Great Road: SR 655 Big Valley and beyond

Part 1: A Quiz on SR 655

Route 66 (there are nearly 800 books with Route 66 as its central subject with more giving this road some attention), Lincoln Highway (Route 30) (290 books), The Great Silk Road of Asia (over 1400 —in English) all have their travelers, photographers and chroniclers. SR 655 may not be ready for full book treatment, but, SR 655 deserves some attention.  Recently I have accomplished what few (if any others) have accomplished:  driven the entire length of SR 655 in one day.  Even my spouse, Julia, born and raised several hundred feet from that thoroughfare had not completed this journey.   Her family has an 1814 deed positioning a corner of the family farm at a “large rock” at the edge of “The Great Road”.  (The farm at the upper side of Allensville is now the Peachey farm.)  Julia is one of the natives of Big Valley that knew that 655 has its northern end at Reedsville at North Main Street or Old 322, but had never seen the southern end.  To stimulate your interest in a more in-depth look at SR 655, here are some question to challenge your knowledge of the “Great Road”.

Which of the following towns is nearest the southern end of 655?

(1)       a. Cumberland, Md.                c. Hancock, Md

            b. Warfordsburg, Pa.               d. Maugansville, Md

And, (2) how far is it from that beginning to Reedsville?

  1. 101
  2. 83.5
  3. 79.8
  4. 62.1

 (3). Before 1964 only the section through Big Valley (Mill Creek to Reedsville) was called 655.  How long is that section?

  1. 33.5
  2. 24.7
  3. 21
  4. 36.2

Maybe you are as surprised as I am about how much of 655 is not in Big Valley.  So, most of the following towns may be unfamiliar to you.   

(4) Which of the following towns are not on 655-the southern section?

  1. Calvin                    b. Needmore
  2. Three Springs       d. Hustontown

SR 655 may be thread that knits the Valley together, the “tie that binds”; it’s a common bond. 

 (5). But which of the following is NOT a name of SR 655?

  1. Kish Road
  2. Pleasant Ridge Road
  3. Waterfall Road
  4. Big Valley Pike
  5. Hares Valley Road

(6) “The Great Road” has also been felt the means of escape from the Valley.   Between Rt 322 and Rt 22 several roads permit “escape” from the Valley.  But which of the following does NOT lead out of Big Valley?

  1. Wills Road
  2. Allensville Road
  3. Greenwood Road
  4. Coopers Gap Road
  5. Barrville Mountain Road

(7) Times have bypassed some settlements in the Valley and little evidence of them remains.  Some roads are named for these settlements.  655 does NOT pass through/by one of the following roads or former settlement.  Which is it?

  1. Sharpsburg
  2. Peacheyville
  3. Waynesburg
  4. Metztown
  5. Airydale

(8) The mountain ridges above 655 in Big Valley are named Jacks and Stone.  Which has the highest elevation above sea level?

  1. Jacks 2321 feet
  2. Jacks 1456 feet
  3. Stone 2640 feet
  4. Stone 2092 feet

 (9)What is the average height above the SR655 (in feet) of these ridges?

  1. 1000
  2. 850
  3. 560
  4. 400
  5. 250

10. Everyone knows that Kishacoquillas drains the lower end of the Big Valley, which stream drains the “tight” end?  

  1. Mill Creek
  2. Saddlers Creek
  3. Fousetown Creek
  4. Flush Run

11. What bodies of water does SR 655 NOT cross?

  1. Kishacoquillas Creek
  2. Juniata River
  3. Coffee Run
  4. Tea Creek

It is noteworthy is that there is only one public restroom on SR655 between the Sheetz on Pennsylvania Ave in Hancock, Md and Mapleton, Pa on Route 22*.  The Post Office/Store combination on the Lincoln Highway has a prominent sign “No Public Restrooms”.  We did not patronize the store.  Some may remember other features of this route like how many passing lanes there are between Reedsville and Mill Creek, how many buggies there are to pass on Wednesdays (Belleville Sale Day), why the Huntingdon County part of the Valley is called the “tight end” or how many churches one can see between the Primitive Baptist near the start of 655 and Mt. View near the end. Productive farms, big and little businesses, picturesque barns and houses populate the way from Hancock to Reedsville.  Describing all these might produce a tedious book.  Best to leave that kind of travelogue to someone else. But, I will attempt a more detailed account of my journey on SR 655 to be published later in another blog.


  1. c. Hancock;  2. B: 83.5  3. B: 24.7;  4. b:  Three Springs;  5. A:  Kish Rd.;  6. D: Coopers Gap; 7. B: Peacheyville;  8.  A: Jacks 2321;  9.  C: 560;  10.  B:  Saddlers;  11. D:  Tea Creek.

(Information comes from Wikipedia, Google Maps and my poor memory as corrected by several natives of the Valley.  Additional corrections appreciated.)












../../../../Pictures/Photos%20Library%20current%20(original).photoslibrary/resources/derivatives/5/5F7EDFE5-80CC-4144-B5D7-24C212EC00F7_1_105_c.jpegMile 55.5:  U. S Silica, according to its web site: “The Premier Silica Sand Provider for Today and Tomorrow”



The Mill Creek Post Office is south of SR655 near the Juniata.

Mile 57.7:  SR 655 turns north toward Big Valley and is called Valley Pike.  The original 655 ended/began here until 1964.  Mill Creek to Maryland was added at that time.

Just beyond this intersection are two churches:

Mill Creek United Methodist

Mill Creek Baptist

At the edge of Mill Creek, Flush Run Creek crosses 655 and enters Mill Creek.

Mile 58.2: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the Valley

59.3: Next is Fousetown, (Fousetown Bible Church is shown on the map, but I could not locate it.)


A little further is Sand Plant Road.  At Sand Plant Road one can pull off and sometimes see the huge trucks taking sand to the Mapleton plant for processing.





Mile 60.1:  Now, the traveler goes up Cramer Hill and enters

Kishacoquillas Valley.  From Cramer Hill to 322 at  Reedsville is about 22 miles.


This is the “tight end” of the valley.  The Kish valley is narrow here in contrast with the wideness of Kish Valley at Reedsville.


Mile 60.2:  Airydale.  Here is a house which was formerly a school and a sign for Brown Farms.  That’s all there is to Airydale!  But, Airydale warrants a road sign with mileage sign further down the valley along the Back-Mountain Rd. at Waynesburg Rd. The road past Brown Farm was closed sometime in the past 30 years.  [Sign just visible near center of photo.]



