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Buggy Fees and Other Government Intrusions

Wisconsin continues to mull the possibility of a $40 "registration fee" for buggies, citing the damage that buggies do to roads.  This is silly, in my opinion.  Look at semis, look at ice-storms.  These cause more damage than buggies, but you can't tax Mother Nature, so let's go after the buggies.

Meanwhile, another issue that has stirred great emotion within the Amish and Mennonite communities is  a federally-based farm animal tracking system.  I'm not a fan of paranoid government conspiracies and I don't believe this is one. But, still, who thinks up this stuff?  This program seems designed to inflame paranoia and ill-will among the very people who DO espouse those theories.  Many of the most conservative Amish will leave the USA before submitting their livestock to identification in a federal database.  While I don't think it's a "government plot" or really even a privacy issue, it does seem like just more government bureaucracy and bloat that we don't need more of.

A Book Blitz For Geauga County Ohio Amish Children

The Geauga County Public Library system has a unique partnership with the many "one-room" Amish schools which dot the area's backroads.  The program puts plenty of books in the hands of literature-loving Amish children.  Amish schools are very efficient at pushing the basics of the "three Rs".  Reading is a valued pleasure among Amish youth who enjoy the Little House books and good mysteries.  Click here for a neat story about this great partnership.

Amish Bakery Gets License; Former Amish Man Becomes an MD

Got several newsy Amish items today. SIGH, wish the news would spread itself out through the week from time to time instead of all clumping in a day. A tiny Amish-run bakery in Hardin County, Ohio has been at the center of a year-long dispute with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  I don't know. I have mixed feelings on the issue. On one hand, the government is too large, too bloated, to consumed with mundane "busy work."  C'mon, picking on an Amish lady running a bakery?  On the other hand,  it's easy to take this stance - unless you get sick from the food which isn't properly prepared according to code.  If our society were so litigious/sue-happy I'd be completely on the Amish lady's side.  But since we all tend to sue one another with the same frequency that rabbits breed I don't know what to think.   People don't just "get sick" anymore, they have blame someone for it.

Speaking of getting sick, there is a fascinating story in an Ohio paper today about a young man who left the Amish and is now on the verge of becoming a doctor. To me the most interesting part of the story is how the man has been accepted (not shunned) by his parents who remain Amish.  It is an excellent illustration of what I've said in the past about each Amish church district is a bit different from the next.  In many Amish communities this gentleman would not be permitted to come back. These sound like very open-minded Amish parents, which is great.

In the Zone

Nothing makes my eyes glaze over or incites boredom in me faster than talking about zoning ordinances or building codes.  Yawn.  However, two cases grinding their way slowly through the wheels of justice - one in New York, the other in Wisconsin - have pulled the Amish into the legal system.  Both cases are similar and revolve around one central issue: do the Amish have to comply with local zoning/building ordinances?  On one side, you have prosecutors and government officials who (they won't say this publicly, instead they just say "the law is the law and should apply equally to all) likely believe the Amish are simply scofflaws trying to save some dollars by not getting their properties up to local code.  The Amish, they believe, are simply hiding behind the convenient cover of religion.   On the other side, you have the Amish who claim that they truly believe complying with these local laws would chip away at their religious autonomy.  The complexities of these cases are a bit more indepth than what I am presenting, but this is it in a nutshell. Which side do you agree with?   At some point, though, the courts will render an opinion and it'll have far ranging implications for people of all faiths.  Steve Ballan a scrappy young public defender is taking up the cause for the Amish in New York. If anyone has any suggestions for the Amish in Wisconsin, email me at or post here.

Unusual Amish Community

The one problem with daily information about the Amish is that I can end up being repetitive from time to time. But I know we have frequent newcomers, so here goes again:  The Amish church is one of the most "decentralized" churches you'll find anywhere.  What do I mean?   Let's take the Roman Catholic church or the Latter Day Saints (Mormons).  These two faiths are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Amish, both these churches have one central seat of authority (Rome for the Catholics, Salt Lake for the Mormons).  Centralized churches have clear chains of command, rules, and ways.  You can attend a Catholic service in Tacoma or Nags Head, North Carolina and basically get the same service.    Of course, there are many churches throughout the spectrum of centralization.  The Amish church has no "central office" where rules are made and doctorines are developed.  The seat of authority with each church rests with the local bishop.  While most Amish churches hew to a pacifist doctrine the lack of centralization can lead to splinter groups, renegade sects, and wayward congregations.  Of course splinter groups occur in all churches.  All of this leads me to Bergholz, Ohio where local bishop Sam Mullet appears to rule with an iron fist.  The atmosphere in this rural Ohio church district (west of Wheeling, WV) is so poisoned that it led to a stand-off with a local SWAT team in a custody dispute last year.  Violent threats were made against the sheriff.  I've received correspondence from people in that community that claim that Mullet's Amish community is ruled by fear and is different from other Amish settlements.  So, if you are looking for a nice, peaceful touristy Amish away from Bergholz.  Read more about the problems there.

