Indiana Amish

I call it a sabbatical. Sounds educational. Sounds important. For me, it is personal.

My self-prescribed sabbatical away from the familiarity of WNY, non-stop schedules, teaching, employment gigs, and pretty much anything and everything familiar to me continues. It has led me to some pretty interesting places, which of course was its intention. Currently, I am in Bedford, Indiana with MG, in a very comfortable camper complete with internet, overlooking beautiful country, adjacent to corn fields, and on a rolling road lined with pines and deciduous trees preparing themselves for winter. On this particular day, adventure was calling and its name was the Amish. On the way, anything was game.

First stop. A covered bridge, circa 1884. Had to stop and snap a few. Ignoring the graffiti, the structure could still be admired. To me, a covered bridge is beautiful, even romantic and encourages one to imagine life that has crossed its trestles through the years.

Immediately following, we came across Williams Dam which situates on White River that flows through central and southern Indiana. This was once a hydroelectric dam that provided homes and industries with electricity until the 1950s. The dam as well as the neighboring buildings are currently in complete disrepair but continue to be impressive in noise and power potential. Two people were blocking the beauty of the waterfall, however.

Keeping our focus on our goal . . .along the roadside . . . this sign.

It was really not the shopping I was interested in but rather the lifestyle of the Amish. The store was quaint just like its entrance and complete with what was advertised. I was much more drawn to the farmland around the store, the parked horse and carriage, the store owner/manager and yes, I asked if she made the garments inside. She became inhibited and admitted to having made a few. Look at the ropes hanging from the post waiting for the next horse-drawn buggy. This was a great stop.

If you research where to ‘see’ the Amish, there are any number of opportunities in Southern Indiana. One suggested location is Gasthof Amish Village in Montgomery, Indiana, a “92-acre farmland oasis where you can stay the night. Enjoy delicious, homemade foods, comfortable amenities, and events throughout the year.

Now, what we saw entering upon the grounds was a sea of tents, too many to count where, on this day, local artisans had gathered to sell their beautiful wares. In the midst, a barn aptly named Chandelier Country Christmas, complete with many more exquisite hand made Christmas items.

Now, none of these tents had anything to do with the Amish, but if you’re there, you’re going to look. Meant for the shopper . . . one can skirt the urge for so long . . . oh, dear… when was the last time I purchased a Christmas decoration?

Lunch presented itself on the same grounds, an Amish-run smorgasbord. This restaurant, “opened in 1988 by the descendent of an Old Order Amish family.” The restaurant is large having been built by the Amish with rustic charm and all foods baked/prepared utilizing traditional Amish recipes and served by the same. After an afternoon of shopping, it’s not bad to face a meal that has no limit!

On these same grounds, one can also peruse a bakery, antique stores, and gift shops . . . yes, lots and lots of shopping opportunities. There is also an Amish built inn for weary travelers. All of this yet I didn’t feel exposed to this different lifestyle I feel so intrigued by. Until . . .

Our final stop that day was to Dinky’s Auction. Dinky’s auction is in Montgomery, down some miles from this village. Now, I had been to an auction once before as a teenager and I remember it being loads of fun.

This auction house is HUGE! Made up of 5-10 spaces each space designated for something . . . furniture, animals (mostly poultry), outdoor equipment, and what most would call household junk. Amish junk, country living junk . . . some might see it as a gold mine for creativity and artistry.

Now, this auction house is for anyone and run by the Amish. Just standing in the parking lot was a thrill. Cars, trucks, and horse-drawn carts pulling in left and right. It was pouring rain with gusting wind. Some Amish utilized indoor space to warm their horses, protect their carts. I could have stood there the entire night watching this ‘operation’. Each horse seemingly knowing exactly what to do, cooperating, not fussing with the conditions inside or out, nor the horse next to it, the people hitching their horse without notice, the clothing, their mannerisms, I was totally captivated. But unfortunately staring is rude, so eventually we made our way to the space for house-wares, signed up for a number in which to use just-in-case. As I was settling in on the bare bone bleachers, I looked up. . .

Here was the auctioneer for this night. And, a budding auctioneer. . .

When I saw these under the pile of mis-conceived rubble, my eyes lit up. Amish urns and jug for my new contemporary kitchen!

At every opportunity that was appropriate, and there were many, I tried talking to these people that fascinate me so much. At these opportunities, I found the person friendly, shy, and modest. I wondered what their challenges might be, how I would like this lifestyle, and how they feel when looking at ‘us’. It was an exercise in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

The day was thrilling for me from beginning to end, an adventure I will treasure. I will also enjoy a few new pieces for my home and have fun recounting how they came to be.

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