Many people in the East were in a tizzy several years ago because of a spate of roadway shootings in California. Road hogs who got in the way of other motorists had their vehicles shot full of holes.
While I do not advocate gunplay to settle such disputes, I once pointed out that a typical reaction for those of us who have lived in California might be: "Oh, it's just awful that some idiot was going slow in the passing lane, thereby forcing another motorist to shoot at him as a last resort."
On another occasion, I celebrated a new Pennsylvania law that finally made it illegal to "lollygag" in the passing lane. I also said other actions that might cause an understandable shoot-em-up included double-parking or "violation of the sacred rule that you move to the middle of an intersection while waiting to turn left at a green light."
If people drove in California the way some of our fuddy-duddies drive and waste the time of others in Pennsylvania, I said, "the gunfire would be deafening."
I'd almost rather die than annoy anybody, but some of the fuddy-duddies were very upset with what they took as my advocacy of homicidal road-rage reactions.
Now, to prove that my righteous indignation over roadway shootings is just as fierce as theirs, I shall firmly express my opposition to the shooters in two separate roadway incidents.
On Friday, a story in The Morning Call said a New Jersey man, Lee Edwin Kish, was jailed by Northampton County Judge Michael Koury Jr. after copping a plea to aggravated assault. Kish fired a handgun at another motorist because she flashed her lights and honked at him for driving slow and backing up traffic on Interstate 78.
Defense attorney Gary Asteak, it was reported, said Kish is "a very fragile man" and jail might hurt his feelings enough to cause him to attempt suicide. (My view is that if a pistol-packing road hog is that fragile, he should permanently curl up in bed in a fetal position, sucking his thumb and stay off our superhighways.)
Even more disturbing was a story out of Lancaster County, appearing three days earlier on themorningcall.com. It concerned people I feel have a perfectly legitimate excuse for holding up traffic now and then.
A horse pulling an Amish family's buggy, the story said, was hit by a bullet fired from a car. Family members in the buggy thought someone had thrown a firecracker and were unaware of the injury until the horse gallantly pulled them a mile to their home, and died before a veterinarian arrived.
It's not unusual for thugs in cars to throw firecrackers at buggies in Lancaster County, or to otherwise try to torment the plain folk for impeding their progress. I detest road hogs in motor vehicles who waste other people's time, but I have nothing but respect for the Amish and Old-Order Mennonites who devoutly cling to a decent and simple way of life.
If you saw the movie "Witness," in which Harrison Ford's character thumps an obnoxious bully on the nose, you know how I feel about louts who bully the plain folk.
Discussing the horse shooting, police said it's common for cowards in cars to throw firecrackers, eggs or other items at the slow-moving buggies, knowing that the Amish, unlike Harrison Ford, are religious pacifists who will not retaliate.
At other times, I have expressed support for people arrested for shooting pit bulls or other dangerous dogs that were threatening them, their children or their pets. It may upset some animal rights zealots, but I think the shooter in such a situation should get a medal, not a criminal citation.
When it comes to horses, I am with the animal rights people all the way. Only foul creatures harm horses, which do not keep us awake at night by barking, do not chase us on our bicycles, and do not chomp off the faces of children and other living things.
We do not have Amish communities in the Lehigh Valley, but we have a large community of Old-Order Mennonites just over the Berks County line, with similar lifestyles, including gentle and generous behavior, German as a first language, plain clothes, one-room schools that go only to the eighth grade, and horses and buggies.
Unlike the Amish, married Old-Order Mennonite men shave their faces, and they have churches, such as the Old Order Mennonite Church of Kutztown, located on Deysher Road in Maxatawny Township, a favorite area for bicycle rides originating from the velodrome in Trexlertown.
On Friday, I stopped to talk with the minister, Aaron Nolt, and his wife, Levile, and asked if they ever have the kinds of problems experienced by the Amish in Lancaster County.
"No, not really," said Nolt. "Sometimes, but not that it's even worthwhile talking about." He did start to mention something about "young guys" and "sometimes … they like to have a little fun." He would not, however, elaborate. The gentle people do not like to say anything bad about anybody.
I love and respect them for that, but personally I'd be more inclined to favor the Harrison Ford approach for anybody who throws things at a buggy because it is going slow, or who otherwise torments the gentle folk, knowing they won't fight back.
When it comes to a beast who would shoot one of their horses, I probably should not reveal the approach I'd favor.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays