My father often told the story about two gentlemen who met on a narrow mountain 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 don’t allow me to have my share of the road I’ll
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 didn’t 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 can’t 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 Lord’s: A
Narrative History of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
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 Association.
Mennonite Historical Bulletin, April 2001
|Stories on the
way to market.