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Visits with the Amish

Impressions of the Plain Life

Linda Egenes, Mary Azarian

Publication Year: 2009

Who are the “plain people,” the men and women who till their fields with horse and plow, travel by horse and buggy, live without electricity and telephones, and practice “help thy neighbor” in daily life? Linda Egenes visited with her Old Order Amish neighbors in southeast Iowa for thirteen years before writing this informative and companionable introduction to their lifeways.

Drawn to their slower pace of life and their resistance to the lures of a consumer society, Egenes found a warm welcome among the Amish, and in return she has given us an equally warm perspective on Amish family life as she experienced it. The Amish value harmony in family life above all, and Egenes found an abundance of harmony as she savored homemade ice cream in a kitchen where the refrigerator ran on kerosene, learned to milk a two-bucket cow, helped cook dinner for nine in a summer kitchen, spent the day in a one-room schoolhouse, and sang “The Hymn of Praise” in its original German at Sunday service.

Whether quilting at a weekly sewing circle above the Stringtown Grocery, playing Dutch Blitz and Dare Base with schoolchildren, learning the intricacies of harness making, or mulching strawberries in a huge garden, Egenes was treated with the kindness, respect, and dignity that exemplify the strong community ties of the Amish. Her engaging account of her visits with the Amish, beautifully illustrated with woodcuts by Caldecott Medal winner Mary Azarian, reveals the serene and peaceful ways of a plain people whose lives are anything but plain.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

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pp. ix-xi

I was driving down a gravel road near Kalona, Iowa, looking for Norman Kauffman, an Amish man who had agreed to talk to me. When I stopped by his farmhouse, his wife directed me to their neighbor’s field. Norman was putting up corn silage with his silage ring, a group of neighbors who shared ...

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Introduction: Who are the Amish?

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pp. xiii-xix

Children reciting their lessons in a one-room country school. ... A row of black buggies parked in a hayfield beside a highway. ... Two grandmothers in black bonnets and capes conversing in German at a country store. ... A group of women and young girls clustered around a quilting frame, sewing ...

Part One: Home

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Chapter 1: At home with the Herschbergers

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pp. 3-11

At the center of Amish life is the family, and families are large and tight-knit. The typical home reflects the Amish belief in the simple life: it’s usually painted plain white with no trim, has simple furnishings and plain wood or linoleum floors, and is tidy. Quilting frames and young children ...

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Chapter 2: Milking a two-bucket cow

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pp. 13-21

The Amish love to farm. “I think I wouldn’t want to be living if I weren’t on a farm,” an Amish teenager once told me. “It’s exciting—there’s always something happening.” Farming is also a way to keep the family together. When the father works at home, he can take an active role in raising the children, training them in the Amish way of life. ...

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Chapter 3: Cooking in the Yoders’ summer kitchen

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pp. 23-29

The Amish are famous for their cooking. While some recipes come from German and Swiss ancestors, many meals resemble traditional American farm fare—meat, potatoes, homemade bread, garden vegetables, biscuits and gravy, and a baked dessert. The food varies slightly from region to region. For instance, shoofly pie, made from molasses and eggs, is a famous Amish ...

Part Two: School and work

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Chapter 4: Learning the three Rs

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pp. 33-41

Amish children complete their formal schooling at the eighth grade. Amish schools look much like the rural one-room schoolhouses most Americans attended a century ago. In small white wooden buildings on country roads, all eight grades learn their lessons in one room. Amish students, called scholars, learn ...

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Chapter 5: How Grace Yoder spent her summer vacation

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pp. 43-50

In an Amish home, every child has a chore or job to do. The Amish believe that children should learn the satisfaction of a job well done at an early age. Industriousness is a virtue and a way of life. The Amish honor every job as important. Washing the clothes equals plowing the field or preaching a sermon. During the school year, scholars might help feed the livestock, ...

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Chapter 6: Snaps, buckles, and straps

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pp. 51-59

Even though most Amish people still live on farms, more young people today must make their living in other ways because of the rising prices of farmland. They may make furniture, buggies, or harnesses. Some Amish even work in factories. These trades involving manual labor are permitted by the church, because a man can still work with his hands or “by the sweat ...

Part Three: Community

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Chapter 7: The heart of Amish life

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pp. 63-70

The Amish do not build churches for worship. They take turns holding the services in their large homes. Usually 30 or 40 families make up one church district—and they live close enough together so they can travel to church in a horse and buggy. ...

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Chapter 8: Quilting above Stringtown Grocery

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pp. 71-79

The Amish believe that Christian ideals such as “help thy neighbor” should be practiced in daily life. Because they help each other in emergencies, they do not buy fire or health insurance. They also do not take any government aid and do not pay social security taxes.

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Chapter 9: A trip to Dorothy Mast’s country store

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pp. 81-85

The Amish believe that life should be spent in perfecting the spirit, not in pursuing material goods. Amish children live far away from shopping malls, and they do not even shop much in country stores.

Part Four: Customs

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Chapter 10: Playing Dutch Blitz and Dare Base

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pp. 89-94

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have fun. Each fall when hay bales fill the barn, children make tunnels in the hayloft, playing harrowing games of tag. “We put mirrors at the corners, so we can see someone coming and hide,” one Amish boy told me. In the summer, children swim and fish; in the winter they ice skate and sled. On Sunday afternoons, boys might go outside for a walk in the timber or play

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Chapter 11: Courtship and marriage

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pp. 95-104

After joining the church, Amish young people start dating, usually around the age of 18. Young people meet at Sunday evening “singings” held in houses or barns after church services. A young man may take a girl home from a Sunday singing, and he may sit in the parlor with her. The rest of the family pretends not to notice the courtship, although younger brothers ...

Further Reading

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pp. 105-106

E-ISBN-13: 9781587298356
E-ISBN-10: 158729835X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587297854
Print-ISBN-10: 158729785X

Page Count: 126
Publication Year: 2009