../../../../Pictures/Photos%20Library%20current%20(original).photoslibrary/resources/derivatives/B/BBAEEC62-8E6A-470A-A3BE-325ADE786EFC_1_105_c.jpegMile 66.6:  Most of Kish Valley is in Mifflin County, but the first mile 6.5 miles (to mile 66.6 near Sharpsburg Road) is in Huntingdon County.  Sadler Creek drains the Valley from just northeast of Sharpsburg Road and southwest to Mill Creek.

Mile 67.4: Allensville Lutheran.  The church is on next to the corner of the former Hartzler, now Joseph Peachey farm where my spouse, Julia Hartzler Alleman grew up.


Mile 67.5: Allensville, Pa, Post Office 173 W. Main.

A bit further down the road is Mary Lee’s Fabric Store (formerly Rehoboth Christian Fellowship, before that Kennedy’s Store and Allensville General Store), then comes Allensville Community Church (formerly Presbyterian) 126 E. Main Street on the other side of the street.


Allensville Restaurant, officially Country Village Restaurant, is known for its buffet and Sunday chicken and waffles.

Mile 68.8:  Allensville Mennonite Church. 

There are many Amish, Mennonite and other farms along this route to Belleville.


Mile 73.2: Locust Grove Mennonite is located just before one gets to the town. A sign at the edge of the parking lot directs one to the Belleville Mennonite School several miles to the east.

The next town is Belleville, Pa considered the center of the Mennonite Amish community.  Someone has claimed that there are twelve varieties of Amish and Mennonites in the Valley.  Yellow top carriages, white top carriages, black carriages and black buggies (no tops) can be seen on SR 655.


Mile 76.6 is St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Mile 79.4:  West Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church.

At the bottom of the hill at the corner of Walnut Street is the Mennonite Heritage Center.

At Mile 74.8 is Abe’s Café and opposite it is S. Penn Street which provides access to the Belleville Livestock Market, Flea Market, Produce Market and Auction Barn on Wednesdays. 

../../../../Pictures/Photos%20Library%20current%20(original).photoslibrary/resources/derivatives/E/E2C88D0E-5254-4F48-BD94-6988959074C0_1_105_c.jpegBaked goods are available with excellent moonpies and whoopee pies.  My favorites are the Purple Martin apple moon pies (half-moon pies).


Mile 75.6:  Ye Olde Dog House has shakes, cones and sandwiches.  Since my spouse’s birth name is Hartzler, I must note that they also have “Hartzler Shakes” at $5.75 (the “Big Dog).

Mile 75.7: Ritchies’ Original Italian Pizza Restaurant has good Stromboli and other meals.  I would give it a higher rating if it was not closed the week our family is usually in the Valley.

Mile 81.7 Just about visible on the right is Mountain View Mennonite Chapel, Reedsville

../../../../Pictures/Photos%20Library%20current%20(original).photoslibrary/resources/derivatives/0/095688A7-3EF6-4FD5-9687-D4FE08448C8D_1_105_c.jpegMile 87.1:  SR 655 passes under US Route 322.

Mile 87.3:  North Main Street, Reedsville, the end of State Route 655.

After nearly eighty-eight miles the weary traveler has finally reached the climax of the journey.  Other travelers would note wonders I have neglected or missed.  Another trip will possibly bring some these to my attention.  No rainbow gold, wise seer or striking vista as a reward for persisting to the end of the road.  But the variety of churches, fields, gardens, houses and flowers, makes the journey the benefit.

Names of SR 655

  1. Thompson Road
  2. Great Cove Road + US 522
  3. Pleasant Ridge Road
  4. Pitt Street
  5. Waterfall Road
  6. Main Street (Saltilo)
  7. Hares Valley Road
  8. Campbell Street
  9. Bridge Street
  10. Oriskany Street
  11. William Penn Highway + US 22
  12. Valley Pike
  13. Main Street (Allensville)
  14. Main Street (Belleville

Saving books #5 – Unusual ways

What language?

There was no doubt it was a cookbook.  I could tell by the pictures.  The language, though, was in doubt.  We eliminated Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean and were pretty sure it wasn’t Arabic.  Our best guess was that it was a southeast Asian language, either Thai, Laotian, or Vietnamese.  I was making a trip near a Thai restaurant, so I took the book with me to show to someone there.  The server who greeted me summoned a cook.  She looked at the book and said, “Oh, this is Thai country cooking.” I had eaten at an upscale Thai restaurant once (thanks to my employer’s conference funding) and noted the French titles in the menu listings.  So, I assumed she meant that this cook book did not show the French influence.  She asked me “How much do you want for it?”.  (Of course, the reason I was there was that I did not know what it was worth.)  So, I asked, what will you offer?  She said, “Ten dollars.”  I said, “You can have it for that.”  Then explained why I was selling the book:  to support Mennonite Central Committee that provided disaster relief and development assistance to many countries.  This is done in Harrisonburg, VA through Gift & Thrift and Booksavers of Virginia.  Several years later another Thai cookbook was donated to Booksavers.  Yes, the same cook bought that one as well.  A second cookbook that almost got sent to recycling was saved for another use.

Saving non-Biblical information

Someone donated a well-used Bible to Booksavers.  The King James Bible was an older one, probably nineteenth century.  Ordinarily a volume in that condition would be sent to recycling, plus, it did not have a title page.  We should send it to recycling.  But, someone noticed that the clippings, notes and a filled-out Family Information page in the Bible had local information.  So, the manager took the Bible to our silent auction division.  I do not remember the final bid on the Bible, but we saved the volume from recycling because someone wanted the local news and genealogical information in the Bible.

Box better than the game?

How a item looks can be very important, though.  Sometimes looks are more important than the contents.  A number of computer games had been donated to Booksavers.  Neither I nor any of the pricers knew much about the games and Amazon was not much help.  A young man at my church was interested in computer games, so I asked him to review the games.  He found enough information on several of them to post the games on Amazon.  One, “Casper the friendly ghost”, he told me was a terrible game.  However, there were very few copies of the game of this older game still available and our box was in excellent shape, so it was of sufficient value to list on Amazon.  (This was long enough ago that I do not remember the details of sales.)

