Two lifetime experiences in one day

From the press box by Bruce Stambaugh
The view I had from the press box at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I had looked forward to this day for a long, long time.

A reporter friend of mine asked me if I wanted to accompany him to a Cleveland Indians game with seats in the press box. Big kid that I am, it was a lifetime dream of mine to do so.

For years I had wondered what it would be like to sit in the press box to watch a baseball game. Last week, my dream came true with an unexpected bonus.

To get me through the press gate, my reporter friend, who will remain nameless for professional reasons, listed me as his photographer. Good thing I had taken my camera along.

My excitement settled soon after attaching the yellow press tag to my belt loop. Our planned first stop on my behind-the-scenes tour of Progressive Field was the playing field to watch batting practice and mingle with the players and coaches. But this game was the day game of a day-night double-header. There was no batting practice.

Progressive Field by Bruce Stambaugh
My regular seat at Progressive Field is just above my left shoulder, seven rows back.

Since I was actually standing on the playing field I wasn’t all that disappointed. My friend took my picture in front of the Indians dugout and by the Indians on deck circle, which is directly in front of where I usually sit as a fan.

We headed into the Indians dugout. I sat in the shade on the bench a few feet from some player who had completely shaved his head. It was Justin Masterson, the starting pitcher for the Indians.

Soon we made our way down the tunnel and up the ramp to the players’ clubhouse. We rubbed shoulders with several players, but passed them without speaking according to media-player etiquette. All in all, I found the locker room to be much less luxurious than I had envisioned.

I had a similar reaction when we entered the media dining room. It was spacious, but reminded me of a college cafeteria, only with a nice view. We signed in and paid for the buffet. Thoughts of the media being coddled began evaporating. Once I tasted the food, the memories of college continued.

Across the hall was the press box, curving left and right high above and behind home plate. Here, too, I was surprised. Instead of plush, I saw plain. The press box was more functional than cushy. There was plenty of room to work, but it really wasn’t the best view from the third row where we were assigned to sit.

Reporters at work by Bruce Stambaugh
Reporters hard at it in the Progressive Field press box.

It was unexpectedly quiet, too. With deadlines to meet, the reporters simply minded their own business and watched the game.

The game moved right along until 1:51 p.m. when the press box itself began to move. I felt an obvious swaying east to west. I asked my friend if he felt it. Indeed he did.

Other reporters swiveled their heads with astonished looks on their faces. The press box rocked and rolled for 30 seconds, stopped briefly, then began again, only not as severely nor as long.

Someone checked on the Internet and said that the Pentagon was being evacuated because of an earthquake centered in Virginia. Here I was in my first and probably only major league press box and I had also experienced my first earthquake.

I had always wondered what a quake felt like. Now I knew. I felt both nauseated and exhilarated.

With those lifetime experiences realized together, I happily took my usual seat at the next Indians game I attended.

Batter up by Bruce Stambaugh
The view from my regular seat at Progressive Field is much improved over the press box.

Reactions to earthquake many and varied

Amish farm Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
Life in Holmes County, Ohio went back to normal right after the earthquake on August 23.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The reactions to the reverberations of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt in the Holmes County, Ohio area on August 23 varied according to individual circumstances. The quake was centered near Mineral, Va., but was felt more than 400 miles away.

Many in the area thought they were experiencing a sudden illness. Some weren’t sure what to think. A few knew that the shaking shortly before 2 p.m. was an earthquake. Others, especially those in vehicles, felt nothing at all.

It didn’t take people long to realize that the shaking was much more than something they felt personally. Some figured it out on their own, while others tuned to TV news, received text messages or saw it posted on social media.

Tim Roth, of Millersburg, said he was sitting in his recliner watching the Cleveland Indians baseball game when he felt the chair shake and the house creak. He wasn’t sure what was happening at first.

