While visiting the quaint Amish settlement in Daviess County, IN, I was shocked by their use of cel phones and buggy lights. Then I learned about the parties...
Women in solid pastel dress and prayer bonnets sat with their children watching their husbands, boyfriends and brothers play baseball. Some chased toddlers or engaged in a game of catch on the sidelines. Suddenly a cel phone ring broke the serenity of the scene. A young Amish girl holding a baby answered. A couple of seats over another Amish girl appeared to be “texting” on hers. Earlier that day I had a conversation with a community member and had learned that some of the Amish church districts allow cel phones as a way to help families stay in touch. In the Amish community, family is the most important thing (next to God). That said, it still looked funny to see these plain clothed people talking and texting on cel phones. I had arrived in Daviess County, Indiana earlier that day, and already had learned so much about the small, non-commercialized Amish settlement located in Southern Indiana.
After the baseball game, as it was getting dark, I began to walk back to my B & B, which was right next to the ball park. Climbing the porch, I turned around to glance back at the parking lot. What I witnessed had me in awe for the rest of the evening. As each buggy pulled out of the parking lot, they were lit up like Christmas trees. Some had lights and orange reflective tape around the back of the buggy. Other’s had yellow. Some had multi colored lights that blinked in a circle. Under carriage lights illuminated some of the buggies in a purple or blue light. Loud rock music could be heard as they pulled out on the road. It was like watching a parade. I could not believe my eyes. What was going on with this (what seemed) competitive display of lights and loud stereos on (of all things) Amish buggies? 100 or so buggies went past. I stood on the porch watching until the last one was past and the music had faded into the distance. Slowly I went inside sure that no one would believe me if I told them what I had just witnessed.
The next morning I asked Mrs. Graber, the owner of the B&B, about the lights and loud music from the night before. She informed me that during “Rumspringa” (the Amish teenager’s ‘running around’ time –usually between the age of 16 and 21) they often try to outdo each other with lights and loud stereos in their buggies, much like our teenagers and their cars. She told me the Amish Bishops don’t like the ideas of multi colored lights dancing in circles around the back of a buggy, nor do they like pulsating bass coming from an Amish teenager’s stereo. However, during Rumspringa, they really can’t do anything about it, because it is the teenager’s time to experiment with “English” society, before they make a formal decision to join the Amish church. (The Amish call us “English” because of our language. They speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German.)
I had heard stories of wild parties involving alcohol and loud music taking place on some Amish farms. Mrs. Graber proceeded to tell me about parties where 100’s of Amish teens congregate on a farm, hire a rock band and bring alcohol. Amish teens from several states away may come to these parties as word travels fast in the Amish circuit. (especially since they use cel phones?) The important thing to remember is that these wild parties are an exception. Yes, they do happen, but many Amish teens behave just fine during their Rumspringa. The Amish people are very peaceful and respectful. But just like us “English” folk, they are not exempt to social problems and young people who want to “sew their wild oats.” Once these young people make a decision to join the church (usually between the ages of 18 and 22), all these worldly possessions and wild times are behind them. They vow to live with a life devoted to God and their family. Anything considered “non-Amish” must go. They agree to live by the church rules or “Ordnung.” Once they find their mate, they marry for life, with divorce being out of the question.
As I drove away from Mrs. Graber’s B&B thinking about all I had learned, I spotted a buggy ahead. As I slowly passed it, I glanced to my right. Inside was a young girl guiding her horse with one hand, and in the other hand was (you guessed it) a cel phone on which she was talking.