with a comfy bench seat.


It worked wonderfully until the township received complaints about an Amish boy seen whizzing down the tracks on a four-wheeled cart.  The township put a stop to it, although I don’t know under what pretext.  Next, Simon toyed with the idea of a wagon designed to be pushed rather than pulled – a literal cart before the horse.  This way, the dander wafting behind the horse would not affect him but he never completed this project before he moved away.

An affliction like his would have been enough for me to renounce four-footed transport and butter churning for an easier life but Simon remained true to his faith and heritage.  When he turned twenty-one he met a girl from an Amish settlement in Michigan.  He married her and moved there to bring joy to the wife of his youth and raise long, thin, wheezy children.  I’ve heard whispers about Amish sects down south who drive motor vehicles but I have no proof with which to attribute such treachery to Simon.  He’s probably perched on a wagon behind (or in front of) a horse clip-clopping down the road, and he’s almost certainly wearing a straw hat and a good-natured grin, the longest, skinniest and brightest boy in the community.  Maybe the county.


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