The press box at Progressive Field in Cleveland swayed east and west for 30 seconds, stopped briefly, and then shook again, but not as long or as hard. Fans in the upper deck sensed the shaking, too, but were reassured by ushers. The baseball game between the Indians and the Seattle Mariners continued uninterrupted.

Greta Monter, of rural Millersburg, was lying on her couch and suddenly felt her heart race. A registered nurse, she at first thought she was having a medical health issue, but then realized it was more than just her heart.

Lora Stackpole Erclauz, of Lakeville, said she felt just a slight shaking. She said at first she thought it was vertigo, called her husband and he had felt it, too.

Rita Baughman-Dawson said she thought a train had wrecked and fell off of the tracks. She said it was a very eerie feeling.

Mike Pacula, the band director at West Holmes Middle School, said he was at his desk in his office and noticed his chair rocking and his computer monitor wobbling.

Karen Reitz Miller was in her home in Millersburg when the windows began to rattle a little and the house creaked. She said it sounded like someone was on her roof. She turned on the TV and learned of the earthquake.

Joe Heatwole, who lives in Dalton, was on the second floor of Valley View Oak near Mt. Hope when he felt the floor begin to shake. Another employee yelled that his computer monitor was shaking and the floor was moving. Heatwole said it was an exhilarating feeling to experience an earthquake for the first time.

Arlene Yoder, a nurse from Baltic, was at the doctor’s office where she works in Dover. Yoder said their patients were relieved to know that the medical staff also felt the floor shake, too.

Dana Ely-Keiffer reported that it felt like someone was shaking the recliner she was in at the Smith Ambulance office in New Philadelphia.

“I accused my partner of it until I realized he was on the other side of the room,” she said. “He was thinking I was shaking him.”

The Commercial and Savings Bank four-story building in Millersburg was evacuated as a precaution. Employees and customers were allowed back in after a brief wait outside.

Across the street at the Holmes County Education Foundation, Anna Patton reported that the window blinds moved back and forth.

Some buildings in Columbus were also evacuated as a precaution.

The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office reported receiving a few calls from around the county about the trembler. No damage was reported.

August is the quiet month

August sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
A typical August susnet in Ohio's Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have always thought of August as a transitional month, the days between busy, boisterous July and the revitalizing September.

August is the stepping-stone from summer’s onslaught of activities into a pre-fall mentality. Vacations wind down for most people. It’s back to school and back to work.

If we take time to halt our busyness, our clamor to re-ready ourselves for the new school year at hand, we can take note of this calendar bridge from tilling to harvest, from clamor to order. In its intermediary mode, August seems to quietly take it in stride.

The songbirds no longer need to announce their territory or impress their mate. The young have flown the coop, or more properly stated, the nest, and bird life has returned to seeking daily subsistence. The American Robin precisely models the point.

From April to July, the Robins paired off, warbled their luxurious choruses almost continuously sunup to sundown. They pecked on windows, noisily flitted off their nests when disturbed and faithfully fed their young.

The Robins were ubiquitous in both presence and song. People often comment when they see their first Robin of the spring.

First Robin by Bruce Stambaugh
People often remark when they spot their first Robin of the spring.

Now, in late August, the Robins have all slyly retreated to their preferred nomenclature. They are more than content to while away the day searching for food deep in the recesses of the shade and forest.

Think about it. When was the last time you either heard or saw a robin? They simply and silently slipped away unnoticed.

If they haven’t already, other bird species will soon be disappearing from the area altogether. The Purple Martins, Barn Swallows and Common Nighthawks all heed their interior instinctive urgings and vanish unseen much like the Robin. We under-appreciate their massive consumption of insect protein until it’s too late to thank them.

Just as quietly, the multiple greens of fields and pastures have grown taller, richer. Chameleon-like, they have morphed into emeralds, tans and russets with hardly a rustle.

August harvest colors by Bruce Stambaugh
The colors of August change from day to day.

