Stories of Peace and Justice: Aiding Enemies

by Jim Lehman, who included this story in his history, Sonnenberg: A Haven and a Heritage.

The time was 1917-18. Young men from the Sonnenberg (Ohio) Mennonite Church faced the draft. Earl Gerber, Aldis Gerber, Menas Nussbaum, and David Baumgartner were drafted on October 4, 1917. Earl and Aldis went to Camp Sherman where Earl was discharged several months later for physical reasons.

Not long after he was home he got a questionnaire from the draft board. Since he had already served and been discharged he ignored the questionnaire. To his surprise in late March 1918 Sheriff Miller came to take him to the Wayne County jail.

They had barely left home, gone over the railroad tracks and the bridge over Sugar Creek in that small valley, when they began to ascend the steep hill with the Model T Ford with which the sheriff had come to get Earl. In shifting from high gear to low gear the clutch slipped.

Much to the consternation of the sheriff the auto refused to continue. Farm-boy Earl recognized quickly what was wrong but said nothing. Sheriff Miller finally asked Earl, “Where is the nearest phone?”

Earl answered, “I guess the one at my home.” When he saw they were about to go and call for a repairman to come and fix the auto, Earl piped up, “Do you have some tools? I’ll see if I can fix it.”

So they took the back seat out and fumbled for some tools. Finally finding a wrench and a pair of pliers, Earl took them and shortly had the clutch tightened. Then he looked at the sheriff and told him, “All right, she’ll run now.

“Are you sure it will run?” asked the sheriff. “Go on, get in. It will run now,” Earl reassured him. They restarted the Model T and up over the hill they went, and hauled Earl off to jail!

Stories of Peace and Justice is a weekly PeaceSigns column which draws from the writings and experiences of peacemakers found in the PeaceSigns archives.

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