A beautiful Bible

A beautiful, oversized leather-bound Luther Bible, probably from the eighteenth century sat on the shelf.  It had been there for months maybe longer. The cover was in unusually good shape for the age of the book.  The problem was that the title page was missing.  There are enough Luther Bibles out there that some of them are not worth much.  Knowing the date and publisher and perhaps the edition name could make the difference between a fifteen-dollar volume and a fifty or one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar volume. One day a young man came to the store and wanted an unusual gift for his fiancé.  The manager thought for a while and looked at the top shelf where the Luther Bible sat.  He said he had an old Bible that could be worth ninety dollars.  Would he be interested?  The problem was the Bible did not have a title page.  He said that was not a problem.  How the book looked was the important thing for his fiancé.  Problem book sold!

Call: Conversion or Career Guidance?

For many people, the word “call” refers to a post-conversion experience directing a person to full or part-time service in missions or church work.  Others have used the word to characterize their way of doing their wage or salary earning activity to glorify God and serve human kind.  I am not questioning the validity of the experiences these people have had and identified with the word “call”.   One can, I think, pursue the separate task of analyzing the use of the word “call” in scripture.

There are a number of verses in scripture that use the word “call” to designate a stage in one’s spiritual journey.  Several are often cited to illustrate this understanding the use of “call” to mean a special post-conversion experience.  In this experience one receives the guidance of the spirit to enter church planting, missionary activity or religious institution employment. [Calling to any employment]  In this essay I want to raise some questions about these passages and will give my understanding of them as well. 

Interpretation guide

There are several passages where the word “call” fairly clearly is a synonym for conversion. 

  1. Most of the time Paul (and others) use the word/term “call” (or “called” or “calling”) they are dealing with starting the journey with Jesus.  1Th 4:7; 1Co 1:2; Eph. 4:1, 2 Pet.1:10, 1 Cor. 1:26, 2 Thess. 1:11, 2 Tim 1:9, Heb. 3:1, 2 Peter 1:3.

            1Th 4:7  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

            1Co 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

            Eph. 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.        

            2 Pet.1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election.

            1 Cor. 1:26, For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[a] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

            2 Thess. 1:11  To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,

             2 Tim 1:9  who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began

            Heb. 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers,[a] you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

            2 Peter 1:3. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence

  • In the lists of qualifications for ministry, “call” is not included. (1Tim. 3:1-16, Titus 1:6-9).  
  • When writing about gifts associated with leadership in Romans, I Corinthians. and Ephesians, Paul writes about the leading of the spirit, but does not use the word “call”.

Two Ambiguous Passages

There are two passages that are often assumed that Paul is writing about his “call” as his leading to become an apostle. The  question to ask is:  How do other passages above using the word “call” help interpret these passages?

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Ro 1:1.)  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, …. (1 Co 1:1)

With regard to these passages, does Paul mean?

–As a result of my decision to follow Jesus, I realized I was being led to reach out to the Gentiles


–Sometime after my Damascus road experience, I had an experience that made it clear that I should minister primarily to the Gentiles

The Acts passage

One day as they were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: “Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.” (Acts 13:2 Message).  The more familiar translation perhaps: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” KJV.

In interpreting this passage, does one assume that 1) “work” refers to Barnabas’s and Saul’s lives?  (But we know that Saul probably already has his “call”). OR, 2) the “work” has to do with the trip to Cyprus and Asia Minor?  On what basis do we decide?  Do the keys I proposed above provide guidance? Which verses are prime or basic for interpreting others?  In addition, contemporary application requires an additional step.  Is Paul’s leading by the spirit to become an apostle something unique?  Is the guidance I have experience to serve the church the same kind of experience?


My conclusion is that Paul uses the word “call” to refer to beginning the walk with Jesus.  This is due to the weight I give

  1. to the lack of “call” as a qualification for elders,
  2. to the absence of the term “call” in discussion of gifts, and
  3. to the frequency of the use of the word call as a synonym of conversion. 

Speaking of “leading of the spirit” to explain either a choice of a career or a desire to exercise gifts in the church seems a move in the right direction.

*I have talked to many people who have experienced the leading of the spirit to serve God through employment in missions, the pastorate and related positions.  Most of these were post-conversion, intensive experiences (sometimes, occurring over a period of time) that were life changing.  I do not question the sincerity of these experiences or the dedicated service resulting from them.  My focus in this essay is questioning how to appropriately use Biblical language.

Note: A possible origin of the use of the word CALL for full time church workers is the development of a two-tiered spirituality after the establishment of the state church under Constantine.  According to this tradition, Jesus had a special spiritual vocation/calling as Messiah.  Since it was his ‘vocation’ to suffer and die, the events of his life are not a norm or example for us to follow.  Some Christians like Jesus have a ‘spiritual’ rather than a temporal or secular vocation and receive a special “call.”   These are the people who become priests and nuns.  The laity did not need to follow Christ closely in spirituality, direction for Christian service or service in the military.  Priests, for instance, were expected to be pacifists, but not the average Christian.  At the time of the Reformation, some claimed that only the ordained were CALLED and part of the church.   Taking issue with this separation of life into secular and spiritual, Anabaptist sought to recover the sense of following Christ in all of our lives.  They insisted that those called were to follow Christ in ‘churchly’ activities, work and all of our daily lives.

One historian of ancient church history (Holl**) comments that the Greek word for “call” was not used for career choice until after 400 AD.

Does insisting on a “CALL” experience for those employed by religious institutions contribute to a separation or stratification of church members (between “clergy” and “laity”) not envisioned by New Testament writers?

** quoted in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology  22 no 1 Spr 2018, p 46-65 “Some Kind of Life to Which We Are Called of God:” The Puritan Doctrine of Vocation, Leland Ryken.


Judging a book by its cover

Saving books by learning about book covers

Saving books (and other media) from the recycling bin (or too low a price), requires distinguishing between bonded leather, imitation leather, sheep skin or goat skin; whether what is printed on the cover is author/artist or title. In my volunteer position of searcher/pricer at Booksavers of Virginia ( ) I have seen some of these covers, others I have gleaned from descriptions or titles in ABE Books which has fairly detailed descriptions compared to some other sources.( ).  Bibles and other pre-20th century books are bound in an astounding array of leathers and treatments. *

A calf must be sacrificed for the best Bible: full green limp calf decorated in gilt;  (This is a contemporary green calf.  “Limp” costs more.)


