Patricia Davids here wishing you a blessed Easter and a happy spring. My sister-in-law, Theresa Stroda, and I took a day trip to Amish country this week and we had a wonderful time. A trip to Amish country brings to mind horses and buggies on the road, quaint shops filled with Amish made quilts, furniture and crafts, and don’t forget the food. Amish run eateries filled with the most delicious baked goods imaginable. Ah, yes, that’s Amish country.
Or is it?
Not in Garnett, Kansas.
Garnett is home to one of the oldest Amish communities in the state. Founded in 1903, the Amish settlement in Garnett has survived the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, rising land prices, falling crop prices and everything except urban sprawl. (Not much sprawl in this part of the state yet.) This Amish community exists today as most Amish did during the early 1900s—in a self-imposed vacuum. They haven’t had the need to expand into small businesses to support their growing numbers. Farming is still their way of life.
The hot summers and the large tract of land needed to grow crops make farming with horses impractical in this part of the Great Plains. The Amish in all Kansas communities changed over to mechanized farming when tractors and harvesters became commercially available. While the horse and buggy are always used for travel to church, travel other days of the week is for the most part by tractor.
If you are thinking they drive the newest enclosed cab versions, they don’t.
Here is a picture of my brother’s tractor on our farm and one of an Amish owned tractor in the parking lot at the grocery store in Garnett. Why is the Amish tractor covered in fabric you might ask? I did. My 87-year-old father tells me it’s called a comfort cover. He remembers using one in the 1950’s. They trap the heat from the tractor’s engine and transfer it in back to help keep the driver warm in cold weather. Notice the overhead cover. The owner has added a piece of tin up front to keep the rain from dripping inside his windshield. Not fancy but adequate. Very Amish.
The next thing you’ll see in Garnett is the Amish version of a pickup truck. Everywhere we saw a tractor we saw they were pulling trailers made from old pickup beds.
I’m told a few lawn chairs added inside the trailer allows the family to travel along on nice days. The stock trailer behind this trailer was also hitched to an Amish tractor. We saw nearly a dozen of these tractor-trailer combos in town including one parked in front of the courthouse. It was a cold, rainy day so we didn’t see anyone riding along.
As we traveled the slushy graveled back roads of Anderson County looking for Amish farms, we discovered one way to tell if the farm was Amish owed was by the presence of a tractor like this in the yard or by the absence of a satellite TV dish.
The Amish children in this community attend a public school and Sunday school in a separate building that looks like a little white church with arched windows. While I didn’t snap pictures of any of the Amish people we encountered, I did notice something unusual in the dress of one young mother. She had on a black traveling bonnet and a lovely gray wool cape. The bottom of her cape was adorned with black fringe about two inches long.
Has anyone else seen a married Amish woman with adornment on her clothing like that? I was more surprised by it than the tractor-trailer combos.
If you have any questions about the Garnett Amish in Kansas I’ll be happy to answer them if I can.
USA Today Bestselling author Patricia Davids grew up on a Kansas farm with four brothers. After college she began a wonderful career as a nurse. In 1973 Pat wrote a letter to a lonely sailor. Little did she know her talent with words would bring her love, marriage and motherhood.
An avid reader, Pat longed to write a book, but put her dream on hold as she raised a family and worked in an NICU. It wasn’t until 1996 that she began writing seriously. Today, Pat enjoys crafting emotionally satisfying romances where love and faith bring two people together forever.