Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Neighborhood

Wild turkeys foraging near the boundary fence.

One of the feral cats has become much bolder recently. He had his face in the kibble dish along with our 'barn kittens' the other day when I stepped into the car port.  I was able to pet him a bit before he realized he was being touched.
The kittens like to peer in the sliding door--I suspect they enjoy tormenting the pampered insiders.
I heard Mrs. Beasley intoning the feline war chant and discovered that ginger cat inches away outside the glass.

Being fresh out of inspiration for a real story and with the landscape remaining a soggy expanse of neutral shades, I'll try to present a sense of our small rural neighborhood.
I haven't mentioned our "Englisher" neighbors as often as I have written about the Amish of the area.
The contradictions of the Amish lifestyle are interesting, not least for the ways in which we find them inter-acting with other area families.
Kentucky has a number of Amish and Mennonite enclaves scattered around the state.  Indiana and Ohio, nearby states, are also know for bustling Amish communities. Pennsylvania is still the place which first comes to mind when we think of settlements of the "Plain People."
A good friend from our church has interacted with the Amish and isn't afraid to ask questions or spark discussions.  From listening to him and from reading I gather that the Amish way of life has much to do with honoring tradition.  The traditions are supposedly grounded in an interpretation of scripture which suggests that simplicity is a safeguard against many evils. It would seem to be a case of 'salvation by lifestyle.'
The degree of strictness with which certain 'doctrines' are carried out can vary according to interpretation by the ruling 'bishop' of an area, thus when the bishop is replaced, certain practices can be modified.
J. has counted up about a dozen Amish households within less than 10 miles of us.  We've been told  that a decade ago there were at least twice that number.
These families are far more mobile than I would have guessed.
They move I suppose, for some of the same reasons that the rest of us do: better accomodations, to be near family, better opportunites to support their large families.
Observing them as neighbors, I can admire their commitment to hard work and their sense of tradition.
However, as their communities have become less agrarian, many of them are becoming more in need of 'outside' assistance, even if only transportation to do their shopping and banking at a distance too great to be easily done by horse and buggy.  Many of the Amish men of the area pay someone to convey them to and from work at a local furniture factory.  The families pay 'drivers' to shuttle the children to the small Amish school.
The Amish believe that an 8th grade education is sufficient for anything that life will demand of them.
Thus a girl of 16 or so, having completed 8 grades of schooling is considered well enough educated to teach younger children.
Most of the families are large.  Sitting ahead of us at the Christmas program was a young man, perhaps not more than 30, who has 7 children--the oldest being 7 years of age [yes, there are twins in the family, but there it is!]
Because the Amish ask nothing of the "state" for the most part they have been left alone by state and federal government.
I find much of the Amish logic perplexing.  They are not allowed to have telephones installed in their homes [a worldly  instrument which would encourage idle gossiping? wasted time?] but they have phones in an outbuilding!
We've found that a number of our neighbors interact with the Amish in the same ways that we do, providing transportation, coming to know one or two families quite well.  One lady has an freezer in one of her out-buildings which the Amish across the road use to make ice blocks to keep their own perishables cold.

We've found this area of Kentucky to be a welcoming one.  Greetings and small kindnesses are exchanged.  Folks are busy, but will stop to chat for a moment in decent weather when we are working outside.  The lower reach of J.'s hayfield runs across the road from neighbor D. H.'s home.  If  D. was home when J. was loading hay, he loped across to swing bales onto the wagon, then with a wave of the hand, returned to his own yard.
Being church goers we've made friends there. We're invited to participate and told "We're glad you're here."
We chose for our retirement years a place where we have no kin, no background, other than the commonality of rural heritage.  We feel nothing short of blessed by our reception here.
D.H. talking with us in the dooryard one evening in the summer, while fireflies sparked across the lawn and cicadas chirped overhead, took his leave with the remark, "We knowed from the first that you was going to fit in, be good neighbors."
Welcomes don't get much better than that!


  1. Thanks for expanding my understanding of the community you live in a bit more.

    I'm glad that the spot you chose for your retirement seems to suit you both so well.....

  2. What a lovely compliment from D.H. It sounds like you have chosen a lovely friendly neighbourhood to fetch up in for your retirement. I can only hope we are able to do the same sooner rather than later . . .

  3. that(and the previous christmas post) was so interesting Sharon, thankyou!

    Leanne x

  4. What a wonderful post sound so happy there amongst such welcoming folk. I have to admit that alot about the Amish makes sence but some things seems to be breaking tradition yet they have found a way to accept progress.
    Happy New Year .xx

  5. How nice that you 'landed' in a peaceful, friendly neighborhood.

    Wishing you a wonderful 2011.


  6. I always enjoy your posts about the Amish and Kentucky farm life. We too chose a spot with no friends or family to retire in and have found our Georgia neighbors warm, friendly, helpful and very accepting of the new "Yankees" who've moved in.

  7. From Zephyr who now lives in Maine.......I read of your nestling in with pleasure. Your discussion of Amish life reminds me that my ancestors who came from Switzerland were Amish....I always cried on the way home from PA to VT

  8. Your new neighbourhood sounds a good place to settle into. Welcoming and helpful people and a beautiful environment.

    The Amish people are fascinating. A lot to admire, yet I am surprised that a sixteen year old is thought to be educated enough to teach the younger ones on an official basis.

    Have you found fellow quilters amongst your new neighbours MM?

  9. Al; I will probably continue to share more about our Amish neighbors. I want in every way to respect their privacy, yet to write about them in an honest and sympathetic manner.
    BB; I hope that your retirement plans get a positive boost in the new year. I almost didn't quote D.H. exactly--don't be fooled, even "educated" natives speak in that local verncular.
    Leanne; I'm glad you enjoyed both posts. I feel that as I look for things to share, I'm more alert to my natural surroundings and the quirks of the folks around me.
    Angie: We're learning that some of the Amish do find a way to work around prohibitions and still remain a loyal part of the group. Their reasoning boggles my mind!
    FL; Thus far we've found only positive elements and friendliness here--we are grateful.
    M n J; We weren't sure if our Yankee speech would define the way people reacted to us. Sometimes we trot out [very casually] the fact that J.'s paternal ancestors were heavily involved in the Confederate army during the "late" conflict.
    Zephyr: I recognized you without the "Maine" tip-off. I recall you mentioned the almost heart-wrenching sense of place you have felt while traveling in PA. I think of our welcome here and feel that the "lines are fallen to me in pleasant places."
    DW; The Amish don't feel that more than a grounding in basic reading, writing, and math skills is necessary. I'm not sure how the "teacher" is chosen. During the settlement of this country very young men or women often taught in the rural schools, but my sense is that they had a far more advanced background. My mother graduated high school a few weeks past her 16th birthday, took the [then] obligatory 2 years of "teachers training" and was installed as a certified teacher at age 18. That was in the late 1930's.

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