Emma Lapp has entered her running around years. She is confused by too many boyfriends and teaching school.
Welcome to the Lapp farm near Wickenburg in southern Iowa. Come to visit and bring your sense of humor. Dependable Emma Lapp dreams about the same fate that happens to all teenage Amish girls. Eventually, she will fall in love, marry and have a large family, but she’s been offered the teacher’s job for a term. That means working away from home and leaving Nurse Hal to take care of the household while she’s still trying to perfect her cooking skills. That worries Emma. She doesn’t think Nurse Hal is ready to take on the responsibilities of homemaker and continue her nursing duties at the same time. However, Emma wants to take her place in the grownup world and teaching school will be an exciting challenge.
Emma turned seventeen and is considered a good catch by several eligible bachelors. As Emma puts it, every single man in the community is sizing her up for his wife. The men make it obvious they want to be her special friend. She spent her childhood growing up with Levi Yoder. Now he thinks he has first claim on her. Emma’s not so sure about that when she finds herself tempted by Eli Yetzy, the deacon’s son. He’s wildly into rumspringa so he imitates English teens and does things that are against Emma’s beliefs. She wants to turn away from him but finds him appealing. Emma is really confused when a school board member, widower Amos Coblentz, takes a liking to her. At the same time, Bobby Keim tries to get her attention. Emma becomes so troubled about which man she wants to spend her life with that her nights are riddled with unsettling dreams that tangle together in her mind. Filmy male faces move about like strong transparent gauze in a gentle breeze, competing for her attention while she tries to sleep. In the dark of night, these dreams seem very real while the break of day leaves even more room for doubt and confusion as Emma’s Gossamer Dreams keep her in turmoil.
“What was I thinking when I agreed to teach school?” Emma Lapp grumped as she threw quartered apple pieces into a bowl of water on the table. The water splashed her face. “That was not gute,” she mumbled. She laid her paring knife down, grabbed the tail of her apron and wiped the water off. While she was at it, she scooted her prayer cap back where it belonged and wiped her sweaty forehead.
Hal rubbed the insides of a glass quart canning jar with a knife wrapped in the dish cloth as she twisted to look over her shoulder. She giggled. “That must have felt gute. It's hot in here. How about I stand close to the bowl, and you throw an apple in for me?”
Emma couldn't help smiling. “Ach, Hallie!”
“I knew you were too quiet. Now that you're in a better mood how about telling me what's wrong,” Hal suggested.
Emma sucked in her cheeks and concentrated on peeling another apple. Finally, she stated emphatically, “I decided I am going to tell Bishop Bontrager I changed my mind. I do not want the teaching job.”
“Ach fudge! That's nervous jitters talking. You're just worried, because this is something you've never done before,” Hal reasoned as she placed the canning jar in the rinse pan with half a dozen others.
“You have that part right. I have never been a teacher before. I am not sure I will be gute at it,” Emma said truthfully. Her gray green eyes sparked at the thought of becoming a teacher.
Hal rolled each jar in the rinse water and placed them upside down to air on a dish towel beside other jars she'd washed. “Take it from me, you will do just fine. Besides, you can't back out now. It wouldn't be fair to the bishop. At this late date, you should teach at least long enough for Bishop Bontrager to find another teacher to replace you. Just where do you think Elton would find someone now?”
“I reckon you are recht,” Emma agreed reluctantly. “It is just I am not so sure I will be gute at teaching.”
“I'm sure enough for both of us. You will do a gute job so go for it. This is just a year to year job. Everyone should try a new experience once in awhile. Make it through this year. See how you like it before you say jah again,” Hal encouraged as she draped the dish cloth on the wire line behind the cookstove.
Emma looked troubled. “I always thought I wanted to learn more about nursing so I can help you in the clinic. I thought that was what you wanted, Hallie.”
“Oh my, is that what is bothering you? You do a gute job of assisting me when I need you. As far as that goes, you will still help me when you're home. I repeat. Everyone should be able to have a new experience, and teaching is going to be it for you. You can learn nursing from me and still teach.
Now we have to get that kettle of apples on the stove along side the other two if we're going to get all the applesauce cooked and canned before we start supper.”
“We did not make a dint in the baskets in the mud room,” Emma said, transferring the apple pieces to the kettle.
“Nah, but once a bunch of us gets together at Freda Mullet's house the first of the week we'll make short work of all our apples,” Hal assured her.
Emma giggled. “I wonder if Freda will be giving her broom a workout on the front porch when we arrive.”
Hal smiled. “I expect so. You'd think Freda would have that porch floor clean by now. She sure works at it hard enough when company is around.”
“Jah, and the rest of the time we are working, she is busy trying to make us do everything her way,” complained Emma, placing the lid on the kettle.