Other variations:

  • rubbed and chipped tree calf; 
  • Full treed calf binding with red leather label on spine;
  •  publisher’s quarter red calf; 
  • Mottled calf binding with banded spine; 
  • quarter plum calf with plum textured cloth boards; 
  • Full acid etched calf;
  • Contemporaneous Brown Calf Half Leather binding with five raised bands gilt titles on red morocco title slip;                        
Red Morocco leather
  •  Coeval full calf; 
  • contemporary full, speckled calf; 
  • Contemporary reversed calf; 
  • English black full diced calf; 
  • Rebound in butterscotch leather and marbled end leaves,
  • Full Leather, contemporary straight grained dark blue morocco binding with gilt lettering to the spine, gilt rules to boards and spine, decorated in blind . . .

Then there is goatskin

  • contemporary green goatskin richly gilt with a herringbone design and incorporating hearts, pineapples, stars, and other floral and leafy ornaments, gilt-decorated spine in 6 compartments, red morocco label
  • Bound in contemporary purple straight-grained goatskin, the covers tooled in blind with a wide border of repeated palmette arabesque and anthemion tools, fillets and a chain roll
  • ” Bound in fine blue polished crushed levant goatskin with six compartments, each with single gilt frame and strawberries at each corner.
  • Bound c.1873 by or for T. Kerslake & Co of Bristol in brown hard-grained goatskin over bevelled boards, the spine with five raised bands tooled with blind fillets converging
Blue Goatskin

See  contemporary Bible in blue goatskin:

This is one of the most expensive leathers:

The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments . . .  [India paper; Water Buffalo Calf-skin leather lined, hand-grained] 

Perhaps one of the most elaborate cover descriptions –and only part of it description!

Contemporary full red goatskin, elaborate borders on covers incorporating a Greek key design enclosing lilies with birds and vases with flowers, and with a central monogram “M*B” on an oval green morocco onlay, surrounded by a black morocco onlay tooled with cherubs, the whole surrounded by a flame tool, smooth spines richly gilt and gilt-lettered direct, . . .  ($14, 500—at this price one needs a full description)

See the site below for examples of many of the special antique bindings

Contemporary Bible style names are inspiring

Holy Bible, King James Version – Clutch Style Snap Dusty Rose Bonded Leather; Holy Bible, NKJV: Royal Reference, Dusty Rose, Bonded Leather, Thumb Indexed.

Other striking/amusing/eye-catching binding terms

Bumpus binding; Gilt inlaid contemporary moss green crushed morocco binding features …French fillet borders … raised bands, spine gilt in comportments with central rose framed with …

Paperback bunko, turtleback, mook, tankobon softcover (some of these I have not been able to find a description of)

Thomas Nelson’s Premier NKJV Bible

The Premier Collection edition of Thomas Nelson’s NKJV Wide-margin Reference Bible showcases the highest levels of design and craftsmanship: a supple goatskin leather cover, raised spine hubs, durable edge-lined binding, premium European Bible paper, beautiful art gilded edges, three satin ribbon markers, and more.


While God’s word is at the “heart” of scripture, publishing of Bibles has a lot to do with the outward appearance.  “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” …. (1 Samuel 16:7).  Beauty may be only skin deep, but for book sales that skin may make the difference between a ten-dollar sale and a twenty-five dollar sale.  When I started doing searching and pricing of books, I would come across the words in descriptions “reading copy only”.  I would think, “what’s a book for, anyway”.  I soon realized that a book’s cover is often as valuable as the rest of the book and a good cover may save from the recycling bin.


*Booksavers of Virginia has been receiving donations of books for more than 15 years.  Most volumes sold by Booksavers are priced between $8 and $20.  We have occasionally sold leather volumes like those listed here, but most of the descriptions above are of books available elsewhere. 

Violent Revolt or Faithful Living and Teaching Wisdom?

A Maccabean warrior and a Wisdom Prophet disciple: A dialogue

The situation: 

169-164 BCE was the time of the great Seleucid persecution, :  Impure sacrifices, Books of the Law destroyed, Jews killed, enslaved, Jews forced to eat pork.  Mattathias, a priest, kills a royal official, a Hellenistic Jew who was about to make an impure sacrifice.  Then, some of the “Holy Ones”, allies of Mattathias, who had taken refuge in a cave rather than fight on the Sabbath, were massacred by the Seleucids. There may have been a thousand including women and children. (According to the book of the Maccabees)

Aziel is a disciple of the wisdom prophet, (my name for the author and editor of the book of Daniel, –based on Daniel 11:33, 12:1-4).  He is recalling the Babylonian stories and the visions of Daniel to encourage the Hebrews to seek the way of peace and teach wisdom. 

Gidon is a follower of Mattathias and his sons. He is calling the Hebrews to join the revolt against the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes who has been oppressing the people of Judah

Gidon:  “We must follow the example of Mattathias who defied the demands of the Seleucid Greek official to offer a sacrifice to their gods. He showed no fear in killing the Greek-loving Jew who offered to perform the sacrifice.  Don’t you know that thousands of Jews were killed by Syrians and that thousands of men and women were sold into slavery? We must follow Judah, the hammer, in the fight to drive the Syrians out of our land.” (It is estimated that twenty to forty thousand Jews were sold into slavery to raise funds to support Antiochus Epiphanes’ wars. (2 Maccabees 5:11–14)

Aziel:  Thousands of Daniel’s people were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed and many died on the way to Babylon.  Leaders of Israel were killed or taken to Babylon. Many more of our ancestors were killed or died during the fifteen years of the siege of Jerusalem. ” (2 Kings 25:1–72 Chronicles 36:12

Aziel:   Daniel was probably made a eunuch, since most of those close to the king where treated this way.”( accessed 3-22-21)

Gidon:  “They are trying to destroy our faith and way of life. Jews are being forced to eat pork!  Mother’s forced to wear slain circumcised baby boys around their necks” (2 Maccabees 6:10)

Aziel:  Daniel persuaded Babylonians to get him and his friends “kosher” food that would make him wise. The hyper king (and his dream interpreters) by contrast, who ate all the rich food, couldn’t remember the dream (the king) or interpret (the astrologers, etc.) the dream.1

Gidon:   “We must stop the pagan worship that is being conducted in temple and purify the temple.” (I Maccabees 1:47)

Aziel:  The Jerusalem temple was destroyed and Daniel’s people were to Babylon, had no temple available for worship. ” (2 Kings 25)

Gidon:  “We should follow the example of Phineas, our ancestor, who ran a spear through the sinning Zimri and the Moabite woman he was consorting with. Only by killing the pagans and the Hebrews who cooperate with them will our people be pure. (I Maccabees 1:26)  Joshua, David and others have been strong in defending our land. (Numbers 25)

