Overnight rain had diminished to drizzle and fog seeped up from the ground. We detoured through the haunting village of Canal Fulton, then zeroed in on Mrs. Voder’s Kitchen in Mount Hope. The inclement weather enhanced the atmosphere, the farms gleaming whitely against the leaden sky as the Amish gathered for the weekly horse auction.
Mrs. Voder’s rack was brim-full of Amish straw hats. Doug added his Buffalo Bisons baseball cap, which stood out like a yarmulke in Vatican City.
Mrs. Voder’s staff struggled mightily to replenish the buffet against the horde of hungry horse traders. There was bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs, muffins and the peculiar dish called scrapple (contents unknown, probably just as well). We ate our fill and then some, still a paltry portion compared to the consumption of our fellow diners in dungarees.
Then we left Mount Hope to convene with the Amish of Wilmot and Berlin. Within minutes, we realized our folly.
There, bus tourists jostle for “Amish-style” crafts created on Taiwan. We sought a Voder’s Pottery; within its very mall, the shopkeepers, about as Amish as NASCAR, claimed to never have heard of it.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Polly cried.
“I didn’t know,” said Doug.
After a pause to restock doughnuts at Bunker Hill, we returned to Mount Hope. The horse auction had exhaled its last whinny; an Amish teen was hot-rodding his new steed down the roadway.
We can not explain how it was that Polly went to the hardware store, Doug to the dress shop, actually, the fabric shop — almost all Amish women make their own clothes.
Doug tried on an Amish hat, provoking a cascade of giggles from three bonneted girls about 9 years old at the ribbon rack.
The giggle is the common language of little girls; get any three together, Amish, Hindu, African-American, Seneca, no matter what, they will all glance sideways and giggle.
One of them then pointed to a postcard, a local scene of a young Amish boy farming. “That’s my cousin,” she confided, and the giggles gushed forth again: little Amish boys aren’t supposed to go around getting their pictures taken.
Doug paid for the cards and the hat ($4.95) and crossed the street to the Post Office. The window had closed; on an Army recruiting brochure he wrote a note requesting the local postmark, folded it around the cards, dropped it hopefully into the “local” slot and walked out the door, right into a deputy sheriff- “Good afternoon,” said the deputy, as a canopy and sidewalk protected both from the rain. Doug, making bold with this officer whose job it was to keep the peace among pacifists, asked “Do you know anything about an accident yesterday involving a buggy?” “Yes, sir,” the deputy replied, “The horse bolted into an intersection, and a car hit the buggy. Two Amish folks died, they were about 80. The horses just do that some times.” It reminded him of an incident in which he pursued a runaway buggy across a cornfield, leaped onto the horse and saved two little kids, a story he told matter-of-factly, as if he’d plucked a kitten from a tree. Then a woman emerged; her uniform identified her as the postmistress. Doug asked her about the cards. She said she’d take care of it, sure. She asked the deputy about the accident; she knew the victims, as everyone knows everyone here, unless they’re competing for business in a tourist trap mall.
Then an Amish elder, beard down to his waist, five feet tall and spry as a spider, stopped and joined in with his observations on the news and weather. At least 75, he displayed a bright child’s curiosity in Doug’s origin and destination. Doug kept looking for Polly; he wanted so much for her to see this sudden summit of strangers, convened on the boardwalk of the Mount Hope Post Office, but by the time she arrived, with a bagful of ‘ genuine Amish crafts, the kinds of things they might sell to each other, it had adjourned.
We drove westward, foiling a long mandatory bridge-out detour by doing exactly the opposite of what the sign said. We passed through Columbus just as Ohio State kicked off vs. Purdue. Route 62’s largest city looked deserted, except for two cars which had collided south of town, forcing another detour.
At Washington Court House in we surrendered, resisting the lure of a hand-lettered sign offering “Real beds, $24 a night” and settling into a place called the Country Hearth.
We hadn’t really gotten on the road until after 2 p.m. and had advanced barely 200 miles. Still, Doug observed “If nothing else happens on this entire trip, Mount Hope will have made it worthwhile.”