Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Those Stubborn Yoders"

Now I'm a Yoder. I can't help it and had nothing to do with being one. I weren't around to get my opinion asked of when I was getting hatched. Having said that, I'm also not ashamed of being one but certainly not proud of the fact either. It's just the way it is; "ain't complicated", like Mark Roth would say.

Well, here is where I have to disagree with him. In my case it is complicated. Sort of.

You see, I'm a Yoder  in more than one way and there are several other confusing things that go along with the whole scenario.

My dad's name is Eli Yoder. So was my grandfather's. Father and son? Senior and Junior perhaps? Nope. Grandfather Eli was my mom's father. Which means my mom's maiden name was Yoder as well.

It gets more interesting. My dad and his two sisters married my mom and her two brothers. Not all at once, of course. Actually my mom and dad, being younger, were the last of the three couples to get married. He says he wasn't being a copycat. Of course I can't verify that as I weren't around then neither. (He says he married for love and I have to believe him as they've been in love now for almost sixty years.)

So there are three families of Yoders with all of us twenty children being what's called "double first" cousins. I've tried to explain it to people on occasion. Most of the time they give you this big blank glazed over look and you can tell they haven't understood it at all. Someone told me once, "Just tell them you're from West Virginia!"

The trouble is, we were never from West Virginia. And I'm beginning to realize that West Virginians have feelings too, and they don't necessarily enjoy being the subject matter of all those less-than-intelligent jokes.

I always felt it a special thing to grow up amongst all my aunts and uncles and cousins. It gave you a sense of belonging. This gang almost felt more like brothers and sisters as opposed to cousins. It wasn't until just several years ago that I really thought about it and realized that I wasn't the same brand of Yoder that all the rest of my double first cousins were. I had a small identity crisis at the time but have recovered nicely.

So what kind of people are these Yoders? (I have to be careful here as some of them may read this stuff)

Basically they are nice people. Lean more towards being introverts. (I was majorly one) Friendly, kind and loyal. Steady and solid, not quick to make rash decisions. (Although in some ways slow rash decisions are worse)

There is one trait that I think runs deep among a lot of our brand of Yoder. We're stubborn as the day is long! We will listen to you, smile all the while, try to understand what you're saying, but if we don't want to be persuaded or believe it, we won't.

I had to give a talk once at an Easter Sunrise service on the perspective of Thomas the disciple. I gave the talk in first person and at the end I said that I hadn't revealed my last name yet. You guessed it; I proposed that Thomas' last name was probably Yoder. I said if we don't want to believe something, we won't. I said that we would even so much as die for something we didn't believe in.

Now that can be good at times. Like when you hear a rumor of bad news. We will refuse to believe bad news about someone until it smacks us in the face and we can no longer ignore it. Which is good in a way, but maybe if we would recognize something sooner, some help could be had earlier in the situation.

I'm thinking just now of something that happened many years ago that illustrates this family trait quite well.

It so happened that one day Sonny , David and I  were over at Uncle Buds to weed a potato patch that the young people were raising that year. Now Sonny is one of those double first cousins that I've been telling you about. David is a Yoder also, but of a little different strain. David's grandfather and mine and Sonny's grandfather were half brothers. Some years later David ends up marrying my sister Judy. (The plot thickens)

But back to my story. We were heading over the hill from the house and needed to go thru the cow pasture on our way to the potato patch. Which of course meant we needed go thru the gate, which was a simple one strand electric wire. Which, of course, someone needed to open.

Well, it wasn't going to be me. You see, I was driving. I wasn't old enough to have my drivers license yet (Sonny and David were) so I found every opportunity to drive off road that I could. And I was afraid if I got out to open the gate one of them would get in the drivers seat.

So we get to the gate. We stop. No one gets out. I tell them that I am not going to open the gate. Sonny says he isn't going to open the gate. David says he isn't going to open the gate either.

You can see the pickle we were in. We had made our statements. That stubborn Yoder blood was running strong in our veins. Sort of like the early Anabaptists, we were  in no mood for compromise.

Were we mad at each other? Absolutely not. Everyone was calm and civil. Just nobody was willing to move. Personally, I was ready to sit there all day. (Well, at least till lunch)  I didn't know what was going to happen.

I wish I knew for sure how long we sat there. I'm pretty sure it was ten minutes. Maybe fifteen. (You gotta remember, this was over forty years ago and I didn't write it down) I don't remember either if we chatted about other subjects while we waited. But I know we weren't arguing and fussing about the matter at hand.

Finally Sonny gave in and hopped out and opened the gate. We worked in the patch and it was time to come back. I was dreading the gate thing again. I was fully expecting a long wait the second time around also. I was driving again so it wasn't going to be me.

When we got to the gate Sonny and I were very surprised when David jumped right out and got the gate. (Maybe the different strain was kicking in there)

As I mentioned earlier, David went on to marry my sister and had another batch of Yoders. Now all but one of their children have married. (And the youngest, Robin, is probably contemplating it) I was thinking about it just this morning. Take my nephew Gary's little guy Dustin. (Cute as all get out, he is) If you follow his grandmother Judy's side of the family, he has got to go all the way back to his great-great grandmothers to pick up a name other than Yoder.

Scary, I know. Gary and Susanna, are you watching him closely?  Genetically speaking, my guess is that he may have a slightly stubborn streak somewhere!


  1. As the only one of your four uncles NOT to marry some Yoder, I got a great laugh out of this post! As you know, your dad's (and my) only other brother (Sanford) also married a Yoder, though from yet an other completely unrelated clan, as far as we know.

    So just to be different, I married a Wert, whom I later learned is actually my 7th or 8th cousin, according to the "Hochtetler" genealogy book.

    Now, Merle, if you really want to write something to make people's eyes glaze over, try doing a post on your thrice-widowed great-grandfather Dan Yoder, whose third wife, your great-grandmother Elizabeth Miller, had a younger sister Katie who later married her husband Dan's oldest son John (by Dan's first wife).

    Having father and oldest son marrying sisters is interesting enough, but the plot thickens. Three of John and Katie's sons (Dan, Ed and Tobe) and one of Dan and Elizabeth's own sons (your grandfather and my dad, Ben) all married daughters of Eli and Fannie Nisly. So my father was a half-uncle of Dan, Ed and Tobe through his father, a cousin through their mothers, and then their brother-in-law through marriage.

    I know this sounds incestuous, but it really isn't, it just creates a family tree that begins to look more like a brush pile.

    Incidentally, after your great-grandmother Elizabeth died, her grieving husband Dan later married a widow with 13 children, some from her late widowed husband's first marriage.

    I kid you not.

    Are you following me, Merle? Clear those glazed eyes, Merle!

  2. And Susanna's grandma was a Yoder as well.... And trust me, Dustin is showing all the signs of Yoderism. Poor guy...