Cletus Fishes with the Amish
Or “If the Sun is on my left I know I am heading South!”
Back in the year 1999, before the internet bubble burst, and while we were all still sure that civilization as we knew it was doomed to end at midnight on December 31st, I had the pleasure of taking a trip to the Amish country of Pennsylvania to fish Neshannock Creek in the small town of Volant. Volant is located a couple of hours north of Pittsburgh and has a thriving Amish community. A fact which intrigued my fishing buddy Cletus to no end. Cletus, a coworker and former Eagle Scout, had been thinking quite a bit about how to best prepare for the coming of “Y2K.” Since very few Amish families had to worry about a computer glitch keeping the family horse from plowing or the oil in the kerosene lamps from burning, Cletus became rather impressed with their lifestyle.
After driving through the night we arrived at creek side before daybreak. We were so early that all of the businesses were still closed, including the fly shop where we had intended to purchasing our Pennsylvania fishing licenses. The water looked very inviting and we were hard pressed not to take our chances and start fishing without them. However, both being law-abiding citizens we decided to do the right thing and wait until the fly shop opened to make our fishing legal. The town was pretty much deserted so we wandered the main street checking out the windows of the many shops that were located there. As we stood dead center of the highway, we both heard an unfamiliar sound off in the distance. The sound was almost upon us before we realized that it was the clip clop sound of horses hooves. We both came to this realization just moments before we were almost trampled by an Amish horse and carriage that in my opinion had to be exceeding the posted speed limit. This close encounter with the Amish only served to bolster Cletus’ thoughts that this might just be the lifestyle that would survive the coming apocalypse.
The creek was good to us and as we fished the rest of that day and all of the next we both were able to land many nice trout. Throughout the trip whenever we saw an Amish family Cletus made a point to speak to them. As we were about to go back home we decided to stop at a road side stand that was selling home made pies and get some treats for the folks back home. A very proper looking Amish lady was selling the pies and as we were looking at them I heard Cletus inquire “Did you make these pies?” The lady nodded in the affirmative. After she answered him, I was almost certain that I heard Cletus tender this follow up question. “Did’est thou pick the berries?” At this point in time I looked up to see the Amish matron looking at me and rolling her eyes as she answered him, “Yes, I did.” Thinking that we should most likely head back to North Carolina before we caused the Amish to renounce their pacifism, we got in our car and made a hasty retreat.
As we headed back to North Carolina with Cletus behind the wheel, I decided that it was a good time to catch up on some much needed sleep. I awoke about an hour later and almost at once saw a billboard that was encouraging us to visit Niagara Falls. I thought that odd and began looking at our surroundings which seemed somehow different from the trip up. I asked Cletus in a round about way if he thought that we might be going in the wrong direction. Cletus, the Eagle Scout and my good friend, took umbrage at my remark and proceeded to tell me with a bit of a snap in his voice that I was mistaken and that, and I quote, “as long as the Sun is on my left, I know I am heading South. I decided to make no further remarks while I pondered this statement in my head. About twenty minutes further into our trip Cletus asked me what the sign up ahead could be indicating. It said that I-79 would end in one mile and that we were welcomed to the town of Erie, PA. Upon seeing this he then asked me what was beyond the town of Erie. I humbly informed him that it would be Lake Erie and then Canada should we choose to get wet.. Cletus kept pretty quiet as we turned and headed South. I also was quiet. However, I could not resist pointing out the sun now setting slowly to our right.
Cletus is an excellent angler and a good friend with an even better sense of humor. We have had many laughs about this over the past few years and our fishing club even gave him an award inducting him into “The Sacred Order of the Busted Compass.” Cletus is also a part time law enforcement officer so I hope that his sense of humor is still good or that he has adopted Amish ways and does not have a computer on which to read this story.