In the Denny’s restaurant in Limon Colorado we sat in a booth just behind a Holdeman Mennonite family. There is a large, active Holdeman 0r Church of God in Christ congregation in Steinbach where I grew up, but I didn’t know there were Holdemans in the southern United States as well. I recognized the family as Holdemans because the mother and teenage daughter wore little black caps on their heads and had long, obviously home sewn dresses and the Dad had a trimmed beard. When I was young the Holdeman children in Steinbach attended public school with us, but for many years now they have had their own private school. There are a few things besides their conservative dress that set Holdemans apart from other Mennonites. Holdeman women cannot be pastors or serve in leadership positions. They don’t have musical instruments in church. The only way to leave the church is to be excommunicated and once that happens you aren’t allowed to eat or talk with church members. I remember this being a problem in the hospital in Steinbach because if a patient happened to be an excommunicated Holdeman, the Holdeman nurses weren’t allowed to care for them. We had elderly neighbors who were Holdemans and one of their children had been excommunicated and so on holidays that child’s family came to see their parents separately because they weren’t allowed to eat with their siblings who were still Holdeman church members.
In Oklahoma I saw 30 cows walking across a huge field in a straight line–nose to tail. Why? There was no farmyard in sight. They weren’t headed to a barn, unless it was many miles away. No one was herding them into order. The cows reminded me of my elementary school days when we were taught to line up and walk single file down the hall. The cows seemed to following some invisible path, playing follow the leader. I read online that sometimes when it is cold outside cows walk in single file to block the wind for each other and keep warm, but the day I saw them was mild and calm. The orderly cows reminded me of all the cows I saw in India. They certainly never walked single file, wandering everywhere. You had to be careful or you’d bump into one.
Dave and I were listening to an audio version of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American while we traveled. The story takes place in the 1950’s during a period when the Vietnamese group the Viet Minh were fighting for independence from France. At the heart of the story are a British news reporter and an American economic aid worker who are both in love with the same Vietnamese woman. Two quotes from the book which Dave and I talked about were……. “Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” and “Stephen Crane could describe a war without even seeing one. Why couldn’t I?”
Yesterday we stopped for lunch in a small, roadside restaurant in a one street town in New Mexico. A father and son both wearing large cowboy hats that were muddy, battered and faded from use were sitting at the table just behind us. They kept their hats on as they ordered from the menu, as they had the tall glasses of iced tea the waitress served them, and as they waited for their food. Then when their meals arrived they took off their hats revealing tan lines on their foreheads that made it clear the hats were always worn outside. The two men ate their food quickly and the second their plates were cleared the cowboy hats went right back on their heads!