Aziel:  Daniel was faithful to God without violence. Remember that our people triumphed over the Egyptians at the Red Sea without our effort.  God did it all.  His command in Exodus was “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:3)  Even though our ancestors believed that the possession of our land came due to the power of their arms, Exodus 23:28 and Deuteronomy 7:20 tells us that the Lord could have used hornets to drive out our enemies.  King Asa called for help from the Lord and the Ethiopian army was put to flight.***  Later King Asa made an alliance with  Under King Jehoshaphat.  The Lord defeated our enemies without the need for human help. (2 Chron. 20)

Gidon:  “Egyptians and Antiochus, the Syrian ruler, have stolen temple vessels.”(I Maccabees 1:21)

Aziel:  Babylonians also stole and used temple vessels in a banquet for their leaders. (Daniel 5)

Gidon:  “We cannot just to do nothing when Antiochus claims to be god in the land of the Lord.”2

Aziel:  But we can laugh at Antiochus as Daniel laughed at the dumb ox ruler of Babylon. (Dan. 5)

Gidon:  “Antiochus has banned traditional worship and begun burning of Torah scrolls.”(1 Maccabees 1:57)

Aziel:  Remember that when the Babylonian “god for a month” banned prayer to any god but him? Daniel defied the ban and openly prayed as before (even though he knew he would be sent to the lions’ den. (Dan. 6)   Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the pagan image, acknowledging death might be the result. The wisdom prophet made fun of Babylonian religion and its elaborate festival and image. But, the straightforward deliverance of the three Hebrews by their God was gives us confidence. (Dan. 3)

Gidon:  “If all of us do as some Jews have done and refuse to fight the Gentiles to defend our lives and our religion, we will soon be wiped off the face of the earth.” (1 Maccabees 2:39)

Aziel:  We can find confidence in the words of the wisdom prophet who recounts Daniel’s visions of kingdoms rising and falling from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the Roman Empire (depending on your interpretation).  According to the wisdom prophet, God will be the one who brings down the empires. And, remember, Michael, God’s warrior, fights for Israel.  Remember God’s promise to Abraham. (Daniel 10:13-21; Daniel 12:1)

Gidon:  “But you are doing nothing, while your brothers are fighting, laying down their lives to preserve our faith, protecting our families and our land.”

Aziel:  But you have allied yourselves with the pagans, the Romans.3 

Gidon:  “Death of fighters on battlefield will provide atonement for others.”4

Aziel:  We will follow the guidance of the Wisdom Teacher.  We are doing what God commanded.  We have cared for the widows and children of  those who died at the hands of the foreigners. We continue to teach the wisdom, practice covenant ways faithfully, trust God.  Those who teach the wisdom (above) may die, but will “shine as stars”. (Dan. 11:33, 12:1-4)

The Aftermath:  History of Palestine
Maccabees through guerilla warfare, then open warfare defeated Seleucids with the help of threats from Romans.  An independent Jewish state was established under the Hasmonian dynasty (the family name for the Maccabee army leaders).  The temple was purified and Torah-guided worship re-established.  The Hasmonians intermarried with family of Cleopatra to maintain security between Egypt and Judah against Syria. Herod (of New Testament note) marries last Hasmonian princess.  accessed 3-22-21

The wisdom teacher and followers may have retreated to desert (the Qumran settlement?) and establish what became the Essenes, avoiding the political intrigues in which the Pharisees and Sadducees participated.  Jesus was probably influenced by rural or city Essenes and their non-violent approach.5


*** (and Asa’s army slaughtered many of them)

1Valeta, David M. “Court or Jester Tales:  Resistance and Social Reality in Daniel 1-6.”  Perspectives in Religious Studies, 32 no. 3, Fall 2005, p 309-324. All of the references to humor in Daniel come from Valeta.


3,Jewish%20people%20and%20the%20Romans. Accessed 3/20/2021

Portier-Young, Anathea. Apocalypse against empire : theologies of resistance in early Judaism. William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Portier-Young provides a scholarly basis for some of the ideas I developed in an earlier essay part of which was published in The Mennonite Vol. 6, No. 7, April 1, 2003., p.12-14.

4Ripley, Jason. “Atonement and Martyrdom in the Gospel of John”, Horizons in Biblical Theology, 30 Apr 2020, Volume 42:  Issue 1 Pages 58-89 [abstract only]    accessed 3/20/2021.

5Trever, John C. “The Qumran Teacher- another candidate?”  Early Jewish and Christian Exegesis,  edited by Craig A. Evans and William Stinespring, Scholars Press, 1987, pp 101-121.  Note p. 105

General background:

Daniel Smith-Christopher, “Daniel”  New Interpreters Bible Commentary (Reference Shelves, EMU Library). The development of my understanding of Daniel has been aided significantly by this article. [I was unable to get the page numbers due to the closing of the library to those without EMU ID.]

deSilva, Daniel.  Day of Atonement.  Kregel Press, 2015 (novel about the background to beginning of Maccabees’ revolt.  Personal copy)


“At Westminster Abbey”

Poem by Yorifumi Yaguchi [A Mennonite Christian Poet]* Commentary by David Alleman

“I can’t help imagining those enslaved colonials carrying

Burdens with their slender legs stepping heavily

Deep into burning sand, whipped mercilessly and moaning

And you have done it in the name of Christ,

The lord of love and peace.”

“At Westminster Abbey” reminded me of an experience six or eight years ago.  My wife, Julia,  was taking a class with a Christian mission program which was recruiting missionaries and promoting interest in missions.  I scanned/read through the book of readings.  There was theological, psychological, sociological and anthropological material in it.  The latter had information on learn about a new culture and how to adapt to a new culture.

Since the subject of peace was of special interest to me, I looked for articles on how to live at peace with people of other cultures.  Also, I wondered if there were articles about how United States and British militarism (and colonialism) would affect mission work.  There was almost nothing about the effect of these on the community of nations.

Finding nothing on the effect of war on missions, I wrote to a local leader of a mission agency listed in the handbook of readings. His organization was part of a denomination that  taught peace and nonresistance.  I inquired whether the planners and managers of the program would be open to including in these sessions some information about the church as a world-wide community of believers or the effect of colonialism, war, and preparation for war on mission efforts (I do not have a copy of the letter from six to eight years ago—I hope my memory is accurate). His response was that he thought the leaders of the local or international group would not want to add material of this nature to the packet of readings.  They would feel that it challenged their patriotism.  I didn’t feel this individual would take further action with the organization, so did not follow up on this interest.

