“So you’re from Pennsylvania, like the Pennsylvania Dutch?” is something I get allll the time. (Please note the heavy sarcasm lost in the translation of the html coding.) I absolutely love Amish people, which is probably a really strange thing for me to say that I love. My mom recently visited Pennsylvania and shipped back these soaps, books, and goods for me, which was insanely exciting for me. I grew up about 40 miles from a huge Amish community in Western Pennsylvania called Smicksburg, where the Amish still live with no electricity, ride horse-and-buggies, cook on a wood powered stove, and marry their first cousins.
From the time I was little and dreamt of having a horse farm, I wanted to be Amish. (In my defense, I did not know about the kissing cousins ordeal.) My mom and grandma would take us out into the Amish country and we would go to their little stores and stands where they sold stuff that they produced right there in their own community. The adults in the community were not very friendly but the kids would gawk and stare at us “English people.”
To be clear, Amish refer to outsiders as “English” and to themselves as “Plain.”
I grew up thinking that the language being spoken amongst these fascinating people (who somehow survived with no cars or air conditioning or refrigerators or televisions or lights) was Dutch since I had often heard them referred to as “the Pennsylvania Dutch.” A few years ago, I realized that this was totally wrong. The Amish originated in Deutschland (which Americans know as Germany) and somewhere along the line some Americans assumed that was Dutch for “Dutch.” The Amish actually speak German!!
Anyway, I have some crazy memories from good ol’ Smicksburg. When I was 14, my parents left my siblings and me to stay with my grandparents up in Pennsylvania. They took us to a parade and festival in a small town, very close to the Amish community. I took my brothers and somehow wandered into a feed store. I don’t remember how or why, but I struck up a conversation with an Amish boy (who turned out to be a super late blooming man with a wife and three kids).
I was asking him questions about how to ride a horse-and-buggy and how old you needed to be to do so. I hypothetically asked if I could drive it and he said “yeah, come outside. I’ll show you how.” Him “showing me how” consisted of him telling me how to get in and how to make the horse go or stop. This man let me take his buggy without him!!! Who in the world takes a random guy’s horse-and-buggy? It was so unreal because I certainly did not wake up that day with the thought of “hey, today I am going to drive a stranger’s horse-and-buggy,” let alone “today is going to be the first day I drive on the road.” When we got back to my grandparents and told them, they hardly believed it. I still cannot believe I didn’t have somebody take a picture of this wild moment.
In addition to the cool things my mom got for me from the Amish country, she took some cool pictures! Enjoy!