Aug 092014

I’ve had three different blog readers ask me if we have seen Lebanon Levi or any of his cohorts from the Amish Mafia television series, which is supposedly set in nearby Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. No, but I’ve never seen the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus either. This stupid “reality” series is about as far from being about the real life of the Amish people as I am from being Twiggy. In fact, on the local news out of Harrisburg, they reported that there is a movement underway by several Lancaster area religious groups to put a stop to what they call “Amish-sploitation” with shows like this and Breaking Amish. I hope they succeed.

Any RVer who has spent time in this area of Pennsylvania, around Goshen, Indiana, or parts of northeastern Ohio, is familiar with the sight of Amish buggies on the back roads and the plainly dressed Amish in stores and restaurants. Many of us enjoy an afternoon of driving the two lane roads through Amish country admiring their farms and stopping occasionally to purchase produce from their roadside stands.

Amish buggy 2

Amish buggy caravan

But there are a lot of things about the Amish that you probably don’t know. And while I’m no scholar of their religion and lifestyle, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned over our years of traveling in and around Amish communities.

First of all, there are different communities of Amish, and some are more progressive than others. While the Old Order Amish adhere strictly to a life that shuns such modern distractions as electricity and telephones, we know Amish businessmen who use telephones, generators and other modern day technology. My friend Carlyle Lehman has a telephone and a shop equipped with power tools run off a generator at his Focal Wood Products in Nappanee, Indiana. We have also seen Amish “phone booths” at many farms around Shipshewana, Indiana.

The Amish Country News out of Lancaster County reports that many young Amish people have Facebook pages and stay in touch by texting. And it’s not just the youngsters; in a column in the June, 2014 issue, Brad Igou writes about having lunch with an Amish businessman who was receiving text messages from his son, who was deer hunting.

Amish schoolgirls

The Amish like guns, too. I sold a couple of .22 rifles to Amish men at a gun show in Shipshewana a few years ago, and I saw three or four others at the show buying 9mm handguns.

While their religion does not allow them to drive automobiles, the Amish will ride in a motor vehicle. In fact, they often hire buses or vans to take them on excursions out of their area.

Many people have heard of the Amish practice of shunning but really don’t know what it involves. As this article from Exploring Amish Country explains, contrary to popular belief, shunning does not mean that a person becomes an outcast never to be seen or acknowledged again. Shunning is a practice to remind the wayward of their sins and hopefully bring them back into line with their faith.

I have always been told that the Amish do not want their photos taken, but that doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to promoting their businesses or doing a positive story on their lifestyle. Amish Country News and other publications oriented toward tourism have lots of articles and ads with picture of Amish kids, business owners, and employees.

Amish schoolboys

The Amish world is changing. While we think of them as pastoral people, a recent report says that fewer than half of all Lancaster County Amish make their living as farmers.

Amish farm best

Amish horse team 5

As farmland becomes more expensive and harder to acquire, more and more Amish have become entrepreneurs, operating cottage industries and small stores making and selling quilts and craft items, operating small shops catering to the tourist trade, and breeding dogs and miniature horses.

And finally, though we think of the Amish as a closed society, outsiders can and do occasionally join the Amish faith. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but as this article in Amish Country News shows, it can be done.

Have you entered this week’s Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Maximum Security the third book in my friend Carol Ann Newsome’s excellent Dog Park mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link or on the Free Drawings tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Max Cover ACX-web

I have three other books to tell you about today. First of all, my friend Billy Kring’s new book, LA Woman, the second book in his Ronny Baca mystery series, just went live yesterday on Amazon. Check it out, Billy’s an excellent storyteller. Another good wordsmith is K.W. Jeter, whose excellent Real Dangerous Girl is currently free on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

And finally, many of my RVing readers know our pal Donna “Froggi” McNicol, but did you know she’s also an author with several books out? If you’re looking for something good to read, check out her Home Again, in which a single mom gets more than she bargains for when she moves back home to the boondocks of Kansas. It’s free on Amazon for the next couple of days.

Thought For The Day – God gave us shinbones so we can find coffee tables in the dark.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  5 Responses to “In The Land Of The Amish”

  1. Thanks for the info. We were surprised when we saw a Amish teenager in a buggy, holding the reins in one hand and talking on a cell phone with the other.

  2. Many Amish are part of the “Puppy” Mill producers as a result of their expansion into what they consider other “cash” crops……They have the typical small wire cages strung along the side of a barn were they can maximize the production of their end products……The pictures from the raids are the same as any of the raids out in Missouri…..all very sad and heartbreaking.

  3. One of my Amish friends told me that while I could take pictures, I should refrain from asking them to pose. At least for the Amish in central PA, posing crosses the line.

    And, while I’ve opened the subject, the Amish in “central PA” are found in such places as Penns Valley and Brush Valley in Centre County. Some cities like Harrisburg and Lancaster will sometimes portray themselves as being central PA, but they are too far east to be so. The geographic center is located here close to Fisherman’s Paradise between Penn State University (home of the Berkey Creamery from which Ben & Jerry learned how to make ice cream) and Bellefonte (home of seven governors and the Mills Brothers).

    Centre County should be on your itinerary sometime in the future.

  4. There is a very large community in Mercer and Lawrence counties in north western PA. The term “Old Order” does not indicate that they are the strictest. There is in fact another breakaway order who have developed who find Old Order much to lax. Having grown up amidst them in the afore mentioned area I can see the changes over the years. I can remember funny things that happened with their teen age boys who were anxious to socialize with us “English” behind their parents backs

  5. We have visited Amish country many times in places like Ohio and PA. Having run rallies there the people have always been friendly, cooperative and happy for our business. “Reality” shows are not reality. I don’t watch much TV these days as the violence, sex, vulgarity of many of the series are disgusting. The weather channel, business, sports, history, etc are usually very good.
    The Mennonites are a more liberal group associated with the Amish. Again very nice and pleasant people. Don’t judge the Amish or Mennonites by what you see on those TV shows. Those shows are just plain rubbish.

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