Benedict and the Corn Thief
Story as retold by Calvin Redekop
This is a true story about a 19th century Amish-Mennonite farmer living with his family in Western Maryland.
Benedict Miller had the reputation of a peacemaker. Some of his methods were both ingenious and humorous. The story of Benedict and a corn thief has been handed down seven generations in the Miller family.
Benedict had a corn crib in his spring house loft with a ladder-stairway leading to it. One day he began to notice that corn was missing in his corn crib. Day after day, things grew worse, and finally Benedict decided to set a trap for the thief.
One morning while the Miller family was eating breakfast, they heard a shout from the direction of the corn crib. Hurrying to investigate, Benedict saw a man stuck at the entrance to the crib.
“Good morning,” called Benedict. “Do you need help?”
“Yes,” replied the man. “Could you loose me from this trap?”
“Oh, are you trapped?” asked Benedict with feigned innocence. Benedict informed the trespasser that he would let him go on one condition: that the man would share breakfast with Benedict’s family.
At the breakfast table the family talked about all kinds of things: all things, that is, except the missing corn. When the guest finally left after a hearty breakfast, the man and Benedict were friends. No corn went missing after that time. The Ohio version of this story, according to Benedict’s son, adds that Benedict gave the man a bag of corn when he left.
This story is an example of how preserving the dignity of individuals–serving justice by doing good for the neighbor–is one way of being a peacemaker.
According to Calvin Redekop, this story was originally published in a collection called Miller House Stories, Mennonite Publishing House, 1960.
Redekop is a sociologist and author of Mennonite Society, Johns Hopkins Press, 1989 and The PAX story: Service in the Name of Christ, Pandora Press, 2001, among other books. Redekop also assisted in the production of a documentary which aired on several U.S. TV networks, PAX Service: An Alternative to War, available from MennoMedia.