BLINDSIDED ON WALKER MOUNTAIN – CHAPTER 6
And even as I wander,
I'm keeping you in sight.
You're a candle in the window,
On a cold, dark winter's night.
And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might. – REO SPEEDWAGON
The open road can be a starkly lonely place. You accelerate onto the interstate and melt into a world of automotive anonymity. There’s everybody, yet there’s nobody. I left Walker Mountain feeling positive, but the open road, sometimes a source of happiness, became a scourge of sadness. No amount of passing populated places with their brightly welcoming Wal-Marts, Waffle Houses, and big box beckoners could cleanse me of the loneliness that was gripping me. What was odd is that I often enjoy the open road, the transient invisibility offered by the interstate is sometimes invigorating and the rumbling wheels beneath have sparked some of my best brainstorms.
But on the trip back from Walker Mountain, I found none of that enthusiasm for the highway. I was lonely and I had doubts about what I was doing. Not doubts about the TV show. What struck me throughout this process were how many Amish people genuinely seemed to think a respectful, wholesome show featuring their family, food and faith was a good idea and they didn’t object to it on grounds of being photographed. That was probably the biggest single surprise of the whole experience. If had been told “gee, Mr. Williams, this show really sounds like a bad idea, maybe you shouldn’t pursue it”, I would have not been so determined in my pursuit. But I never heard anything like that.
I never approached the most conservative groups of Amish about doing this program because I knew they wouldn’t participate and even if I found a rogue family willing to, they’d be so ostracized by their church that it would make me uncomfortable. So I approached more liberal Amish orders and not a one objected on grounds of being photographed. In that sense my instincts were correct. What I probably failed to anticipate is that they are a culture of conformity, no one person likes to stand out. That’s a basic reason why their clothing is all so similar. What better way to stand out than to appear on TV?
No, my doubts were rooted in my own homesickness. I missed being away from home for two nights, how would I handle two weeks or two months? But I know growth comes from doing things that makes one uncomfortable. It may be that the fabled bristlecone pines that thrive on cold temperatures, dry soils, high winds on stark California mountains may do so precisely because their conditions are challenging . Challenging oneself is a tonic So as I passed truck stops that served breakfast all day and rest areas offering free coffee and the hard hills of West Virginia gradually melted into the familiar flatness of Ohio, I told myself that I could do this. That I would do this. Yes, the business benefits of having a show were undeniable. But to me this was as much a personal mission as a career one.
I pulled into a sprawling truck stop in southern Ohio during the heat of a rain-starved summer.
I know I shouldn’t drink soda. It’s a carbonated chemical concoction that contributes to obesity and clobbers ones dental enamel. But I still love the taste, so I decided to sooth my loneliness with a 40 ounce vat of cold Coke.
“Excuse me!” the clerk calmly said and grabs my still frothy soda from the counter , runs it outside and pours it into a flower bed.
My mind was reeling. Was she reading my mind and scolding me over my beverage choices?
Curls of smoke could be seen outside of the window now behind the cash register. The clerk ran in and filled up my drink cup with water from the soda fountain and ran back outside. More smoke or steam sizzled skyward.
“Sorry, someone dropped a cigarette into the mulch bed, happens a couple times a week”
“Help yourself,” she smiled, handing me new cup and offering me a free 40 ounce helping of junk drink.
Loneliness and thirst cured for free, I arrived home awhile later
On the appointed day, Bishop Lapp called me.
“We talked about it and we just don’t think it would work here. We don’t want to cause problems with our other churches that we fellowship with. And if you tell me what your address is, I’ll return the cookbook you gave me.”
“Keep it,” I assured him. “And, thank you…thank you for giving my proposal such serious consideration and for your community being so welcoming and open minded.”
“You’re welcome back anytime yourself, we just don’t want the cameras.”
We parted ways
But I was blind-sided soon after by seeing a note from him in The Budget warning other churches that the project was a bad idea that they shouldn’t participate. He also proceeded to lay out all the details of my program.
At least he wrote that I was “courteous and respectful.”