Isaak Klassen turned the corner off the center street of Gnadenfeld with a long-legged stride that was moving more slowly that evening. He ran his fingers through his short, brown hair as the east wind hit his face on his walk home. Looking down at his hands he noticed how thin he was becoming. Although a broad shouldered, muscular man, he was looking more and more like a scarecrow as each day passed. Even in his 30s most people in the village found him attractive with a square jaw, deep-set blue eyes and a full head of hair. His thin lips, high brow and straight nose gave him a serous look but those who knew him best, those who he trusted with his life, saw a silly more humorous side as well.
He was fully aware that his wife, Alena, was at home wondering where he was as he strolled towards the southeast corner of the village. Isaak enjoyed playing dominos with his fellow villagers and he knew Alena would be angry when he arrived home later than usual. She did not dislike the game itself or even the fact that he enjoyed playing. There were other issues that kept her on pins and needles when he wasn’t home when she expected. However that night, besides having a couple of laughs, he made some deals with his friends that Alena would be glad for and her anger would be averted.
Isaak was the kind of man, some had said, that could sell dirt to a farmer; a natural salesman and talented barterer. He knew how to talk his way through any situation and come out having both parties benefit. When he was young his parents worried about this character trait and how it could possibly be used for God’s glory. On one occasion, they learned that Isaak had talked the local boys into sneaking down to the collective barn to push over a few of the cows. Nearly creating a stampede and nearly burning the barn down, the boys barely escaped with their lives! Isaak’s parents quickly taught him that using his skills to produce negative effects produced negative effects on his backside! However as a grown man, these same God-given skills were the ones that kept his family alive. Isaak was never to be a farmer like his Mennonite ancestors. The farmers in his family had found a great deal of satisfaction in the production of food for life but his parents‘ generation was the last of the great farmers in the colonies started by Czarina Catherine. Isaak had to now rely on his wit to provide for his family. During this game of dominos tonight he talked to his neighbor about trading several hours of his labor and some extra chicken feed for two pairs of shoes for his oldest daughter and son. He wished he could have also bartered for more food. He would work on that tomorrow.