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Wisconsin Buggy Registration; Twist of Fate

For newcomers to this site, this is the section where we discuss and analyze news and events in the Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite communities. It's often surprising how much goes on.

First item today: a state legislator in Wisconsin is attempting to pass a measure that would impose a $40 buggy registration fee to help pay for wear and tear on roads. The legislator's reasoning is that the Amish don't "buy gas" which carries a tax which helps pay for road upkeep.  While I don't think this proposal is terribly outlandish (Indiana already has a similar measure on the books), it strikes me as a little bit of government sour grapes.  The fact is that the Amish DO buy gas for various purposes.  They DO pay taxes.  And, really, buggies do far less damage than large semi trucks which rumble down roads.  But the semi-truck lobby carries much more clout, so don't look for any "semi registration fee" any time soon.  Read about Wisconsin's proposed legislation.  


I have written before about the Auntie Anne's pretzel chain and how its founder has personal roots in the Amish-Mennonite country of Pennsylvania.  She'll be coming out with a new book soon (entitled "Twist of Fate") that describes her transformation from Mennonite mother and pretzel baker to multimillionaire.  I like how she and her husband are using their fortune to give back to the Amish-Mennonite community.  Take a look.  There are too many stories about people who leave the Amish and then trash the culture, the Beiler's are using their resources to help and heal.

Lehmans; Leaving the Amish

Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, Ohio is a neat place where one can still find an old-fashioned butterchurn or other amenities more common in the pre-electric era.  Unfortunately when anything becomes popular there's the danger of it straying from its original roots.  Lehman's, once a quaint, sleepy backwater hardware store, is now a multi-million dollar giant with a huge catalog operation and is a frequent tour bus destination.  That said, it's still a neat place where one can find all sorts of unique Amish-type items.  

News stories about Amish people who leave the church to become English don't often do much for me.  I mean, people leave churches all the time. Catholics become Pesbysterians.  Mormons become Baptists.  Methodists become Mennonites. It happens all the time but often the media seems to have a "smarmy" attitude about Amish who leave, like "ah-ha, told you so, our ways are better!".  But an article that appeared in the Times-Mail out of Bedford, Indiana chronicling a young man's decision to leave the Amish was pretty well-written.  He didn't trash the Amish, like so many of these articles usually do.  The article was very honest ("it just didn't work for me", the man said of the Amish lifestyle, or something to that effect) and insightful, so click here for a really good read!

Amish Taxis - Pennsylvania Cracks Down

As I've noted before, since the Amish are not permitted to own vehicles they often hire non-Amish people to transport them.  This isn't religious hypocrisy, it's just the reality of the world we live in.  The Amish can't maintain the insular completely self-sufficient life they once led.  Hiring drivers is a compromise, a price to pay, for the shift away from an agrarian lifestyle. Generally it works out OK, if an Amish person needs a ride there is an informal network of non-Amish people in any given community willing to make an extra buck by playing "taxi."  SIGH,  but God forbid we have a workable system without government intrusion!  So the state of Pennsylvania is cracking down, attempting to regulate the practice of non-Amish drivers transporting the Amish.  Seems to me like silly overkill and that Pennsylvania would be better off focusing its resources on maintaining its tattered turnpike or if they really want to mess around with the Amish, perhaps go after puppy mills.  But "taxi drivers"?  What do others think? Am I missing something here, is this type of regulation warranted?

"Hex" Signs - Interesting Article

hex Wow, a reporter for a local paper that actually did a little hard work and research. Excuse the sarcasm, but I find so many newspapers are full of stories that are just grabbed off the newswires and dumped into the paper. So it's particularly refreshing to stumble across a story that actually invovles some original reporting. Newsday offered up this piece about the origins of Pennsylvania Dutch "hex signs." The fact is that so many "Amish-y/PA Dutch-sh" trinket type things have developed to appeal to commercial culture/tourism and have little actual factual/historical accuracy. Hex signs are one them, along with faceless dolls and "seven sweets and seven sours". Every kitschy tourist store in PA Dutch country sells hex signs. But do the signs really have much historical significance? Probably not.

Follow That.....Buggy!

SIGH, how fun it would be to someday jump into a cab and tell the driver.  "Follow that car!"   I guess I've watched too many movies.   It'd be fun to do that until you get the cab fare, which always seems ridiculously high.  Anyway,  good thing a horse pulling an Amish-owned buggy knew where to go or the owners would have had to "follow that buggy" in a cab or something. Residents of a tiny northeastern Ohio town were treated to an unusual site yesterday when some an Amish couple who went shopping in town obviously didn't hitch up their horse properly.  The horse got loose and pulled the empty buggy through the town's streets and back to the farmstead!

Meanwhile, SUVs aren't the only vehicles apparently that are prone to "roll over" crashes.  A buggy that toppled over into a small creekbed sent 9 Amish children to hospitals.  None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatened.  Amish children do not typically sit in "child seats" in buggies like they do in cars.  As an Amish mother once told me in a buggy crash the children are far safer if they are ejected than if they stay in the buggy.  This buggy accident occurred outside of Jamestown, New York, the area that has the Empire State's largest and oldest Amish community.

Pinecraft Parade; Underage drinkers busted....

