Friday, December 11, 2009

The Horse May Know The Way Home, But...



If you live in certain areas of the United States I am sure you are familiar with the following situation. If you have never had this experience, try to picture it.
You are driving along a country road at night, when you see a bright orange triangle and two flashing red lights ahead of you. You quickly realize that you have come upon a  horse and buggy. Your opportunity to pass is dependent upon 1.) the existence of a straightaway ahead (which you cannot see – it’s dark, remember), and 2.) there is no oncoming traffic. Finally you take a chance and speed around the vehicle.
Now let me change the picture a bit. A cop is driving along a country road at  night, and sees a bright orange triangle and two flashing red lights ahead. In this case the horse is meandering slowly down the center line. There is no opportunity to pass.
It happened recently in Lancaster County. While his passenger stopped the horse and held it, the officer approached the buggy and found the driver slumped over and asleep at the wheel… excuse me, the reins. He eventually awoke as the cop pounded on the door. The buggy driver’s eyes were bloodshot and watery, and there was a strong smell of alcohol on his breath. A breathalyzer test registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent. Pennsylvania residents are legally drunk if their blood-alcohol content is 0.08 of above.
Although not officially sanctioned by the church, rumspringa, “running around” in English, is practiced by some Amish youths. An Amish youngster is considered an adult on his 16th birthday – not at 15 years and 364 days or 16 years and one day. At that point, some (very few) will go into town for a night, may have a transistor radio under their buggy seat, may change into non-Amish clothes and may sneak into a movie theater. Almost 99 percent of them get over it and return to the Amish way of life.
The buggy jockey in our story was 22 years old – well past the normal rumspringa age, but as with any large group of people, some do not grow up as soon as one might expect.
I suppose the moral of the story is that the temptations are out there for everyone. The degree of acceptance runs from total resistance to total immersion. Of course, most people fall somewhere between the extremes. But as my late mother-in-law used to say, “Nothing surprises me anymore.”

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