Sunday, October 12, 2008

10 Oct – Amish Country

I am not sure quite what I expected to see in Amish country but it certainly was not what I got. First off their farms are picture perfect as are their houses but it is hard to tell which farm is Amish and which is not. There are some tell tail signs such a buggy in the garage where you might ordinarily see a car and washing flapping on a clothesline – no self respecting American would do this no matter how much sun there was. And at the moment fall harvest is in full swing and some houses are decorated for the harvest festival. These are no longer shy retiring simple folk down on the farm. They run tourist enterprises of some considerable size and complexity focusing on their industry (dairy) and craft (lots of quilt stores, preserves and hand made furniture) none of which is at all hokey. And they will take you on a buggy ride, show you over a farm and explain their lifestyle. And the tourist industry is buzzing for them. Other things of interest: they harvest crops with horse drawn machines but there are internal combustion engines driving the shears that mow the crop. While some mow their lawns with a push mover others seem to prefer motor movers and weed eaters, though to be fair the latter could be Brethren. Oh and there are hitching rails at the local supermarket. Their buggies are a work of art and while at first glance they appear to be all alike they are not. What is most interesting is that they conform to an on road standard in so much as they have rear view mirrors, head and tail lights, stop lights and indicators. In town the buggies mingle with other traffic, stop at the lights and indicate their intention to change direction. A most specular sight was a buggy pulled up to a drive through facility at a bank. On the busier highways there is a dedicated buggy lane but I have not observed other drivers cutting them much slack. Americans aren't that tolerant of 'different' but when the gas runs out, the Amish may well be at the forefront of transportation.

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