Sunday, September 20, 2015


Here is a bit of little known history about my hometown of New Paris, Indiana.  Text taken from an article in the Elkhart Truth here.  I think that nearly all of us New Parisians know about Dwiggins Alfalfa, but likely were not aware of this story.


During World War II, men from Jamaica and other countries came to the U.S. to work on farms. The location of this photo from the Library of Congress is unknown. (Library of Congress)

In an Elkhart Truth article from June 8, 1943, a story chronicles the arrival of 18 men from Jamaica to New Paris. The reason they came to this area was to work at the Dwiggins and Sons alfalfa farm. The company, which ground alfalfa into meal for farm animals, was facing a labor problem before the Jamaicans arrived due to many of its workers fighting in World War II. The men were hired as laborers loading alfalfa onto trucks in the field, and unloading them into dehydrators and choppers back at the mill.

This piece of our county’s history is a small example of a much larger movement that took place throughout the country in order to keep food production during World War II going.

During World War II, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), first established as a New Deal program to assist rural poverty, looked to other nations to employ men to work on farms across the country. We all remember the stories of women entering the workforce as men were fighting in Europe or the Pacific, but there were still some jobs that people believed were too hard for women at the time. Farm work was one of those types of jobs. The U.S. government recognized that with many men being sent off to fight, farming and food production would suffer. They knew they needed to act in order to keep fueling the war effort by producing food and products for the nation.

To solve this problem, the FSA reached agreements with neighboring countries to send men to the United States to work on farms — in total, about 300,000 workers from Canada, Mexico, Barbados and Jamaica came to the United States and were sent to farms all across the county.

One group that worked in New Paris entered the country by way of New Orleans May 1, 1943. They were then sent to an old CCC camp in Brownstown, Ind., while they awaited job assignments. When they reached New Paris and the Dwiggins farm, John Dwiggins reportedly said the men were excited to work on a contract that was set to expire on Sept. 1, but could have been extended.

The men were required to work eight to 10 hours a day and would be paid overtime for all hours over 40 hours per week. The men, per their contracts, would be paid a minimum wage of $3 a day, but Dwiggins indicated they would be paid more than that. Other than being paid for their work, they were provided a number of benefits. They were provided housing by converting an apple butter plant into barracks that became known as the “Jamaican Ranch.” They also received food and any medical care they required.

Another interesting detail is that in their contracts, the Jamaican workers were required to send $1 of their earnings per day to the Jamaican government. They would send their wages to their families, which would then be turned in to their national government.

The “Jamaican Ranch” is a really interesting footnote in our community’s past that teaches us a new facet of World War II history on the home front. In school we all heard about “Rosie the Riverter” and the large waves of women working in factories, as well as the community drives to collect metal, but the national effort to bring in men from other countries is a largely unknown and fascinating piece of history. Not only did they work, but they shared their cultures with us. Imagine the undocumented stories and interactions that would have taken place in New Paris in 1943 between two groups of people that may not have known much about each other.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


The news was not surprising:

With MennoLink activity slowing to a crawl over the past several years, I have decided it is time to acknowledge that it has served its purpose and end the service.

I plan to turn the lights out on MennoLink at the end of December this year.  Until then, you have time to wrap up any loose ends you may have with topics that are unique to this forum. If there are people you connect with mainly on MennoLink, this is a time to find alternate ways to stay in touch.

The MennoLink bookstore is also closing. We are motivated to reduce our inventory as much as possible over the next several months. Visit

and order online or make Laura an offer by calling 507 427 3105. If it is in inventory, she is likely to accept any reasonable offer (usually there is only one copy of each title in inventory).

Jon Harder
Mountain Lake

When MennoLink was born, it was cutting edge regarding electronic discussions.  It grew and grew, with a variety of subcategories of discussion groups with hundreds of subscribers and many regular participants.  A couple of notables were Charlie Kraybill and Ross Bender, with Barry King as the conservative foil to the more liberal contributors.  As Jon Harder notes, the activity has slowed to a crawl, with presumably folks spending more time at other venues such as FaceBook or their own blogs.  However, I have not found any other forum where there is such a wide and deep discussion as there was at MennoLink.  I will miss it.

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Bizzy suggested that if I write about The Donald, there would be many comments. But, writing about religion might generate even more responses and opinions! So, time for a bit of a rant:

I must admit that I often shake my head in disagreement when I hear or see people thanking their God for a blessing that in my opinion is nothing more than dumb luck, serendipitous circumstance, or privilege. Let me run through some examples:

** I know people who believe that God is blessing them when they find a parking place, or don't run out of gas, or some other trifling thing - no, you were just lucky.  Similarly, if they are well-off financially, it is claimed to be a blessing - no, most likely privilege played an important part.  I find the prosperity gospel reprehensible.