Then I thought about a conversation many years earlier with a student who worked with me. He told me he was thinking of becoming a missionary.  When discussing war, I asked him, how could I say to someone that I have accepted as a brother or sister in Christ, “I love you, but if my government tells me to bomb you, I will do it?”  He replied. “What about the ones not yet believers?”  So, this poem revived that line of thought, Christians killing Christians.  Christians killing those they wanted to be Christians.

I was reading the poem for a class I was auditing.*   The assignment included looking at the poet’s technique.  Flipping through the book to this poem, I was struck with how different “Westminster Abbey” is from the Yamaguchi’s other poems. The lines are long. I believe the form is rooted in the English setting.  The text-like shape of the lines feels like formal English.  The heaviness of the meaning of the words is carried by the weight of the length of the lines even as the sentence/thoughts gain weight running over from one line to the next.  I felt a tension between the formal text and the pain and suffering.

In the book just mentioned, several pages later is the poem, “Just war”***. The last lines are:

“We bombard you for our country

As you bombard us for your country.

Both in the name of our God. Hallelujah!”**

I was reminded of the discussion with a student I mentioned above. The poem comes out of real experience (by one not too different from some of the people referenced in the Westminster Abbey poem). It reflects, in a brief and pointed way, the conflict war brought between Yaguchi’s patriotism and Christian pacifism.

*”Ways of War and Peace”, Martha Eads, Instructor.  (Eastern Mennonite University through Virginia Retirement Community)

Yorifumi Yaguchi. The poetry of Yorifumi Yaguchi : a Japanese voice in English. Good Books, 2006. Edited  by Wilbur J Birky. **p. 125. ***p.135

Calling: Not for preachers only

Living our call in all of life

During a time of leadership transition in our small church when I was in my forties, the overseer (or conference minister) asked me if I had a call to serve the church.  I thought about the question and responded to what I sensed was his question:  “I have not identified within myself a leading of the spirit to the pulpit ministry.”  He asked no further questions about how I was serving God or felt I should serve God, even though I was then wondering how I could best serve God in the church.  Sometime later a young man from the congregation began pastoral leadership in our congregation.  We were discussing some issue and he responded that his views should have greater weight because he had been ‘called.’   These experiences and later discussions with people who talked of their “call”, lead me to analyze what scripture says about “call”.

First look at call

You have all been called to follow Christ.  Just as Jesus called disciples and the Spirit called Paul at Damascus, everyone hearing the gospel has a call to follow and serve Jesus.  Most Christians would agree with these two sentences.  [This use of the word call will appear in lower case letters.]   In the Bible, there are many ordinary uses of the word “call” such as “request to come”, to beg or entreat (call on the name of the Lord) or to give someone a name.  Paul, according to this essay, uses the word ‘call’ refer to the spirit’s leading or God’s encouraging us begin to follow Jesus.  For example:

 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 1Th 4:7

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: (1Co 1:2)

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 2 Pet.1:10

We are all called to become Christ‘s followers.  Our call includes doing as Jesus’ disciples did, whether it is holding the baskets to collect the leftovers after the feeding of the 5,000 or going to the village for food while Jesus talked to a woman of Samaria or going out like the seventy-two to announce the coming of the kingdom.  As Paul was directed to take the gospel to the gentiles, our call also includes making tents while talking about Jesus to shoppers. 

CALL as a special experience

At one point the Mennonite Church had a program to address our concern over the lack of candidates for pastoral office.  “Culture of CALL” initiative encourages people with pastoral and administrative skills to consider church ministry, usually on a full-time basis.  Historical shifts of the past century (status and difficulties of church workers, a shift away from use of the lot, and perhaps opening of the pastorate to women and probably other factors) have affected the drawing of young people to church work.  But if everyone is called, why are we speaking of CALL in the specific sense regarding Christians entering church offices?  What is the origin of the use of the word ‘call’ to mean a special leading of the spirit to service and leadership in the church? Almost always people experiencing a CALL in this sense are already Christians. [I will use the CALL to indicate this specific use.]

The word call in the Bible

Jesus uses the word call only once.  “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32) Paul refers to himself as being called to be an apostle in the salutation of two letters

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Ro 1:1.)  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, (1Co 1:1)

These are probably references to Paul’s Damascus experience.  Was that a conversion experience, a vocation change invitation or both?  Prior to his ‘call’ was he (were Jesus’ disciples) a follower(s) of Christ?  Paul, in discussing the office of elder/bishop/overseer and deacons, does not list “call” as one of the qualifications for these positions.  These servants of the church, of course, had a call that led to their salvation.  One passage that includes both the word call and speaks of church offices is Eph. 4. 

 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Eph. 4:1

Does “calling” here refer to beginning one’s walk with God?  Or, does it refer to a post-conversion experience?  This experience or leading identified what would be one’s way of earning a living and doing God’s will.  In Acts 13:2 we are told that the Spirit has “called” Barnabas and Paul to a particular task.  Does this imply a lifetime leading?  When speaking of the leading of the spirit to church office, the Paul does not use the word ‘call’.  Is the pattern of use of the word ‘call’ in the New Testament reflected in our use today?  When Paul discusses gifts of the spirit (1 Cor. 12), he does not use the word “call”.  Finally, Paul uses the word church, ecclesia, as the distinctive term for followers of Jesus.  This word is defined as the “called out ones”

Uses of the term CALL in the church

The probable origin of the use of the word CALL for full time church workers is the development of a two-tiered spirituality after the establishment of the state church under Constantine.  It was only around the time of Constantine that the first use of word “call” is used to identify the way one earned one’s living.  According to this tradition, Jesus had a special spiritual vocation/calling as Messiah.  Since it was his ‘vocation’ to suffer and die, the events of his life are not a norm or example for us to follow.  Some Christians like Jesus have a ‘spiritual’ rather than a temporal or secular vocation and receive a special “call.”   These are the people who become priests and nuns.  The laity did not need to follow Christ closely in spirituality, direction for Christian service or service in the military.  Priests, for instance, were expected to be pacifists, but not the average Christian.  At the time of the Reformation, some claimed that only the ordained were CALLED and part of the church.   Taking issue with this separation of life into secular and spiritual, Anabaptist sought to recover the sense of following Christ in all of our lives.  They insisted that those called were to follow Christ in ‘churchly’ activities, work and all of our daily lives.

