Living in Amish Country and Learning About Their Culture
The Amish culture has been interesting to me since childhood. This interest started when one of my stepfathers became my “father” . He was raised at the edge of Amish country so had known some of them from early childhood.
When talking to children he always got around to talking about his childhood and the Amish people who lived close to him. One of his favorite things to talk about is how his life changed but the lives of the Amish did not. He started his schooling like most of his age in a one room school house. Running water, electricity and an indoor toilet had not yet been invented. His education went to grade eight. His family was one of the first with a tractor and while he was plowing he saw the Amish still pulling their plows with horses. He got his first car in the thirties, his Amish neighbors never bought one. For him it was allowed for them it was not.
Years later when first visiting then moving to Amish country things for them still hadn’t changed much. Amish children still go to school in one room school houses with no electricity, running water, and still use outhouses. For the most part they still wear clothes made by their parents or grandparents. Their teachers are not trained professionals and all are people of the faith. A few of the things that have changed are some of them ride a school bus to school and they now have scooters for fun and transportation.
Their parents have made many more changes not only since my “fathers” time, but even from the time of my first visit to when their country became my home. It didn't take long to notice the changes. More of the machines they use have gasoline or propane motors. They use horses to pull these because their religion won't allow anything moved by a motor. More ride in the vehicles of others, and are more have friendships with non Amish neighbors.
The Amish believe they should remain separate from the world. This includes keeping their homes free from any line which hooks to what we call the grid. This does not mean they can not have friends who do live on the grid, work for people not of the faith or run businesses which cater to non believers. It definitely doesn’t mean they can’t use modern technology as long as it fits within what is allowed. When they need (not want) something many of them find a way to make it work off the grid.
The friendships are different though because most people who live on the grid see life so differently from the ways of the Amish people. We had neighbors who would walk down and visit. They always stopped at the property line until invited on. Never did they go in the house and they asked that while they were there our child didn’t play with toys which were not allowed for their children.
For me there were three downsides to living in their country. They are never in a hurry so things always had to be planned so we wouldn’t be late if one of their buggies was in front of us on a long stretch of road. The clomp, clomp of horses hooves on a paved road will wake me from a dead sleep at any time of night. Their schools ran different hours so carpooling took longer as their school got out right as it was time to drive past it.
Learning about the Amish culture and the way they still hold themselves away from those who surround them is something only dreamed about as a teen. They are real people with real problems just like everyone else in the world. The one thing they have in their favor is they are part of a close knit community who take care of each other.
© 2011 Dennis Thorgesen