Break In!

My mother was tired. She had been to the hospital every day that week to be at the bedside of my ill father. It was late and all she wanted was a good night’s sleep. She opened the window beside her bed to allow the warm summer breeze to refresh her.

Mother slowly relaxed that fateful evening as the night sounds engulfed her. Her boys were safely tucked in upstairs, all but the oldest who had left for the evening some hours earlier. The doors were locked. But, the window beside her bed was open.

Mother was sleeping deeply when somewhere in her subconscious mind she detected something out of the ordinary. Slowly, reluctantly, she awoke out of deep sleep, entering into some resemblance of consciousness. She listened intently. A faint noise like wood sliding against wood sounded in her ears.

She opened her eyes. Someone was standing outside the window! She pressed into the mattress, staring at the stranger. Through the darkness he looked like he had a long beard and straggly clothes. Mother stared as he removed the screen. The stranger peered inside for a moment and then pulled himself up to the window and squeezed through.

Mother was terrified. She trembled in horror. The stranger was in her bedroom, father was in the hospital, and her boys were upstairs. What did this fellow want!

The stranger tiptoed across the floor and disappeared out the bedroom door. Mother was glued to her bed, but she knew that somehow she must protect her sleeping boys.

Sometime before, my oldest brother was on the way home and thought about our father lying in a bed in some strange hospital with an unknown sickness. He thought about our mother at our father’s bedside most of the week. He knew she was tired.

My brother thought about how dear our parents were. They had cared for him as long as he could remember. They had fed him when he was hungry, changed his diapers when they were soiled. He could always count on his dad telling stories and his mother cuddling him. They provided answers when he asked questions, coached him when he was perplexed. They didn’t have much, but always enough. They weren’t dirt poor, just “scrambling poor.” If they scrambled, they could make it. If Dad’s lack of working when he was sick was the culprit then Mom’s contentment was the miracle that always made everything right.

Yes, my brother had been eager to get home. He hoped the door was unlocked. Like a cat, he walked silently to the door. It was locked. He did not have a key. He stood there at the door, waiting and thinking. He hated to wake his mother, knowing she needed her rest.

As the stranger crept upstairs to where the young boys lay, somehow my mother got the strength to get out of bed and drag her feet to the stairway. The stranger was almost at the top of the stairs before she could utter a sound. In a quivering voice, my mother screamed.

The footsteps stopped. My mother held on to the door jamb. A voice spoke out of the dark. “It’s just me, Mom. The door was locked so I climbed through the window.”

My mother discovered her legs and wobbled back to bed, waiting for her pounding heart to calm down so she could sleep.

The stranger climbed into the bed next to mine.

The house became quiet.

Painted In


Snow, like slathered paint on canvas, blends everything together as horses in winter coats eagerly sift through the tangled mess of cornstalks looking for bits of corn. Being engaged in the pursuit of survival they are oblivious to the beautiful picture they have become a part of.

The Grand Run Around



It was Saturday afternoon and mischievous Eli tore into his friend Andy’s lane at breakneck speed. When he was even with the yard gate, he yelled, “Whoa!” and pulled hard on the driving lines. By the time the horse skidded to a stop, Eli had already jumped off the buggy and was breezing through the gate.

About the time he entered the front door, his friends Andy and Roy came around the side of the house. When the two teenage boys saw Eli’s horse standing in the lane with Eli nowhere in sight, they realized that their friend had once again done the unconventional and left his horse unattended. An unwritten law among the Amish is that you always tie your horse. Nothing could put a slow horse into high gear faster than the opportunity to hit the road without a driver. It was simply the human in the horse.

Andy and Roy looked at each other, looked at the house, and looked at the buggy. Without hesitation Andy jumped into the buggy, grabbed the driving reins, and climbed behind the seat. Roy gave Andy some time to get away with the horse and buggy and then let out a desperate shriek, “Whoa, whoa! Eli, your horse is running away! Whoa! Eli!” Roy half-heartedly ran after the “runaway” horse while yelling at the top of his lungs.

Eli, taking advantage of Amish hospitality, was just opening the refrigerator door when he thought he heard someone calling his name and yelling something about a runaway horse. Oh, well, they could catch their own horse. He was hungry. Surely his friends had something to eat . . . He froze. A horse running away? His horse? Hunger pains left him faster than a piece of chocolate cake in a crowd of starving boys.

About the time Andy had steered the horse through the open gate and into a harvested hay field behind the barn, Eli came flying out of the house like a ball from Mickey Mantle’s bat. Without losing momentum in the race, he yelled at his horse to stop. He tore down the field toward the careening buggy, easily catching up with Roy who was still flailing the air and yelling.

“Faster, Roy!” said Eli as he puffed past Roy. “We’re not going to catch him at your pace.”

Roy picked up speed as Eli passed and then keeping his eyes on Eli, he slowed to a dull run. He hoped his loud screams of “Whoa!” would make up for his slow pace.

Crouched behind the buggy seat, Andy pulled on the reins to slow Eli’s horse just enough for Eli to catch up. When he heard Eli puffing directly behind the buggy, he eased up on the reins, allowing the horse to pick up speed and leave Eli behind. When Andy got to the end of the field, he pulled on the driving reins and made a wide turn back up the field.

“Head him off, Roy! Head him off!” Eli shouted as he picked up speed once again. “Can’t you run faster?” Roy ran clumsily toward the fence to “head off” the horse, but by now he was laughing so hard that he stopped to bend over, feigning stomach pain from all the running.

From somewhere deep inside of him, Eli found the will to drum up more speed. When he could almost touch the buggy, the concealed Andy eased up on the reins once again and the horse sped off. From one end of the field to the other they went.

Finally, the exhausted Eli dropped to the ground in frustration and watched as the horse stopped at the far end of the field.

Roy dropped beside him, holding his side as he laughed.

“What are you laughing at?” Eli sputtered.

“That must be the smartest horse I ever saw in my life,” Roy gasped. “Did you notice how he sped up every time you got close?”

Eli looked around, disgruntled. “Where in the world is Andy? Why didn’t he come to help?”

“Andy? Who’s Andy?” Roy asked innocently.

Suddenly a light came on in Eli’s brain. “Andy!” he screamed, jumping up. “I am going to get even with you!”

The distant horse and buggy slowly turned and came toward them.

Holding onto his hat, Eli ran for his horse. Andy, roaring with laughter, waved at Eli from the front seat of the buggy as he headed toward the hitching rail. He kept just far enough ahead of Eli that he could quickly tie the horse and run into the house for refuge.