It can’t have been the Amish cashew nuts, surely?

March 14th/15th

1040 is the number of the form on which citizens file their US tax return.

It’s also the name of the organisation Harold Penner belongs to – and it’s ‘1040 for Peace’ that has sponsored us to come to Akron for my first US performance.  They each withhold a symbolic 10 dollars 40 cents from their tax bill, in protest against government defence spending, and redirect it to peaceful causes.  A small gesture, but accompanied with letters to government officials explaining their reasoning.

Outside the Landis Retirement Home complex where Harold has brought myself, Bill and Maria at 7.30am, the morning after the  performance, I spot a car boasting a great array of bumper stickers. All anti-war, anti-defence spending…no prizes for guessing which way they vote.

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We are here to have breakfast with the local ‘1040 for Peace’ chapter, who meet in a room here once a month to discuss not only the tax withholding but other plans for peace activism.  We are greeted by a number of very friendly men and one woman – and most of them saw the play last night.

Some of these men are COs from the Vietnam era.  One of them was later involved with a Mennonite mission to go out there and clear land mines in the 90s -something the US government was signally failing to address.

We exchange thoughts and views and reflect on the themes of conscientious objection, and they talk about upcoming peace actions locally. Having breakfast with these COs is an inspiring experience.

And the breakfast itself? Apart from eggs over easy (I love that phrase), Harold encourages me to sample the local specialities – fried mush and scrapple – the latter consisting of nothing to do with my favourite fruit, but rather – well, let’s just say vegetarians and vegans would give it a very wide berth.

Maria heads back to the office in Washington DC while Bill and I head back to his house – but first, Harold offers us a tour of nearby Amish country. As horse drawn buggies trot by with their steel wheels, we learn the difference between Amish buggies (grey) and conservative Mennonite ones (black).

We stop at Martin’s Pretzel Bakery, run by conservative Mennonites.  and see eight women in traditional costume at work.  While kneading the pretzel dough they sing ‘Amazing Grace’.

But the pretzels are a bit too hard and crunchy for my teeth.  ‘Oh well, I can get you some that have just come out of the oven,’ says one of the young women. ‘They are a little hard on the outside but soft on the inside.’  And warm. Delicious.

Harold drives us around quiet roads through attractive farmland – with evocative road names …Tobacco Street, Locust Street, Amishtown Road.  Then we approach Covered Bridge Road – the bridges being covered so the horses don’t get nervous crossing over the fast running creeks and rivers.

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Some roads have little electricity, then we see some that have no power lines at all – the Amish don’t use electricity, right?

We pass a barn – and Harold tells us that the previous barn collapsed in a storm and was replaced in a week – the barn itself being erected in a day – quite a sight apparently.  I recall the film ‘Witness’.  No sign of Harrison Ford here though.

We visit an Amish crafts shop, which has skylights for lighting and gas lamps should it get dark – and many beautiful quilts for sale.

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Later we call in at an Amish grocery store and I buy honey and cashew nuts.  It’s all very different to the Cotswolds, where I was just a couple of weeks ago on the road to Broadway.

After lunch in a Mennonite family restaurant, it’s back to Harold’s to pick up our car – and we’re given slabs of shoofly pie ‘to go’.  Bill and I reach home by late afternoon and are pretty exhausted – as well as exhilarated.  We sleep like logs.

Next day I come in with him by train to Washington DC to the office of the CCW. First he shows me the vast and beautiful expanse of the main hall at Union Station.

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Then by lunchtime I hit the road south to North Carolina, this time with Maria and her dog Cara.  Cara is a CCO.  (Canine Conscientious Objector). And sometimes very vocal about it.  In the car. Right in my ear.  Then she apologises by licking my cheek.

I am a cat lover, always have been, but it’s hard to resist Cara’s charms.  I’m going to get to know her very well while travelling with Maria on this tour.

We don’t stop for food, just a pee break, thinking we’ll eat when we get to Greensboro, our destination.  So I binge on my cashew nuts.  By the end of a long and tiring 7 hour journey we grab a meal then retire to our rooms at the La Quinta hotel.

I’m now feeling decidedly odd.  My stomach is playing up. A few years back I had IBS, and it feels like I might be having another bout.  I don’t think it was the late dinner.  Because I was already feeling a bit off in the car.

Could it have been the Amish cashew nuts?

 

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