Clip-clop, clip-clop, ka-chuk-a-chuk-a-chuk. Rosie the brown mare broke into a trot down the straightaway of the empty road. This was her third trip of the morning down to the corner turnaround, and she was pulling a buggy full of people, but she seemed proud to strut her stuff. I’d never gazed at the world over the back end of a mare before.
My sweetie and I were visiting Ohio, along with his sibs, nieces and nephews, and a small army of the youngest generation, to help his father celebrate 90. Their family for decades owned a farm near Holmes County, Ohio, that some years ago was bought by an Amish family so that a newly married couple could set up housekeeping. Ben and Rebecca are now thirty, I would guess, with three small children, and on the occasion of our extended family gathering they opened their homestead to the old owners to visit and explore.
The hit of the day was Rosie pulling the gleaming, black-leather buggy. Ben volunteered to give rides to the children, which turned out to be almost all of us! Rosie was groomed, harnessed, and ready to go by the time we arrived.
In the buggy, Ben sat on the front right, murmuring soft commands—”Back up,” “Gee,” “Haw”—and though we who were inches away could barely hear him, Rosie responded instantly to each of his quiet syllables.
The family asked that we not photograph them—the Amish consider it a form of idolatry, or making graven images, to have their photographs taken—but we were welcome to photograph their house, their barns, and of course Rosie and the buggy.
After the buggy rides we were welcome to explore every nook and cranny of the barns and the house. I took a dozen pictures inside the house, but since I hadn’t asked permission to publish the interior of their home to the world, I’m not going to post those photos.
Except for one. I couldn’t help noticing how busy Rebecca had been already that morning. The huge, shiny black wood stove in the kitchen was spotless, as were the two silver teakettles atop it. The stove was still hot from oven temperatures. On a sideboard two utterly perfect black raspberry pies sat cooling.
One of our relatives, who knows Rebecca, asked her where we could purchase some similar pies for our family dinner. At noon, as we were leaving, Rebecca came walking out of the house bearing the pies as a gift. She would take no money.
Yes, the insides of the pies were as perfect as the crusts. We stuffed ourselves on gooey purple deliciousness for the next two days.
One more detail of the farm fascinated me. In the horse barn, I looked up to see two corncobs nailed with long spikes to an overhead rafter. Above one of the cobs a family of swallows had built its mud nest. I asked Ben why the cobs were there, and he explained that the swallows keep the bug population down. “When we built the barn,” he said, “there were plenty of rafters for the swallows, but they weren’t building nests. So we put the cobs up to give the swallows a place to start their nests.”
My photo of the cobs didn’t turn out, so this rough sketch will have to do.
My mother knew many Amish families around her farm in western Pennsylvania. Your piece — and your respect for them and their ways — is delightful. Thank you!
What a lovely essay and great photos. I admire Amish steadfastness and ehtics, tho’ I can’t say that I envy their lifestyle — so many skills to have, so many chores to do so much work always waiting. I was intrigued that Amish horses know what “gee” and “haw” mean. I thought only mushers used those words when running dogsleg teams.