Ephraim Dustmopp, Elder of the Kleene Clan
This is Ephraim’s most enjoyable time of day.
The cows have all been milked, silage stowed away, geese penned, mare brushed down, tractor rinsed of manure and mud, chickens settled down for the evening, piglets happily snuffling in their wallow, and Ol’ Blue curled drowsily beneath his master’s rough-shod feet. Ephraim is a picture of calm and contentment.
The sole hanging kerosene lantern hisses its fragrant yellow glow in an inviting sphere at the center of the cabin’s large central room. Bubbling gently atop the cast iron wood-burner along the rear wall is a battered tin basin of well water awaiting some freshly peeled potatoes fetched from the root cellar by Emily, the youngest. The wonderfully savory scent of a simple stew of roast chicken with fresh baby carrots is beginning to fill the cabin interior. Soon the boys will be returning from the Fletcher’s spread down the road, bursting through the door all ruddy cheeked and dusty, and slapping black felt hats at one another playfully.
Ephraim’s favorite place in all of this glorious earthly kingdom is the sturdy ladder-back caned chair placed before the massive red cedar planking — a tabletop hewn by his own hands some decades past, and perched atop homemade trestles of pine. Each evening, he methodically packs a bowl of his own field-grown and shed-dried variant of Captain Earle’s Ten Russians tobacco blend. Slowly licking the top of the bowl with the flame from a sturdy wooden kitchen match, he will stoke a full and glowing steady burn. Then, bringing the spigot of his elongated Dunhill shell briar ceremonially to his waiting lips, he will savor the first full relaxing mouthful of the evening.
This is a parental ritual that the surrounding eleven children of Dustmopp heritage have dutifully and silently observed virtually every single evening through the years. (There were two consecutive evenings when the normal routine was thrown a-kilter by the massive blizzard of ’04; Ephraim, spouse and eldest worked feverishly into the night digging heifers out of 14-foot snow drifts, and didn’t return to the cabin until near dawn, soaked and frozen and exhausted.)
The Dustmopp family represents but one branch of the Kleene clan widely spread throughout Lancaster County’s Mennonite population. (Ephraim met young Klara Kleene, pretty and pert, and stole a first tentative kiss from her, at a long ago barn-raising in coincidentally–named Kissel Hill.) Members of the Kleene clan are known not only for their fastidious personal and familial habits — they have some of the most meticulously maintained farmsteads ever known to rural agriculture in America — but also for the fact that many of their daughters serve as housekeepers, laundresses and charwomen for most of the McMansions peppered by non-Mennonites across southeastern Pennsylvania over recent decades.
In fact, five of Ephraim’s lovely daughters — Ena, Erwina, Edeline, Ethelda, Elrica, (and, soon enough, Emily, too) — have for a number of years tended the 13,000 square foot hilltop manse of Todd Vukovnik, the billionaire teenage creator of that phenomenally successful digital app, Angry Amish.
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