Since 1964, Pauline and I have been pen pals. We started by sending letters but now we Skype over the internet, which means we can talk face to face even though Pauline is in Tasmania, Australia and I'm here in Wisconsin.
Not that long ago, I paired up with another Wisconsin woman and became pen pals, too. Though all of my other friends contact me through email, this new friend can't. She doesn't have a computer. She also doesn't have electricity. My new friend is Amish.
It has been a joy going to the mail box and getting letters from my friend - she'd rather I didn't use her name. I read about her life on their family farm with her husband and their eight children.
When I send a letter back, I have to think hard what to write. Their whole family reads my column, so I can't rely on subjects that were in the newspaper for my letters.
Anyway, we finally arranged to meet. Bob and I set a date to take a day off and go to Dalton.
The day was beautiful, not too hot, or too cold. We even enjoyed our two-hour drive, taking secondary roads instead of Hwy. 41. As I drove, Bob observed the conditions of crops along our route.
When we arrived at the farm, we were warmly greeted by my pen pal, her husband, and seven of their children - one son had to work.
I soon found out that German was their first language, but most everyone spoke English very well. Only their four-year-old daughter didn't - we spoke to her with smiles.
Actually, we waited a few minutes for the husband to join us. He was cutting hay, working with one of his team of horses in a nearby field.
Of course, the men got together right away and started talking about farming and crops. Nothing is different there. They discussed weather and the look of corn in our area and theirs - you know, man talk.
We women talked, too, about children and grandchildren, gardens and chickens. It was like visiting with old friends.
Eventually, we were treated to lunch. Bob and I were spoiled royally. They killed the fatted chicken/s for our meal. We also had bread, beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Dessert was blackberry pie and ice cream. It was so good, I ate too much.
After lunch they wondered if we'd like to take a buggy ride. Oh, would I. I was raring to go. Bob wondered if he could step up high enough to get into the black buggy. His fellow farmer said, "If you can get up on a tractor, you can get in our buggy. . . . I want you to ride up front with me."
Bob did get up in the buggy. I sat in the backseat with my pen pal and their youngest daughter.
I had never ridden in a buggy, though I did have a horse-drawn wagon when I was a teenager.
It was such a great adventure clopping down their country roads - though I did worry once that Pal the horse wouldn't be able to take us up to the top of a steep hill. He managed, but he did slow down as he got near the top.
We drove past the children's school - that's where they learn English as a second language. Down the road we stopped at a relative's farm, but they were out in the field, haying.
Another stop was at an Amish family's farm stand where I bought a few vegetables. Our last stop was at a store, Mishler's Country Store.
Another buggy was parked outside the store along with tourists' cars - I still wonder what those tourists thought when Bob and I stepped out of that buggy with our Amish friends.
I had asked about taking photos. My pen pal said they don't pose for photos, but I could take pictures of the farm. I honored her request, but oh boy, I sure had an itchy shutter finger, especially when her little girl was sitting on her lap and they looked so sweet together.
The best way to capture our visit with my camera was to have a photo of Bob and me by the horse and buggy. Our friends weren't comfortable using our camera, so we drafted a tourist who had stopped at the vegetable stand to do it for us.
The worst part of the day was that it ended, too soon. After visiting more over coffee and sweet rolls, we had a hard time leaving. We finally tore ourselves away and headed home.
The only good thing about leaving is knowing that we'll get together again soon. Before that there will be more letters.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net;