Hal nodded agreement. “That's one bossy woman all recht, but she knows how to organize to get the most work out of the rest of us. Got to give her credit for that, Emma. Speaking of organizing. It's our turn to have the worship service. We've got house cleaning to do before next Sunday.”
“Jah, we must get redded for that,” Emma agreed.
The back door slammed. Hal and Emma flinched as Noah and Daniel burst into the kitchen from the mud room.
The loud noise woke Redbird and Beth in their infant seats on the end of the table. They let out startled squeals.
Hal scolded, “Daniel, are you ever going to learn to come in quietly when the babies are sleep ----?”
Grinning from ear to ear, Daniel held his hands out with a new find to show them. A squirming baby raccoon that he had a tight grip on. The frightened creature was trying to claw its way out of Daniel's gloved hands as the boy walked toward Hal. “Look at what I found in the timber.”
“Stop recht where you are. I see it fine from here. Daniel, be careful with that animal. It will scratch you,” Hal scolded, backing up until she felt the counter stop her. “That wild animal wants to be turned loose. Those claws are sharp and ---- and ---- germy. Please, back away from the babies with it.”
Emma looked scornfully at the raccoon. “Why do you have that nasty thing in the house anyway?”
Two years older and a head taller than his eleven years old brother, Noah gave Daniel a knowing look as he leaned down to say in his brother's ear, “I told you the women would not like your coon.”
Daniel's face took on exasperation that widened his large dark eyes. “I just wanted to show you I caught it.”
“That animal must be sick,” worried Hal, staring at what at the moment seemed to be all legs and a long snout. “Otherwise, you wouldn't have been able to catch a wild animal in broad daylight and out by himself alone like that.”
“He is not sick, and he was not alone,” Daniel defended. “The rest of the babies in the litter were hidden in a hollow log with him. I heard them tweeting for their mother and thought it was baby birds. I got down to look in the log, and there they were. Five of them. I grabbed the closest one and left the others. Noah said he didn't want one.” Thinking that answered Hal's worries, Daniel held the raccoon up again for inspection.
Hal rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Denki for small favors. Daniel, why did you bring him home?”
“He is going to be my new pet.” The boy held the struggling animal toward Hal and Emma for closer inspection. “Now you want to see? He is cute, ain't so?”
“We can see that coon just fine from here. Keep him away from us,” Emma snapped as her face reddened enough to highlight her freckles. “Daed was all recht with you bringing that thing home?”
Daniel shrugged his shoulders. “Jah, he must have been. He did not say anything when he saw I had the coon.”
“A raccoon may not be a gute idea. Won't Tom Turkey be upset to see you replaced him with a new pet?” Hal asked, trying to come up with a reason to get rid of the raccoon.
Emma agreed, “Jah, I would be if I were Tom. That is the worse pet you can have around him. That coon will eat Tom when he grows up, and you will have to get rid of him. Then you will be out of pets.”
“Nah, do not worry. He will not eat Tom. I will not let him,” insisted Daniel.
“I worry you will not be able to stop the coon from eating my chickens. When you are in school, you will not be able to watch him all the time. Where are you going to keep him?” Emma asked heatedly.
“In that wire cage in the barn,” Daniel retorted.
“I use that cage to put setting hens in to break them up,” Emma shrilled.
“How did wood cutting go?” Hal interrupted quickly. It was time to change the subject.
“We brought in a wagon load Daed parked by the chicken house. Daniel and me are going to rick it up along the back wall while Daed starts milking,” Noah told her.
“You two better put that raccoon in the cage before he gets away from you in here. You need to get busy stacking wood. It will be supper time before you know it,” Hal told them, flipping her apron tail at the boys as if she was shooing hens out of the garden.
“Can I have some milk for the coon? He is still small enough to need milk, and he must be hungry by now,” Daniel worried.
“Sure. Noah, get some milk for Daniel out of the supply tank,” Hal said, thrusting a cool whip bowl into Noah's hands.
“Quickly, Noah, get the milk.” Emma voice held urgency, trying to get her brothers out of the house. “Daniel, the coon can drink it in the cage.”
Hal and Emma stood at the open window, watching the boys walk across the front yard. The curtain swayed gently as the hot breeze carried the smell of cows from the barn into the kitchen.
Emma said, “That was the homeliest baby animal I ever saw.”
Hal nodded. “Englishers have a saying. That baby was one only a mother could love.”
“Jah, I agree,” Emma said seriously.
“What creature will they try to make a pet out of next?” Hal asked, shaking her head. “First, a duck, a turkey and now a raccoon.
“We better get the boys a dog, before Daniel captures anything else strange.”
