When I started thinking about this post, this was the title that popped into my head. Not all Amish communities are equal, not all are the same. They differ in their Ordnung, the written and unwritten rules that govern a settlement, but they differ in other ways too.
This week, I had a reader ask me about the use of tractors in my Wells Landing Series. I explained that it was an actual part of the Amish community that inspired Wells Landing. But it made me think about the different Amish communities, how they vary, and how we perceive them.
I just finished the first novel in what will be at least a three novel series set in the little talked about Amish settlement near Pontotoc, Mississippi. Yes, there are Amish in the South!
The Pontotoc Amish settled in Mississippi as a spin-off settlement of the Swartzentruber Amish community in Ethridge, Tennessee. Swartzentruber Amish are among the most conservative of the Old Order Amish, not even allowing indoor plumbing. But when I first saw the houses, I immediately wondered how these people scrape out a living.
Mississippi red clay dust coats everything. All the houses are covered in aluminum siding, mostly white, but there were a few red ones. Yes, red! There are no flowers planted out front, no cute swing sets for the children to play on. There are no phone shanties. But there are plenty of signs made out of the scraps of siding which bear the carefully lettered names of the items the family sells. The gardens are large and fields of cotton and peanuts are plentiful. Almost every house has a shed where they sell the products that they make—goat milk soaps, gel air fresheners, potholders, button necklaces, and all sorts of canned goods.
It’s a peaceful, though dusty, and has a beauty all its own. But it’s miles away from Lancaster County in both distance and attitude. But it’s next to impossible to visit the two areas and not compare them. And on the surface, Pontotoc can look at bit rundown. And my heart went out to the people who live there. But when we mentioned this to our Amish friends in Pennsylvania, their sixteen-year-old had an insightful theory.
It doesn’t have to be that they are poor, but that they have different priorities.
Yes, even the Amish can have different priorities.
My Amish friends in PA plant flowers in their yards every year. Do you know how much water it would take to keep flowers alive in the MS heat? A lot. So they don’t plant them. Instead they grow muscadines, tomatoes, and corn. Something with more value, something worth the effort it takes to keep it alive. Just different priorities.
And just something to think about the next time you get to visit an Amish community.
Have you ever been to visit the Amish? Where did you go and what was something interesting you observed?
This week I’m giving away an audio copy of Caroline’s Secret. Just leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing.
And as always, thanks for reading!