During my childhood I was privileged to hear many stories
from my father. As Mark Twain would say, "I will set down
it may be history, it may be only a legend, a tradition.
It may have happened, it may not have happened. But it could
have happened." Thus, some of my fathers stories were
suspect in terms of their validity for actually happening. My
father-in-law, A.J. Metzler, was also suspect because he would
preface some of his stories with the line, "They tell this
to be a fact."
My father often told the story about two gentlemen who met
on a narrow mountain pass. The first gentleman said to the second,
"Please step aside so I may pass by." The second gentleman
replied, "I never step aside for a fool," upon which
the first gentleman countered, "I always do," as he
stepped aside and allowed the second man to pass by. The reason
I mention this story is that it is closely related to the story
they tell about "wagoning" in the early nineteenth
century. This particular story was handed down to the descendants
of Jacob Kraybill, "an old flour miller of Marietta."
This oral tale was often told, holding that Kraybill, accompanied
by his younger brother, was headed off to Philadelphia to the
market. The younger brother, who came along to help with the
unloading, also served as the tender of the brake on the wagon.
As they traveled east, with their wagon heavily laden with goods,
they met another horse-drawn wagon coming toward Lancaster. The
other driver showed no inclination to yield the right-of-way
on the rather narrow road. Mr. Kraybill, a powerfully-built man,
sternly warned the other driver, "If you dont allow
me to have my share of the road Ill have to do something
I really do not want to do." The teamster sized up Mr. Kraybill,
calculated his odds, and then meekly pulled aside, permitting
Mr. Kraybill to pass by. Farther down the road the younger brother
could no longer contain his curiosity. "What would you have
done," he inquired, "that you didnt like to do,
if that fellow would not have pulled over?"
"I would have pulled over," said Kraybill dryly.*
Apparently this version of the story was not actually put
into print until over a century after the occurrence.
Another surviving story about hauling materials to the market
in Philadelphia also comes from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area.
It seems that Deacon Elvin Herr was hauling potatoes on his
truck to Philadelphia from Lancaster County. As a helpful Mennonite
he would pick up hitchhikers from time to time. On one such occasion
he welcomed two riders from Villanova University. The conversation
revealed that they were studying for the priesthood. Conversation
then led to theological questions and whether or not Christians
should be nonresistant. The students made it clear that they
felt Christians should participate in the military under normal
conditions. The gentle deacon then propounded a moral question
for them. "Since the apostle Paul had clearly admonished
Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss, what should
be the proper procedure when two Christians, from two different
countries, met as opponents on the battlefield? Should they first
kiss and then try to bayonet each other, or bayonet each other
and then kiss?"*
My father also told the story about two ladies who arrived
at Easter worship with new hats. The first woman said to the
second, "My what a lovely new hat!" The second lady
replied, "I wish I could say the same about yours,"
to which the first lady replied, "you could if you lie like
I do." There must have been something about using words
to get even with another person that intrigued my father.
The story that came to us, usually at reunions, was told with
gusto by my father-in-law. He would start by saying, "Did
I ever tell you the story about Joyce, when she was a little
girl the story about the rabbit?" And of course everyone
present would fib and say, "No, A.J., tell us the story."
"Listen closely," he would say, "because they
tell this to be a fact." "One day Joyce was out behind
the bushes where she had captured a wild rabbit. She had the
rabbit by the ears and was talking loudly to the bunny."
"One and one are two, one and one are two, one and one are
two," she said over and over. Overhearing her noisy one-way
conversation, papa Metzler asked the young lass, "What are
you doing to that poor rabbit?" "Well," said Joyce,
"they say that rabbits can multiply, but this dumb bunny
cant even add."
It would be interesting to hear from our readers regarding
humorous stories from your past, or even present experiences.
We remember stories because of their bigger-than-life qualities
and because humor helps us remember. When you think of incidents
that linger, they often contain a bit of embarrassment, a helpful
lesson, or a curious twist on our heritage. I encourage you to
send your stories to my attention. Attempt to document the stories
as to who told them, where the storyteller lived, how the person
is related to you, and why you remember the particular story.
*Stories told by John L. Ruth from his soon-to-be-published
The Earth is the Lords: A Narrative History of the Lancaster
Do you have stories in your memory that could be shared with
the readers? Please send your stories to Jep Hostetler at email@example.com
or 193 E. Frambes Ave., Columbus, OH 43201.
Jep Hostetler, Ph.D., Columbus, Ohio, is
a humor consultant and author. He is an associate professor emeritus
at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. He and his
wife Joyce serve as the staff persons for the Mennonite Medical
Mennonite Historical Bulletin, April 2001