CALL and daily work

The word CALL has come to be used to identify the leading of the spirit, the thinking of the individual and counseling by other Christians directed toward individuals considering full time work in the church, especially the pastorate.  This term is infrequently used for those who are considering other careers or occupations.  (Some have proposed extending this sense of a special leading of the Spirit to all work situations. In the Reformed tradition this emphasis is strong.)  I wonder if this focus places unnecessary stresses both on those considering church work and on those considering secular jobs?   For those with gifts and skills suitable for the pastorate or full-time church work, there is pressure to expect a high intensity and memorable experience (probably datable) of the Spirit’s leading to full time church work.  On the other hand, devout followers of Christ seeking the leading of the Spirit for work direction or job change who desire to serve God in their work and in their non-vocational time may wonder how God leads them differently.  Does using the impetus of the concept of CALL accomplish in a scripturally sound way (as interpreted above) the important job of encouraging individuals into missionary or pastoral positions?  If we used “call” as a synonym of conversion, (which seems to me the primary meaning in scripture), would people entering “secular” work better understanding that work as a way of serving Christ?  The thrust of this essay should not be seen as denying the force and meaning of many peoples’ experience of the Spirit leading them to do Kingdom work with a church agency.

Living out our call

Let’s find ways of encouraging and aiding people making decisions about their life’s work.  Initial career choice or later changes are major life milestones at which fellow Christians should provide support for one another.   Finding a job in which we can honor and glorify God requires the spirit’s leading within us, as well.  To cooperate with the spirit’s leading and to work with the spirit in aiding all Christians in career choice, we should affirm that

1. Serving the church/extending the kingdom is an important responsibility of all Christians.

2. Serving Christ in one’s daily word is part of every Christian’s calling.

3. Encouraging fellow Christians to make the best use of their gifts is an important task for the people of God.

3. Challenging jobs such as the full-time pastorate or outreach in difficult areas may require encouragement from others, and extra prayer and courage by the one making the choice.

God’s call comes to all people.  Those who respond are called to salvation and a life of serving God.  Let those who answer God’s call live all their life in response to the call.

            David Alleman, Revision of an earlier posting.

Boot strap pulling/loin-girding or trust

Reflections on Isaiah 30:15

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. (KJV)

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it. (NIV)

If you repented and patiently waited for me, you would be delivered;  if you calmly trusted in me, you would find strength, but you are unwilling. (NET)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:  In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.  But you refused. (NRSV)

Loins girded
Note bootstraps sticking up

Somewhere in my past was a motto with “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength”. Perhaps I read it “be the strong silent type”.  For me, the motto’s meaning had shifted to bootstrap lifting or loin-girding.  So, I must prepare myself for battle.  Be ready to work hard (lift, take care of, protect myself by my own efforts).  Later thinking took me in two directions.  First, I found in this passage personal comfort and encouragement.  Later I looked at the context of the verse.

The context of this verse with the use of the words “Israel” and the acknowledgement “you refused” suggests an historical context.  Here, like in chapter six (where Ahaz wanted a military alliance with Assyria), Israel was ready to trust an alliance with Egypt rather than trust God.  God’s prophet gave this word about their prospective ally: “Egypt’s help is worthless and empty;” (verse 7 ESV).  The next verses have some vivid language detailing how worthless Egypt is.  So, in the context, the word from God has to do with public policy for the government.  Am I justified in shifting the use of this passage for personal comfort and encouragement?

First reflection on the passage.

In resting and turning to God will be your deliverance. In quietness and trust will be your strength. (my paraphrase of verse 15)

To rest, repent and trust,

Brings strength and hope in God.

We rest who turn and trust;

We trust who in Him rest.

To rest and trust brings hope;

And hope in God is strength.

Breath Prayer

These reflections later developed into a breath prayer. (See for some background on “breath prayers”.  The article makes a useful connection between science and faith.  Or, do a general Google search.)  My breath prayer helped me deal with several medical procedures and in times of frustration with life events.

Just three words, one on inhale, the other two on exhale:

Rest … and trust.  (Or, one might use the following: Rest in God . . . trust in God.)

*For the technique of girding up loins, see:

**For the current socio-cultural meaning of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”, do a search on that phrase.  Be sure to click on the “Images” link to see some of the graphic interpretations of the phrase.

County line jogs and getting square with the world

Going straight

How do you respond when someone giving driving directions says, “go straight down this road? During the years I have lived in Pennsylvania and Virginia, I have learned not to laugh at these words coming from a native of either state. I guess there are a few roads that have more than several hundred yards of straightaway.   In rural Northern Illinois where I grew up, most of the roads were straight north and south, east and west.  Some were graveled roads.  In dry weather these wide, straight, gravel roads sometimes saw drivers do speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour.  There were a few exceptions to this straight road rule.  A friend of my father lived along a stream.  The builder of the house built it to square to the road that angled along the not-so-straight stream.  My father’s friend decided that he wanted his house to have the sides of the house to face the directions of the compass.  So, the house was jacked up and a new foundation was made under it and the house was now “square with the world”.  I wondered afterward if the owner needed the adjustment, too.

County Line Jogs

However, an exception to this beautiful arrangement existed due to conflict between instructions to surveyors and the way county road builders worked.  The explanation is below.* A slight adjustment at county lines needed to be made. These came to be called county line jogs (CLJ). The jogs might not have been a concern in the horse and buggy days when the roads were built.  When I learned to drive in the 1950s, the CLJs on gravel roads were right angle turns with one-hundred-yards to three-hundred-yards between them. As cars got faster, jogs got more dangerous. Forgetting about the CLJ, especially at night, in the fog or when inebriated led to many panic stops, run-over corn plants and serious accidents. (The photo, sent to me by my brother, Joel, shows a modern CLJ with a smoothed-out curve suitable for modern travel.) When I was a teen driver, this road, just west of our farm, was gravel and the CLJ much sharper.  This is Covell Road about fourteen miles north of Morrison, Illinois.)

One evening I took my siblings to a youth group event.  I had just arrived home from college, perhaps that day and was quite tired.  Somehow my sibs must have gotten to youth group meetings in my absence, but I felt it necessary to be the driver.  After the fun was over, we headed home.  And, yes, I forgot about the county line jog.  Fortunately, at the corner was an entrance to a field with little variation in elevation.  No damage done to the car.  One college guy, though, had damage to his ego.

