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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write something in the YOUNG ADULT or TEEN genre (06/07/07)

TITLE: Red John's Leah: The Rumspringen Summer
By Dee Yoder


The night air grew heavy with promised rain as Red John’s Leah waited for her friends. It was her rumspringen, or running around, summer and Leah never missed an opportunity to leave the stifling confines of her parent’s home when Matthew, Henry, and Rachel came for her. After supper every evening, Leah watched for Matthew’s dark blue Chevy to pull into the lane. Her parents, Red John and Ruth Yoder, kept their heads turned as Leah gathered her things and went out the door.

Since the day she turned 14, she longed for her turn at rumspringen. Her parent’s disapproval had held her back three years, but this summer, she hadn’t hesitated. She’d known that Matthew would soon be ready to settle down and join the church. They’d get married and her days to taste freedom from the Ordnung, the church’s laws, would be over. Day after day in the store where she worked, she’d silently watched the Englisher girls shopping, laughing; wearing their make-up and pretty clothes and her heart grew restless. Their lives seemed easy and most of all, free. But this summer, each evening after work, Leah had her turn to do what the other girls did. She rode in a car with the windows down through the hot summer nights; she cranked up the music as she laughed and danced with her friends the way the Englisher’s did.

She wished her parents wouldn’t look so hurt every time she went out with her friends. They didn’t understand that she wasn’t like her sister, Mary. When the time came for Mary to decide about the church, she never hesitated. No thought of rumspringen entered Mary’s head; she joined her parents in the church without question.

Leah felt sure that the taste she would get of the Englisher’s world would not cause her to turn her back on her Old Order Amish family and its ways. Her parents, however, were not. None of their other children had felt the need for it until Leah, and she knew they worried about her.

“Hey, girl, join the world,” said Rachel, interrupting Leah’s thoughts.

“I’m thinking, Ok?”

Henry laughed. “Leah’s thinking of you, Matthew, and the day you two get settled down.”

Matthew’s smile was shy and embarrassed as he nodded firmly. “Jah, Leah and I
will have a gut life together, won’t we?” he asked Leah.

“Do you think the hochtzich will be this fall?” probed Rachel.

Leah glanced at Matthew from the corner of her eye and waited for his response. Rachel was always trying to get them to talk about their wedding, but they wanted to keep it a secret. Besides, Matthew hadn’t officially asked her yet. Also, though she was positive her parents would agree to the marriage, Leah knew they blamed Matthew for the rumspringen. She and Matthew would have to join the church and smooth things over with her family before further talk of marriage.

Leah and Rachel changed their clothes in the bathroom of the local fast food place before re-joining Matthew and Henry in the car. They drove a few blocks to the theater.

As Leah sat in the darkened room with her friends, she was conscious of the feel of the denim jeans against her skin, her hair loose on her neck, and guilt that crept into her heart each time she came here. The growing guilt made her wonder if she was closer to accepting a lifetime of commitment to the Ordnung.

After they dropped Rachel and Henry off at their houses, Leah and Matthew sat in the car which he’d parked in the over-grown farmer’s road near his Daet’s barn. He’d hidden it there all summer so his parents and their Amish neighbors couldn’t see it.

They talked about their future together, but finally, Matthew told her he was ready to join the church.

“I’ve had fun, Leah, but I’m tired of rumspringen. It’s time for me to grow up. What do you think?”

Leah looked out the window. She listened to the music playing softly on the radio and thought of Maem and Daet. The commitment to her church and family still felt heavy sometimes, but she sensed her heart needed the ties. She was no longer a little girl and the Englisher life didn’t tug at her spirit as much now.

Yes, it was time to grow up. She looked at Matthew and nodded.

He grinned. “Gut! I’ll sell the car to Henry in the morning.”

Word Count: 748
Author’s note: In some Amish communities, teens nearing adulthood can “sow their wild oats”, called rumspringen in Pennsylvania Deitch. They may be allowed to drive cars, wear modern clothing and do other things English (non-Amish) teens might do. Hiding the car or parking it in an inconspicuous place is a way for teens to own it without offending their parents. After a season of rumspringen, most Amish teens will choose to join the church. In Amish families, because of the many common names, the wife and children of an Amish man will often have their husband’s or father’s first name placed before their first name to identify which family they belong to. For example, a wife might be known as John Ruth.

