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BEATTS ME!

Amish Tale of Drugs Not Quite Biblical

July 12, 1998|ANNE BEATTS | Anne Beatts is a writer who lives in Hollywood

The hardest thing about being a humorist in today's modern world is that everywhere you turn, stuff is happening that's way weirder than anything anyone could possibly make up. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's million-dollar bunker in the World Trade Center. Colorado County Commissioner Betty Beedy (say that three times fast) calling single mothers "sluts." Linda Tripp's beauty make-over. It's tough to get out ahead of reality. Though I try, really I do, for all our sakes.

But once in a while a story comes along that's so nutty, so quintessentially wack, that it just has to be told as it happened. Take the recent case of two young Amish lads, Abner Stoltzfus, 24, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 23, no relation.

Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged them with participating in a conspiracy to distribute more than a million dollars' worth of cocaine and methamphetamine. The two Abners allegedly bought the drugs from members of the Pagan Motorcycle Club and distributed them to other Amish young people at parties known as "hoedowns." (Perhaps the Pagans, not being Amish themselves, heard the word "hoe" and took it in another sense.)

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The Amish youngsters apparently have gangs of their own, known as "youth groups," called the Antiques, the Pilgrims and the Crickets. I'm guessing that their gang colors are black, black and black.

Anyway, both the accused men had suffered previously at the hands of Pagan Chester County Chapter President Emory Edward Reed, who broke one of Abner's legs with an ax handle when he refused an order, and knocked out the teeth of the other when he failed to pay on time. According to their lawyer, the Abners were participating in an Amish right of passage for males 16 to 24, translated loosely as "sowing your wild oats."

The Abners belong to the most conservative wing of the faith, the Old Order Amish. Which only makes me wonder what exactly the more forward-looking Amish young people are up to. Acid-riddled hayrides (rechristened "haytrips")? Community hog-butchering, where instead of smoking bacon they smoke crack? Or maybe nude crank-fueled barn raisings, where everyone gets higher than the roof beam. Perhaps it's time for a remake of "Witness."

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Traditionally, the Amish avoid anything not mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, they reject all trappings of modern life including automobiles, electricity, indoor plumbing and even zippers (I'm assuming Velcro also would be a no-no). Obviously, the Abners' potential refusal to use telephones, tape recorders, typewriters, computers or faxes can't help but complicate their legal defense. Any information they might give up in a plea bargain would have to be written in longhand by candlelight.

Things could get even tougher for our Abners if they are incarcerated. Is there an Amish expression for "jailhouse wife"? In any case, unless they want to face a never-ending slew of lawsuits, prison authorities would have to permit the two young offenders to continue their religious observance. Special electricity- and plumbing-free facilities would be required and could cost taxpayers plenty--unless they just ship the Abners to Alabama. Of course, some might object that "lawyers" are not mentioned in the Bible per se, but "plague of locusts" is, which amounts to the same thing.

As for cocaine, a thorough perusal of both Old and New Testaments produces numerous veiled references to what has been called "the devil's powder." Just one example: "And he blew with his winds and it was scattered, and there was great wailing and lamentation and rending of garments" (Habbakuk, III, 11).

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Needless to say, the Pagans also come in for numerous mentions, for instance: "Let the Pagans sink in the pit they have dug, in the net they set their feet have snared. . . ." (Psalms, X, 15); "Strike them with terror. . . let Pagans know that they are only men!" (Psalms, X, 20); and ". . . let Pagans get their doom from thee!" (Psalms, X, 19). This would seem to suggest that things will not go too well for the motorcycle gang members should the Stoltzfus boys decide to roll on them.

Meanwhile, this summer, travel agents all over the U.S. are rebooking clients originally destined for Manhattan, formerly known as Sin City, to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country.

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