The Chainsaw Story – Concluded


Just around the corner, southeast of our place, we had some non-Amish neighbors. An older couple; Earnest and Bertha Goodman: They were living on some kind of retirement income and Earnest would sometimes supplement their resources by coming around and saying “Hey Jakie, what can I do for you?” Dad would give him a little bit to help around the place and Earnest could go to town, take in a picture show, and buy a little “chewin tobakker.”


On this particular Monday Dad was looking about as glum as I’ve ever seen him, and along comes Mr. Goodman; a gaggle of dogs at his heels. “Hey Jakie, what can I do for you?”


“Buy my chainsaw,” says Dad.


“Why are you trying to sell your saw?”


Dad explained that the church had forbidden chainsaws and he had only this week to get rid of it.


“How much do you want for it?”


Dad says, “Make me an offer.”


“I’d give you twenty-five dollars,” replies Mr. Goodman.


“Sold,” says Dad.


“Look, I was only joking, I really didn’t mean it.”


Dad got more insistent. “It’s a real good deal for you. You can surely get twenty-five dollars for it somehow.”


Earnest protested, “I don’t even have that much money to start with.”


“Look;” Dad says, “I could really use your help this week to get everything done.” “I’ve been paying you five dollars a day. I’d like to reserve the right to sell the saw for more if I can, but if not I’d like to trade it for five days of labor.” Mr. Goodman reluctantly agreed, and they went to work.


They got rained out one of the days that week and finished up Saturday evening. When they came to the Goodman’s house, it was after dark, raining again, and both men were dog-tired. They talked about unloading the saw but decided to leave it wrapped in the tarp and bring it over Monday. Another mistake.


When Dad got home, the minister had already been waiting for him for quite some time. Without a word of greeting, he went to the back of the buggy; confirmed that the saw was still in Dad’s possession, and formed his conclusions.


“How come you didn’t sell your saw?”


“I did sell it,” came the reply.


“What’s it doing here then?”


“We worked late, and didn’t want to unload it in the rain.”


“Who bought it?”


“Earnest Goodman.”


“That old man,” the minister scoffed, “What use does he have for a chainsaw?” “Also, how much did he pay for it?”


“Twenty-five dollars,” replies Dad.


“Oh, don’t lie; Jakie, you know you would never sell that expensive saw for that little.”


“To keep peace in the church, I would,” Dad, tells him.


Dad didn’t have a check as evidence of the sale; they couldn’t “take the word of an outsider,” and the next day my dad was charged by ministers in the Amish church of having a forbidden chainsaw, and on top of that, lying that he had sold it, for the ridiculous sum of only twenty-five dollars, to someone who could have no possible use for it. Once more the church “voted,” and supposedly the same people who claimed they didn’t vote against chainsaws now were voting in favor of my dad’s ouster from the church. “What about Katie?” someone wants to know. “She sticks by her husband’s story,” one of the ministers replied. “The vote applies to her also.” Without an additional vote, Mom was excommunicated also.


After some time had gone by, without any sign that restitution with the church was possible; Dad eventually bought his saw back for twice what he was paid for it, and for that one week that lives in infamy, exactly doubled one old man’s wages.