** LeBron James [and countless other athletes] - "I was blessed with a God-given talent..."  No, LeBron, you are basically a genetic anomaly [I will avoid saying a freak of nature].  Walk down the street in Anywhere USA and tell me how many 6'8" 249 pound fellows with an incredible physique you see.  James won a genetic lottery that highly rewards over-sized people with basic coordination.  Admittedly James has skills, but so do I - if I had been 10 inches taller, I believe that I too could have been a basketball star - I blame it on short Ed and short Mary!

** And speaking of countless athletes, how many times do we see baseball players point to the heavens, thanking God for the home run or the winning hit.  Duh - if you think that God blessed you with such a fundamentally useless happening, what does it say about God and the pitcher?  It seems logical that God must have cursed the pitcher if he blessed the batter.  Does God really bless the winners?  Blessing one winner and abandoning countless losers does not seem very God-like.

** And what the hell do people mean when they say/sing God Bless America?  I think that most folks who mouth this really mean, make us prosperous, keep us safe from the foreign hoards, make sure that my version of Christianity prevails, etc.

** This is the one that bothers me the most:  "God blessed me for surviving this tragedy" [pick your tragedy].  Examples are abundant - plane crashes, theater shootings, tornadoes, ad infinitum.  If survival is a blessing, then it follows that all who died were not blessed.  Again, doesn't seem particularly God-like.

So, you are now possibly asking, so what is a blessing from God?  Nothing material, IMHO.  Here is my non-all-inclusive list - unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, mercy, truth, fairness, knowledge, wisdom, joy - hopefully you get my point.

Blessings   :-)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

MH 118 NEE 606

This is fairly parochial, but most Mennonites and fellow-travelers will be able to decipher the code of this post's title.  MH = Mennonite Hymnal, 118 = "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" in the Blue MH, and 606 is the same hymn in the older Red MH.  As noted in this interesting article, "In the 1969 volume The Mennonite Hymnal, number 606 is a four-part choral setting of the doxology ("Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow") that has become wildly popular among North American Mennonites."  It is not the traditional doxology, but rather a juiced-up version that is sometimes know as the Mennonite "Anthem".  I have included two versions below - the first one is sung in a quicker tempo, which I prefer.  The second is not so much for the song, but for the director, our friend Arlin Buller - note how Arlin really gets in to leading the group at the Rocky Mountain Relief Sale in Rock Ford, Colorado.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


One of the best things about working at Pepperdine was not the work but the play!  There was a stable core of noon-time basketball players, and I tried to make it to as many lunch-bunch gatherings as possible.  Summertime was particularly good because our gang was not competing with the Division I basketball and volleyball teams for court time at Firestone Field House. The "regulars" included Johnny, Aaron, James, Dennis, Rod, John, Mike, Vince, Kevin, Marcus, Lane, Ray and Barry, with a host of others who would sometimes join the fun - like Scott Wong, former star volleyball player at Pepperdine and a pretty good b-ball player as well .  We enjoyed playing so much that sometimes when the Field House was occupied, we would head to the outdoor courts to get our noon-time b-ball fix.  Just a few notes on the players - Johnny was known for his cagey inside moves; Aaron for his long range bombs; James for his very athletic game; Dennis for his incredible shooting; Rod for his determined hustle; John for his day-in day-out consistency; Mike for his Tasmanian Devil approach to the game; Vince for his strong play; Kevin for his patented turn-around jumper, Marcus for his Division I level skills, Lane for his all-around game, Ray for his smooth play, and Barry - well Barry is very tall and uses it well.  In addition to the regulars and semi-regulars, we were often joined by some more well-know locals - I got to play with fellows such as David Duchovny, Taye Diggs, Downtown Scotty Brown and Flea.  Word was that Adam Sandler would come and play now and then, but never did when I was there.  Summer time also brought around some pro players - they did not play with the lunch bunch - but I did rebound for Reggie Miller for about an hour!!  Here is a day in the life of our motley crew!!

Monday, July 27, 2015


Sometimes over the Fourth of July holiday, we travel to Evart, Michigan to help with a 5K race that is organized by Rhonda's brother Ken and sister-in-law Ann.  I previously wrote about Evart and the race here, here and here.  Each time we visit, we go out for a nice dinner after all of the work of the 5K is wrapped up, and this year we went to the Blue Lake Tavern in Mecosta.  

Although it is not particularly special looking from the road, the indoors and patio feature wonderful views of the lake.  Not great resolution on the photo below, but it's the best I could find that was not on Facebook.  FB shuts you down if you copy images from their pages.

Even better than the environs was the food!  Good drinks with craft brews on tap, a wonderful appetizer and a prime rib on special.  Rhonda and Ken went for the prime rib, Ann had a shrimp pasta, and I could not pass up the half-pound of fresh perch!  Flavorful fresh veggies gently cooked and great potatoes - all in all, a wonderful place. 

Although this is the pan-fried walleye, it gives a good idea of the food.