Stealing Steel?

Some scrappy thieves (sorry, couldn't resist) made off with steel from an Amish business in Lancaster County.  Apparently, though, this wasn't just one simple break-in. Over the course of a week thieves made off with TONS of steel which at market value would sell for around $16000.  Read the story here. My question:  how the heck would you steel steal?  Seems like you'd have to have a forklift and a semi, both of which would stand-out quite sorely in pastoral Amish country.  But I'm no meturalligist or thief, so I don't know. Any ideas?

Cop Crashes Into Buggy; Saving Sarah Cain

It seems a sheriff's deputy in Davis County, Iowa got a little careless while driving through the countryside.  It says charges are pending, I hope it's against the sheriff and not the Amish driver of the buggy. People have a responsibility while driving through Amish communities to drive carefully and be alert for slow-moving horse-drawn vehicles.  So, shame of the sheriff.  Meanwhile, the Michael Landon Jr. produced film adaptation of Beverly Lewis's "Saving Sarah Cain" will be released on DVD.  This sounds like a great family film and an entertaining way to glean a bit more information about the Amish.  If anyone sees the film let us know what you think!


Slow Amish News Day.......

There isn't much going on in "Amish country" today, so I've resorted to scrounging through the blogosphere for something to discuss.

First of all, there's a semi-funny joke about the Amish Cook on someone's blog. I could get on my sanctimonious high horse and say how this just feeds old stereotypes about the Amish.  However, I've also written before about how the Amish have wickedly funny senses of humor. So if the Amish wouldn't be offended by something, neither will I. The website linked to above also offers some insightful analysis about why two-newspaper towns are such a rarity these days.  This is a topic still on the minds of many Cincinnatians after the demise of the afternoon Post newspaper.

A good recipe for "Pennsylvania Dutch Brownies" appeared on a food blog.  The Ozark nature of the website caught me off guard at first, but the recipe appears to have genuine Pennsylvania Dutch roots with its liberal use of molasses and other simple ingredients. 


Caption: Viggo Mortensen

I've seen the Harrison Ford movie Witness probably 20 times.  But I can't picture the character Moses Hochleitner.  Maybe because I'm usually too enthralled with Kelly McGillis.  Anyway, Moses was played by a young - at the time- actor named Viggo Mortensen.  That role in Witness was his big-screen debut and he has gone on to have a very successful acting career. Catch up with him here. And does anyone remember him?


Wanna Buy A Restaurant?

The Arthur-Arcola Amish community in Illinois has long been one of my favorites.  Arthur is not too touristy, it's very self-contained, and the Amish are very "traditional", not ultra-conservative, not so liberal that they've got a car stashed away in a barn.  It's just a very peaceful place.  Of course a part of any good "visiting" experience is sampling regional cuisine.  The Dutch Kitchen in Arcola has been a part of this community for generations, but its Mennonite owners are putting the venerable eatery up for sale.  Could be a good opportunity to dive head first into the restaurant business if anyone is interested!

Going Buggy in Arkansas; Amish a Tribe?

Pretty quiet in Amish country today, maybe because many areas are smothered with a thick blanket of freshly fallen snow.  This is the case for Lovina's area....lots of powerdy white for her children to play in.

Meanwhile, the tiny burg of Monette, Arkansas included an Amish-made buggy as the centerpiece of their town's Christmas decorations.  Call me a curmudgeon this morning, but I always find buggies incorporated into decorative displays to be a little kitschy/tacky. For the Amish buggies are a very functional and purposeful part of their life.  This would be like the Amish incorporating a Chevy Blazer as a centerpiece for some decorative display.  Just wouldn't make much sense.  Still, I share the buggy owner's awe of the craftsmanship that goes into one. 

Because it's a slow news day I grabbed this blog off a newswire.  The writer is drawing comparisons between the Amish and other insular groups. I actually agree with many of the scribe's thoughts, although I think the attempt to draw a parallel between the Amish and the Taliban, even in a tangetial way, was a bit off the mark....