“Jah, that's a gute idea,” Hal agreed.
“The sooner the better,” Emma said with certainty. She turned and saw the apple peelings. “Ach, nah! I should have told Noah to take the apple scraps to the hog pen.” She rushed into the living room, opened the screen door and shouted over the hum of the milk generator, “Noah!
The boys turned.
“After you help Daniel get the milk come back for a bucket of apple scraps in the kitchen. Give it to the hogs.”
“Jah, I will,” Noah assured her.
In a short time, he was back for the bucket. As he picked it up, Emma asked, “While you were catching that coon, did you take the time to check out the walnut trees in the timber like you were supposed to do?”
“Jah, looks like there will be a gute crop this fall. We just have to wait for the nuts to drop and get to them before the squirrels carry them all off,” Noah replied, headed out the mud room door.
In a minute, Hal glanced out the window toward the barn. “Noah isn't going to the pig pen with the bucket.”
“Where is he headed?” Emma asked in exasperation, joining Hal at the window.
Noah met Daniel by the horse pen fence. Noah whistled shrilly. Six horses, in various shades of red, raced across the pen and lined up at the fence. He rifled through the peelings in the bucket and came out with an apple core. Daniel did the same. They held the cores at arm's length. Two of the horses curled their lips back and bared their teeth as their long tongues wrapped around the cores.
“That is not gute.” Emma rushed for the front door and yelled through the screen, “You two stop feeding the horses those apple scraps. They will get colic if they eat too much.”
“Ach! We did not mean to give them but only a treat,” Noah called back.
Daniel held a core out to a bright red mare. She stretched her long neck over the fence and lapped up the core. “See how Molly likes apples,” he shouted toward the screen door.
Emma walked out on the porch and planted her hands on her hips to reinforce her order. “I see just fine. Give the rest to the hogs. They like apples, too.”
John Lapp peered over the barn door. “Boys, stop rutsching around. Get that wood unloaded, and help me milk.”
Noah picked up the bucket, and hustled to the pig pen. Daniel headed for the wagon load of wood.
During supper, all the boys could talk about was Daniel's new pet. After devotions, the family settled down in the living room. John sat in his rocker, reading the latest issue of Family Life. Emma pulled the treadle sewing machine away from the wall and sewed on a dress for Redbird. As soon as she finished that dress, she'd sew another one for Beth. Hal carried the mending basket over by the couch and picked up one of Noah's pants that needed the leg hems let down. The boys turned out the Scrabble game on the table by the window and set it up.
“Did you hear the coon chattered after we left the barn tonight?” Daniel asked Noah. “He misses us when we are not with him.”
“Jah, he does get noisy,” Noah agreed.
John laid the magazine in his lap. “The coon is missing his mother. It was not a gute thing, taking him away from his family.”
Daniel put down a letter tile. “I take gute care of my coon.”
“Jah, we both are,” Noah agreed.
John nodded. “Keep in mind he wild, and he grows fast. He will always have a wild nature. You can not take that out of him. How long are you going to keep him?”
“We did not think about how long,” Daniel said, looking at Noah for an answer. His brother shrugged his shoulders.
John urged, “You should think about it. Early spring is mating season. Coons are set on finding a mate at that time. This one will not be any different. He can not be trusted, and he is very strong. He will attack you when he smells a female coon around. You need to turn him loose before then.”
Daniel saddened at the idea. “All recht, we will.” With a new thought, he brightened up. “Until then we need a name for our coon. Any ideas?”
“How about Barnabas?” Hal suggested.
Emma spoke up. “Nah, the best name is Barabbas.”
John grinned at the significant of that name for a raccoon.
“I like Barabbas. How about you, Noah?” Daniel asked.
“Has a gute ring to it,” Noah agreed, thinking they could appease Emma by allowing her to name the raccoon.
At bedtime, Emma knelt by her bed to pray. She felt as if she'd boxed herself into a worrisome corner. School would start soon, and she was so very afraid she wouldn't make a good teacher. What if she should fail? She always attempted to be the best at everything she did. She wondered what the People would think if they knew about her intense need to do her best. They might say she wasn't being a humble servant. They might call her prideful instead.
In her opinion, Emma didn't see a sin in wanting to do a good job no matter how great or small the task. She reasoned she wasn't trying to be perfect to show off or stand out from everyone else in the community. She couldn't help it if she felt the need to do only her best at everything she tried her hand at. She clasped her hands together and bowed her head.
“Lord, I need you to guide me. I can not do this job as school teacher on my own. This will be a long school year for me if I can not do a gute job. You are the one who measures how we do in life and determines if we have been successful at living our life. Help me keep my focus on you.” As an after thought she added, “Even if I am a disappointment as a teacher. Amen.”