The Black Mennonite Chapter 12 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 12

Rebecca’s First Toys

 

The next day after the lunch hour, although Jacob was itching to take off to the bushes he stayed put. As soon as the men put away their hoes, axes,and other farming equipment in their buggies signaling the end of the work day, he dashed off.

“Wait up, Jacob. I thought you might want to take a swim in the creek,” Peter shouted after him.

“Not right now. I have something important to take care of,” Jacob shouted back.

Jacob ran to the carving spot he had established the previous day. He took twenty steps forward once he got to the tree, made a ninety degree turn to the left, took another twenty steps to the right to end in front of the willow tree. He fell to his knees and started digging into the soft ground with his bare hands using his knife to aid him. He soon got to his buried treasure and carefully brushed away the dirt. He pulled out a once white flour sack, and turning it upside-down he gently shook its contents to the ground. Pieces of carved works fell out one by one. First a small house, then a couple trees, a dog followed, then a mamm and a dochder, then a bruder. Next a boppli followed by what seemed like fences. A smile crossed Jacob’s lips.

All I had left to carve was the mann of the haus. I was almost finished but my mean daed threw it away. But I’ll show him. I’ll just keep you hidden until I am done with the mann. Rebecca will love to play with you all.

Jacob placed his treasure back in the sack and buried it once again. He then cut off a piece of tree limb big enough to carve the man of the house to complete his family. 

 

* * * * * * *

 

“Denke you, Jacob! Denke you so very much. Ever since we went to town and I saw that family through the shop window I’ve always wanted a set to play with. I can’t believe you remember after this long,” Rebecca said, throwing her arms around her brother’s neck. She then made herself comfortable on the ground by the willow tree, set up her house, and started playing.

“I told you I would get you one; only I was thinking of buying you the one we saw in the shop window. Then I started thinking what if I could carve you a set. I tried my hands at it and it worked. I only wish I had some paint to paint them,” Jacob said.

“I’ll just imagine that they are colorful,” Rebecca said.

Jacob watched his twelve-year-old sister play with her new toys. The first as far as he could recall that she had ever received. Daed allowed no such things in the house—not even a faceless doll like the one he had seen one of Rebecca’s friends playing with.

“I would like to take them home with me so I’ll have them all the time,” Rebecca said.

“We can’t risk that. Daed might find them and burn them.”

“I’ll hide them in my trunk. Please?”

“Maybe later when things die down with Daed,” Jacob said.

“Do you think we should tell Mamm? She’ll understand.”

“Mm. No. Not yet, anyway. I don’t want her to feel pressured. This will be our little secret,” Jacob said. “Just promise me one thing: that you will never tell anyone especially Sarah, and also that you will never come here by yourself. I must always be with you.”

“I promise,” Rebecca said.

 

Things did not die down for a while. 

“Are you still cutting out those abominable idols?” Bishop Stoltzfus asked Jacob almost every evening over the course of a month.

“No, sir.”

“Where do you disappear to in the evenings when you should be helping your mamm by getting your chores done?”

“I just go for some long walks in the bushes,” Jacob said.

“No young man your age just goes for long walks. Are you sure you’re not sneaking around cutting out those idols defying what I have told you?”

“No, sir.”

“Because if you are, just remember I’m checking on you and I have eyes in the back of my head.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jacob endured days of questioning from his father about his “idolatrous work.” He braced himself for it knowing that was just like his daed—never one to easily let go of a matter.

“Jacob, you didn’t tell Daed the whole truth,” Rebecca said one evening while they were gathering eggs after his father had questioned him.

“And don’t you snitch on me. I can’t let him know. He’ll thrash me for sure for many days, and on top of that, he’ll throw them away, throw away my knife and place restrictions on me. I’d rather run away than have that to happen. You don’t want me to run away, do you?”

“No.”

“And you don’t want to lose your little familye, do ya?” 

“No.”

“If it will make you feel better I’ll tell Mamm. She knows how to quiet Daed down about things . . . sometimes, anyway,” Jacob said. 

 

* * * * * * *

 

“What do you think, Mamm?” Jacob asked his mother as she, he, and Rebecca kneeling next to the willow tree examined his growing collection of carved works. 

“These are just wunderbaar!” his mother said. “So this is what you have been doing sneaking up to your room so early in the evenings and disappearing all day on Saturdays.”

Jacob grinned. “So will you keep it a secret?” he asked.

Mamm Stoltzfus frowned. “You know it’s not right to keep secrets from your father especially after he’s told you he did not want you to do these anymore. It’s a form of lying.”

Jacob swallowed. “Please, Mamm. I’m not committing any wrong by getting a piece of wood and making a shape out of it. It’s something I love to do just like you love to sew to make something new.”

“You have a point there,” his mother said. “I must admit you have a natural talent for this. It’s a Gott-given gift. Tell you what: I’ll keep it a secret for right now. But I’ll let you know if I decide to break my promise.”

“Denke, Mamm,” Jacob said. “What would you like me to carve you?”

“Surprise me,” Mamm Stoltzfus said standing to her feet. “You may want to think of a safer place to stow them away. The flour bag is going to start rotting away after a while what with the rain and no direct sunlight to dry it once it gets wet, and then your carvings will begin to rot as well.”

“But where?”

“Give it to me. I’ll hide it down in the cellar behind something. Your daed hardly ever goes down there.”

“Denke, Mamm. You’re the greatest,” Jacob said.

“I wouldn’t say the greatest,” Mamm Stoltzfus said as she bundled the sack in her hand. Lord Gott, forgive me for carrying on this lie, but I don’t believe in smothering a child’s natural gift that You place within him. Give me wisdom in handling this situation. I don’t believe in breaking a child’s heart unnecessarily.

As soon as they got home, Mamm Stoltzfus went down to the cellar to hide Jacob’s treasure. She reached far behind the jars of canned jam to retrieve a different can. She unscrewed the lid and shook its contents into her hand. A carved elephant fell out. She hurried to Jacob’s room where she had instructed him to stay. 

“Do you remember this?” she said, showing him the elephant. 

Jacob’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Where . . . when . . . how did you find it?” Jacob said, taking his elephant from his mother.

“Oh, I found it in the bushes after you all had gone off to school,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “I decided to keep it and give it to you at the appropriate time. Now is the appropriate time. As I told you, I believe you have a Gott-given gift for this.”

“Denke, Mamm. To think you kept it for so long.” Jacob gave his mother a hug. “You really are the greatest.”

 

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