Farmers have taken in their wheat and most of their oats matter-of-factly, and now tolerantly wait the drying of the later cash crops, corn and soybeans. There is no mechanized clanking in patience.

Song Sparrow by Bruce Stambaugh
A Song Sparrow sings away.
The Song Sparrow still belts out an occasional composition, but nothing as regular as it had been earlier in the season. The House Wrens, once so noisy they approached annoyance, have taken to the underbrush, giving their last brood endurance lessons.

August’s atmosphere also has been quieter than the previous months, save for a couple of late night thunderstorms. The brilliant flashes and deep, rolling booms shattered my sleep like Civil War cannon fire might have. Midnight imaginations run wild when deafeningly jolted.

The few sounds of August we can count on are more monotonous and so commonplace we may not even notice their calls. Cicadas and crickets signal day and night. With windows thrown open to catch the unusual August twilight coolness, the insect symphony has helped humans settle in for sound sleeping.

Every now and then a ranging coyote howls from atop the neighbor’s pastured hill, if for no other reason than to drive the tethered neighborhood canines crazy. The feral call is one thing. The domesticated is another.

Now that school years in most locales begin well ahead of September, the playful echoes of children rollicking at recess again fill the air. It’s a timbre I love to hear over and over again, even if it does break August’s amazing silent spell.
Amish school by Bruce Stambaugh

From book seller to book author, Wesner connects with the Amish

By Bruce Stambaugh

Erik Wesner, 33, went from selling books to the Amish to writing one about them. It was an unexpected but enjoyable trek for the Raleigh, North Carolina native.

“I kind of stumbled into it beginning in Arthur, Illinois,” Wesner said.

Erik Wesner by Bruce Stambaugh
Erik Wesner
Wesner went door-to-door selling books for nine years. His job took him to many communities around the country where Amish had settled.

“The kind of books I was selling were appropriate for them,” Wesner said. He explained that they included sets of family Bible study books.

Whether he spent five minutes or 20 minutes with each household, he liked what he saw and heard. He was impressed with the inquisitiveness of the Amish, their resourcefulness and friendliness.

Wesner graduated from the University of North Carolina with a double major of English and economics. It was that knowledge that caused him to take notice of something else that he found common among the Amish.

“Everywhere I went in the Amish communities,” Wesner explained, “I saw successful businesses.” He said he was intrigued with that pattern, especially since most of the entrepreneurs were self-taught and didn’t have either high school or college degrees.

“While visiting in Amish-owned businesses, I saw customers who had driven three hours from Indianapolis and Chicago to make purchases,” he said. “I figured that was a sign of quality and honesty.”

Wesner couldn’t help but notice the continued success of these businesses in each Amish community he visited, even given the down economy.

“From Iowa to Illinois to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Holmes County, Ohio, I found many success stories to share,” he said. That instilled in him a desire to learn about how they were able to not just survive but thrive when other businesses were not.

That intrigue lead to his book, Success Made Simple, an extensive review of Amish-owned businesses and what makes them consistently tick and click. His book is based on many interviews with Amish business folks across the country.

Wesner said though the book didn’t make the best-seller list, he gained something even more rewarding.

“Through all of this, I have made many friends among the Amish,” he said. That is what brought him back to Holmes County recently. He was visiting some New Order Amish in the Shreve, Ohio area.

In addition to his book, Wesner started a blog called “Amish America” right after the Nickel Mines incident in Lancaster County, Pensylvania in 2006. A gunman shot several Amish schoolgirls. The story made headlines worldwide.

“I didn’t like some of the things I saw and heard following that tragic situation,” Wesner said. Since he enjoys writing, he began the blog at

The blog features stories and photographs of various Amish communities. He said he writes about and shows examples of everyday Amish life without trying to glorify it.

“I really enjoy the immediacy of the blog,” Wesner said, referring to the immediate posting of comments by some of his many followers. “I find that very rewarding.”

Wesner said there have been unexpected benefits to his blog.