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This article has been read 3445 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Roome 06/15/07
I liked this. I think teens would be able to identify with the guilt of going against their upbringing. Although I've never been to America, I've read most of Beverley Lewis's novels about the Amish. I think you did a good job in describing their "Rumspringen".
Marilee Alvey06/15/07
The other day at my church's Christian bookstore, I took home a free copy of a book that was an Amish romance, tender and sweet. It read just like this. This story is beautifully written. It captures that magic moment, a big decision that will change the course of many lives. Thank you for putting us right there. This story is an absolute winner with me. Now, when will the book be coming out?
dub W06/17/07
Really liked this. Teens reading this would relate to these kids and thinking. Nice. Thanks.
Donna Powers 06/18/07
Wow! This is wonderful. I live in Lancaster county and can easily see this as being taken from one of their teens' lives. Very well done
Jan Ackerson 06/18/07
Wonderful job--my father used to own an apple orchard in Amish country, and he was great friends with several Amish families. This reminded me af many of the young Amish I met, and was great fun to read.
Joanne Sher 06/18/07
I really enjoyed this - I think it would appeal to a teen's interest in all things different. Great job creating the inner struggle Leah was going through. Great job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/18/07
I've read lots of books of Amish fiction, and I'd read yours in a minute! What a great job you did of telling a complete story, while giving just enough information for understanding in so few words.
Ed VanDeMark06/18/07
Good Job/ Well written. Your title drew me to the story, your telling of it held me to the end. I learned some things I was unaware of. Thank you.
Kristen Hester06/18/07
Great job. I so enjoyed this story. Great writing!
Myrna Noyes06/18/07
I'm reading Beverly Lewis's Amish series right now, and your story had the same authentic "feel" to it! Good dialogue, but maybe you could have explained what a "hochtzich" is. Very enjoyable, well-written read! :)
Janice Cartwright06/18/07
Dee, I haven't read all the entries in level 1,(not to take away from any of the others) but I think you've got an excellent chance of placing 1st. To the long list of favorable comments, I add another thumbs up!
Sharlyn Guthrie06/19/07
You kept my attention from the title to the period at the end of the author's note! Excellent writing, and I'm sure many teens would be intrigued to read about this.
Melissa Albrecht06/20/07
Ooohh I really enjoyed reading this...but I didn't want it to end!! Well done!!
Jacquelyn Horne06/20/07
This is very good. Some interesting points brought out here. I have lived around the Amish, but never really knew of this "sowing of wild oats". Very interesting to me, and I think to teens too.
Kristi Sands06/20/07
I think this idea could be the base of a really good novel - a story of a young woman's journey through a season of rumspringen to a decision for faith.

Great writing, Dee!
Sara Harricharan 06/20/07
Dee, I think you have a hidden talent here! You managed to make this little glimpse of Amish life interesting and teachable. I like the words you used like Rumspringen and how you smoothed things out in the end. It was an enjoyable read. I just wish there'd been room for more. Good job.
Loren T. Lowery06/20/07
Aboslutely facinating! You informed and wrote in a way that made learning of the Amish way of life something that will stay with me for a life time. What can I say, other than this was great.
Catrina Bradley 06/20/07
I had to look again to make sure I was in beginners. Great descriptions and explanations of the Amish customs without being dry or boring! I was fascinated, and drawn into the story.
joe hodson06/20/07
Great story! Creative idea! I really liked it and could really feel the tension of the teen Amish life with the outside world, and also with the expectations of her parents. Very educational and interesting. plus great description and specifics. Thank you.
Benjamin Graber06/20/07
Dee, great job bringing a story of an Amish teen to life! I enjoyed this one!
Julie Arduini06/20/07
I read a lot of Amish fiction, and my family is acquainted with Amish friends. When it comes to Amish fiction, the standard is quite high because readers demand authenticity. You keep this up and your name will be right up there with Beverly Lewis, and as it should be. This stands out to me, I loved it.
T. F. Chezum06/21/07
Well written and creative story. Great job.
David Butler07/03/07
I've learned something new from this. I'd often wanted to know a little more about Amish culture, and this was an interesting way of doing it.
I agree that dialog is often a more compelling way of conveying information than narration, but sometimes you have to do it this way. Well done.
Lisa Holloway07/13/07
I really enjoyed this insight into Amish life. You made the characters very real and easy to identify with. Thanks for sharing!