My sense of direction has always been fairly good.  (My view, of course.)  Once I heard that Daniel Boone claimed that he had never been lost in his life.  But once, he said, “I was pretty confused for a week.”  Never for a week, but confusion over directions/where I was has happened.  Confusion a bit different happened when we moved from Michigan to Virginia.  I slept during part of the trip and when I woke up in Virginia after dark I was not aware/thinking of directions or my orientation.  Now, even after living thirty years in Virginia, I need sometimes need to reorient myself that the world is a quarter turn off.  West seems to be north!  Sometime after arriving in Virginia I read a Natural History Magazine article about someone who had the same disorienting experience.  He had someone drive him to Michigan after dark.  Then he drove himself back to Washington, DC and that reoriented him so that his innate sense of direction was reestablished.  Maybe I should do that.

What’s up and down

The first time I taught history to eighth graders map study was included.  One of the indisputable facts I mentioned was that up was north and down was south.  The snotty eighth graders started snickering.  This community, Kishacoquillas Valley, was less than a mile wide at its widest and probably fifteen miles long.  The students assured me that north was “down” and south was “up” the Valley. Some forty years later (after twenty years in the Midwest where roads were straight and north was north and south was south), we moved to Virginia.  We found out that due to the course of the Potomac and its tributaries “down” was north and “up” was south.  In the Shenandoah Valley one must drive forty-five miles “up” the valley until one can drive “down[south]” toward the James River.  In the Kish Valley where I first taught, the students would need to drive a little over eight miles “up” the Valley toward the Tight End of the valley.  Just past the welding shop on the west side of the road is a small hill with a sign marking the beginning of Huntingdon County.  There the water drains south into Sadler Creek, then to Mill Creek and into the Juniata River.  But, my job in the classroom was to help the students get a bigger perspective beyond the Valley.  “Up north” and “down south” may not be the whole truth.  But it was a language the students needed to understand, at least, if they wanted to understand directions in other places. That was not too different from my father’s friend.  Getting square with the world for him would require a broader perspective.

*The Continental Congress passed the Ordinance of 1785 which initiated the requirement that lands be first divided into grids so that lands could be divided and described uniformly, now known as the United Stated Public Land System. There were several ordinances passed following the original of 1785, but in general those ordinances instructed the early surveyors on how to divide the country into those grids. Generally, the surveyors began at a base point and ran meridian lines north and south and a base line which ran east and west. The next phase involved dividing the land into six-mile squares known as townships (these are not governmental townships found within counties). The lines run north and south from the base line were called range lines and the lines east and west from the meridian were known as township lines. The procedure involved placing a wood post on the township and range lines at one-half mile intervals (standard corners). The surveyors later divided the six-mile squares into 36 one-mile squares (sections). The method generally used to create the one-mile squares was to start near the southeast corner of the township and run lines (section lines) north and west once again setting posts at one-half mile intervals. When they would intersect the north and west lines of the previously established six-mile divisions a new post was set (closing corner) which probably would not have matched the older post (standard corner). They did not correct the section line to match the standard corner previously set. This distance between the closing corner and standard corner, or falling, was merely noted and could be within a foot or hundreds of feet different.
When counties began constructing roads, the preference was to follow the range, township and section lines. When a road ran north, let’s say, along a section line and came to the township line, it was necessary to jog the road to be able to run along the section line in the next township north, because of the falling between closing corner and standard corner. Don’t blame the surveyors, they were simply following the instructions given them on how to divide up the land.

Growing cannas and giving cannas

The canna roots were in a box labeled “Free” along College Street. This was during the first year (1989) or so we lived in Virginia. We took some of the roots, (technically, rhizomes, but “roots” is easier to write) and off we grew.  After growing and dividing our small patch on Union Street, we took some of the roots to the Weavers Mennonite Church food pantry garden.  Then in 2000 we moved some of the roots to Upland Drive. Along the way, we shared the roots with others, too.

Food Pantry Garden Cannas

When Weavers Mennonite Church started a food pantry garden there were gladiolus in the garden. Since there so many glads, I took a bunch of them to Patchwork Pantry along with the vegetables. While I took the flowers for decoration, one of the workers took the flowers and divided them among some of the clients.  We had a good supply of glads, so we brought more the next week and later planted zinnias to extend the flower giving season. When glad production was slowing down, someone said, “Why not take canna flowers?”  So, we added canna flowers to the bouquets.  That continued for several years. 

The cannas developed vigorously in the soil enriched by bags and bags of leaves and grass clippings supplemented by gallons of coffee grounds from several convenience stores.  Soon we had too many roots.  To keep the roots from freezing over winter, our usual practice was to create a mound of dry leaves over the canna roots in the fall. When we had too many roots, we left one section of cannas uncovered.  That winter was a mild one and the cannas did not freeze. 

Cannas as fundraisers

Someone asked, “Can we sell the roots?”  So, we dug, divided, cleaned and took the roots to the local gift and thrift where they sold rapidly.  We wondered why they sold so quickly.  (I had priced them according to last year’s nursery prices.)  Later, I read that the area that usually grows canna roots had enough bad weather to significantly reduce the crop and drive up prices.  Maybe we should have raised our prices, too.

Caring for cannas

After the food pantry shut down, we continued to grow cannas in our garden.  The four foot by ten-foot patch made a striking sight in the far end of the garden from the house.  Sometimes they grew to more than ten feet tall as shown in the picture of me holding a yardstick over my head.  Often, we found enough dry leaves to raise a pile more than a foot high.  Sometimes, for additional insulation, we also put bags of leaves in the paths. 

Cannas above my head!

In April, we would remove the leaves from the bed.  Then some weeks later we would see the roots sprouting.  We would remove a good number of sprouted roots from the bed and leave mostly unsprouted ones.  Eventually, there always seemed to be enough to fill the bed.  Every few years the roots became crowded.  Sometimes they pushed out the sides of the bed boards.  The large roots with sprouts we potted for donation.  The smaller ones or ones without sprouts were placed in the shade until we were sure whether they would sprout.  Then several would go into a pot.  The ones that didn’t sprout in a reasonable period of time went into the compost pile, where they sometimes sprouted.  Some of the canna roots we gave to friends and some we donated to charitable plant sales and to Gift and Thrift. 

The less than a dozen roots we found along the street in the early 90s provided beauty for us at two homes, flowers for clients of Patchwork Pantry, and roots for fund raisers for several charities.  Now, after 20 years of growing cannas on Upland Drive, we are leaving the cannas for new owners of this property.  We hope that the giving continues.