I've written before about Florida's unique Amish enclave of Pinecraft which is entering its most busy time of year right about now.  This far-flung corner of Sarasota is home to a large population of winter snowbird Amish and Mennonites. This article is about three years old but it is one of the better ones I've read about Pinecraft so if you are unfamiliar with the settlement I'm referring to, read about it here.  The only thing I'll add is that the "divisions" that occur so often in northern Amish areas tend to disappear under the warm Florida sun.  You have the most conservative Old Order Amish socializing with more liberal Mennonites.  Most of the barriers seem to come down in Pinecraft and one is left with a relaxed, bucolic setting.  One of the unique traditions of Pinecraft is its annual parade, which just took place.

And, lastly, a bit too much holiday cheer for a group of Amish teens apparently in the throes of rumspringa. Police busted a party featuring many underage Amish drinkers in New York State.

More About Heaters; Tragic Twist of Fate...

I am sitting here typing this in front of my non-Amish portable space-heater.  My office always tends to stay cold in the winter and the last thing I want to do in the morning is sit here typing in an ice-box, so my nice, warm portable heater has me toasty.  I think it only cost $50 at Home Depot.  But for those of you who want to spend big bucks on an "Amish heater", here is more food for thought in the news today.

This story is one of those jaw-dropping, beyond-belief happenings that just defy comprehension and odds.  There is an Amish angle to the story, but it's really only tangental.  This is just a horrible story all the way around, for all involved, including the Amish occupants of the buggy.

Amish School Catches Fire

A quick-thinking non-Amish neighbor swung into action and kept a school-house fire from becoming a bigger disaster in Central Pennsylvania yesterday.  This illustrates the wonderful neighbor-helping-neighbor mentality that permeates much of "Amish country", whether one is a member of the faith or not.  The ethos of self-sufficiency allows people to live very independently.  In this case, lives were probably saved.

Also, I was struck by a recent survey from the online website Yahoo which lists Lancaster County, PA as one of the top tourist destinations in the USA.  I will return to Lancaster County someday soon to see what all the fuss is about. I know last time I was there it just seemed to kitchsy, too touristy.  I was spellbound by the area's beauty when I went biking on some rural backroads there, but otherwise I just wasn't blown away.  Apparently, though, many I may have well missed some of the area's more authentic Amish offerings.

Amish Deli; Horse on the loose...

There is just not much occuring in "Amish Country" this month.  While it makes putting this section together challenging, it's kind of nice to have some quiet after a year of hearing about Amish-run puppy mills, custody cases run amok, and a slew of buggy-car crashes.

This story is probably only of interest to anyone who lives or travels to "The Space Coast" area of Florida (one of my favorite parts of the state).  "Amish Market & Deli" has opened near Melbourne.  You always have to go in to these types of stores with a skeptical eye, because so many "Amish made" goods have very tenuous connections to the community, if any.  That said, I'll give this place the benefit of the doubt. Sounds like a decent store to get some Amish-made goodies in an area where these typically wouldn't be available.  If anyone has a chance to check out the store, let us know what it's like.

Also, a horse galloped into the path of an oncoming car in Manheim Township, PA, putting a woman in critical condition and killing the horse.  Now, the article says nowhere about there being an Amish connection, but it's a pretty fair bet.  The last name of Zook is a very common Amish last name in SE Pennsylvania. Horses running loose can be very scary if you are near one.  I was hiking in the woods last spring when all of the sudden I heard shouting.  Apparently someone's horse got loose and it was running rough-shod through the forest.  I could hear the horse, I could hear cracking and crashing branches very close, but I couldn't see exactly where it was.....I almost scrambled up a nearby tree, but luckily the owners were able to somehow corral it.

SUV and buggy collide; Amish near Saint Louis???

Ashland, Ohio is a bustling little town that features a mix of buggies and cars on the road.  A huge Amish community is in that area.  Unfortunately, an SUV and a buggy collided yesterday sending the Amish occupants to the hospital, one in serious condition.  Hope both recover quickly.

P. Buckley Moss is a noted artist of Amish scenes.  Her paintings fetch high prices and have quite a following.  She appeared over the weekend in the Saint Louis suburb of Collinsville, Illinois to promote her newest Amish-themed painting:  "Apples to the Levee - Eads Bridge."   The painting depicts an Amish family that has taken their buggy full of apples to sell within site of the Eads Bridge near St. Louis.  In the article Moss is quoted as saying: "I decided on apples because they didn't have fishing or a lot of things around here but they did have apple orchards and fresh fruit. This is a big excursion for the family (in the picture) to go to the river to sell their apples."

I'm not being critical of Moss, her work is beautiful and has quite a following.  And I'm not deliberately being nit-picky, but (and I might be wrong, if I am, someone please set me straight) I'm unaware of there being an Amish population now or ever in the Greater Saint Louis area.  The region's history is primarily French and even today the closest Amish settlements (that I am aware of) are a good 60 miles NW of Saint Louis and east the same distance.  Does anyone know much about an Amish presence - past or present - around Greater Saint Louis?  And if the painting implies that an Amish family came from 60 miles away in a buggy to sell apples than Buckley is right, it would be "quite an excursion!"