Monday, July 22, 2002

Saturday night, driving from Big Long Lake to Topeka. Evening, long shadows, still hot. Farm country, Amish country. Neat yards, white houses, black buggies, big draft horses in fenced meadows. Pass an Amish family walking--a crowd of children in light dresses, white shirts, dark pants. Couples and families in buggies. A child bouncing on a trampoline with his father spotting. Amish on bikes.

A restaurant parking lot of stones and a rail for the buggies and horses. Half a dozen tied there. Many more cars. Such a little town--a softball game drawing a big crowd across the street. A hardware store that dominates the main street. The retaurant full of "English" and Amish. A buffet of home cooking for only eight-fifty. Pretty girls in Amish "uniforms" waiting tables--some girls really Amish, others (with styled hair and makeup) just assuming the role. Iced tea and homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. Fried chicken, juicy, tender. Fried shrimp--maybe a treat for the Amish? We surely like it, and they can't seem to get enough either. I'm standing at the buffet, waiting my turn, and an tiny older Amish lady says to her husband, "just one more of those shrimp, please."

Pies like custard and pecan, peach and apple listed on a wipe-off board. Something called "bobandy" pie; none of us knew what it was. Bread pudding on the buffet, too. But we eat too much dinner to eat any dessert!

I am wearing shorts and a tank top and sandals. I eye the Amish ladies, who are in pastel, homemade dresses with 3/4 sleeves, but they wear no socks, and sandals much like mine. They wear crisp light white bonnets that look almost papery--I don't know what they were made of. The strings of the bonnets aren't ever tied under their chins--they trail down the ladies' backs, sometimes ending in a knot, sometimes not. We smile at each other as we pass on the way to the buffet, a common ground.

On our way out there is a big gumball machine in the foyer and two or three little children are playing around it--JJ has quarters and puts them in--a baby girl takes a purple gumball, too big for her, and pops it in her mouth--her hands a mess of purple as she spits it out. The little boys get one each, too. Sitting nearby is a young Amish teenager--her dress, styled in the same pattern as all the other women, stands out: the material is a metallic silver!

In the Grabil area the Amish seem more serious--their buggies are always the open kind, the ladies' dresses black. These Amish seem friendlier, more open. Lots of talking and laughing. A different sect, I guess.

Earlier in the day, we had sat around the pool and jumped in and out as the sun and heat baked us. We were lazy and indolent, and enjoyed the hours. What had these women done all day? I should have done more work, but made a decision to have fun. I could get caught up on my home chores during the week. Do the Amish women have the same choice?

How very odd, that even in 2002, such disparities exist in the world of northern Indiana. When I read of people talking about the "homogenization of America," I know their problem is they are not venturing of of the airport, or their hotel. Because here in Kosciosko County, Indiana, the only thing homogenized is the milk the "English" people drink.

I am here to live out loud. -- Emile Zola

Rather why people have weblogs, huh? And write books, or have TV talk shows. Or preach.

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