“I mentioned an Amish business on my blog,” he said, “and the owner thanked me. She had customers who said they heard about her business by reading the blog.”

Wesner said he is working on a second book about the Amish. He said it would focus on the lesser-known things about the Amish lifestyle.

When he is not visiting Amish communities during the summer months, Wesner spends eight months out of the year teaching English in his parents’ home country of Poland. He said his students are mostly adult professionals who need to learn English for their jobs.

“I guess I feel a sense of obligation,” Wesner said about living in Poland. “My grandmother still lives there, and I didn’t want her to feel alone.”

That kind of dedication to family would resonate well with the Amish culture, too.

Corn and grandchildren are both Incredible

Husking corn by Bruce Stambaugh
Everyone pitched in to help husk the sweet corn.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We have begun a corny, new tradition in the family.

In June 2010, our daughter and her family moved from their beloved Austin, Texas to Harrisonburg, Virginia in the lovely Shenandoah Valley. As much as we enjoyed visiting them in the Lone Star State, we were thrilled that they would be much closer to us geographically.

True, driving the 350 miles across eight mountain passes approximated the flying time to Austin. The cost, however, was much less to travel overland than in the air, and more convenient, too.

My wife and I liked to visit Carrie and her family in Texas in late fall when the weather there was more favorable than the ever-changeable stuff of Ohio. On those autumn excursions, we often packed an extra suitcase, not for us but for them. It was filled with nothing more than several containers of frozen Incredible sweet corn. It was their winter supply of vegetable sweetness.

Slider and grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh
Slider teased our grandsons at a Cleveland Indians game last summer.

Last August our daughter and her three children drove from their Virginia home to ours in Ohio to help with the corn preservation process. Their extended stay gave us a chance to do up the corn and for them to explore the germane niceties of our area. Carrie returned home with the corn and the youngest, Maren, a few days later, leaving us with the two boys, Evan and Davis.

This year they repeated the process, only this time our wise and cunning daughter escaped with the Incredible and in appreciation for the golden gift left us with the trio of grandchildren, ages seven, five and 22 months. We couldn’t have been happier.

Last year, Nana and I took the boys to their first Cleveland Indians game. The highlight of the evening occurred off the field. Slider, the Tribe’s mascot, pounced on the boys, teasing them with hugs and tweaking their ball cap brims.

Last week, we repeated that experience, only with Uncle Nathan, our son, pinch-hitting for Nana, who was home entertaining toddler Maren. Unlike the perfect evening of a year ago, we witnessed two innings of baseball and two hours of drenching rain.

Corn silk by Bruce Stambaugh
Our granddaughter, Maren, was pretty picky when it came to removing the corn silk.

The baseball games were rewards for everyone pitching in to help with the corn process. Evan and Davis helped husk. Even little Maren joined in by removing the tickly corn silk from several cobs. She was meticulous in her task, determined to get every last strand.

Nana, of course, coordinated the corn coronation. She prefers to cut the kernels from the cobs before cooking it. She says it goes a lot faster. Once the cooking is completed, it’s simply a matter of finding enough containers to cache the corn.

We were amazed at Maren’s vocabulary and inquisitiveness, which included willingly participating in the corn fest. Her long sun-bleached curls matched the shade of the corn’s yellowy ears.

Cooked corn by Bruce Stambaugh
After the corn is cooked, it is ladled into containers to be frozen.

Evan and Davis had grown, too. Lanky and imaginative, they had no trouble keeping busy without getting into too much trouble. Of course, at mealtime, locally raised corn on the cob was a favorite.

At week’s end, we met their mother halfway in southwestern Pennsylvania to return the children to their rightful owner. That’s one of the advantages of being grandparents.

All in all the mix of grandkids and corn made for an Incredible time together. It’s a sweet, new tradition that I hope lasts longer than the frozen corn usually does.

K Hertzler Art

Artist and nature journalist in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. -Twyla Tharp

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