When the kids were younger we used to go Amish Hunting. I miss Amish Hunting. It’s a very soothing and relaxing activity, good for the soul and refreshing to the spirit. We’d often go Amish Hunting after a trip to suburbia, a trip full of shopping and errands on a weekend day. Typically on those days, the kids would fall asleep in the back seat as we were headed home and being good parents who wanted to take advantage of those precious moments of quietness, we would go Amish Hunting.
There is a relatively large Amish community just south of us. When you are Amish Hunting you need to have good tracking skills, honed over many years and many miles driving through the country side with sleeping children in the back seat. Some clues that you are approaching a good Amish Hunting ground; lots of white barns, clothes lines full of men’s dark pants and blue work shirts and women’s dresses flowing in the breeze, plows being dragged through the earth by large work horses, beards and bonnets… and of course, the symbolic black horse-drawn buggies.
It takes some time to develop the necessary skills to recognize these signs, but once you learn them, you too can spend valuable time Amish Hunting. Just remember, when you are Amish Hunting, it’s okay to shoot the scenery, but it’s not okay the shoot the actual Amish… with your camera, that is. Amish people do not like to be photographed. Some claim the reason is that the Amish believe the photograph steals their souls. From what I gather this is just an urban legend and the proper reasoning is that the Bible tells them it is a sin and forbidden to have a Graven Image of oneself. I think it is okay to take a picture of an Amish person if he or she is not aware of the photo being taken and is not posing for the camera. Here’s my advice though; when you are Amish Hunting, just don’t take any pictures. Instead keep to yourself and spend your time basking in the scenery and the peace and quiet and solitude. If you need pictures of Amish people go to the mall and buy a book or a calendar, there are plenty of those to be had.
I’m not sure how we coined the phrase Amish Hunting but it’s a phrase that has stuck in my family’s lexicon. We have discovered a few interesting things during our Amish Hunting trips. There is a wonderful Amish owned store called Millers General Store which sells lots of great baking goods and other grocery items. There is no electricity in the store so it is lit with gas lamps and the refrigerators are powered that way as well. One day on a rare weekday Amish Hunting excursion, on a Tuesday afternoon, we drove past a large congregation of Amish people celebrating. After a little research later that day we discovered that Amish weddings are traditionally held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The kids swing set that graces our yard was purchased from an Amish fellow who hired a driver to deliver it to our property and assembled it for us. There used to be a great ice cream store we would stop at, since closed down, that was often frequented by Amish families with their children. Farther south, of course, is the wonderful city of Shipshewanna, part Amish community with its famous flea markets and tractor pulls and part tourist trap with its restaurants and t-shirt and souvenir shops.
Mostly though, Amish Hunting is just what it sounds like… driving around in a scenic, idyllic place, admiring the beauty of an area where time has seemingly stood still, where family and community and rural heritage are able to survive even though the materialistic temptations of the modern world slowly encroach. I’ve always felt a little strange staring and gawking at these people and wonder how they feel as their communities have become a draw for people trying to get a break from their usual suburban and urban landscapes. But these areas continues to enchant me… its part admiration, part curiosity and wonder, part fascination with a people who us regular folks in the modern world have trouble understanding. It’s Amish Hunting and I’d encourage you to try it some time.
Now that the kids are growing up, we don’t go Amish Hunting very often anymore. Their daily activities keep us occupied and there just isn’t much time these days for lazy afternoon drives. That’s okay… it’s the way life ebbs and flows and in due time there will be more opportunities available. For now, I’m pretty confident the Amish are not going anywhere.
Photos: courtesy of amishamerica.com