Our guest writer today is Wayne Herrod of Lisbon, Ohio. He is a co-director of Ohio Connections and a active participant in the freedom movement. I spent some time with him at the Amish farm field day last Saturday along with 3000 Amish/Mennonites and a few (5%) of us Englishmen. He did some beautiful photography also, some of which I used at my article, Amish Family Farm Field Day. He writes of what the day meant to him.
Family Farm Field Day July18, 2009
I have been to Holmes County, Ohio maybe 4 times in my life. Once to visit a restaurant touting the proclaimed “largest cuckoo clock in the world” with the Ohio River Arts Gallery of which I was a member, once when I traveled through it on the way to the Ohio Freedom Alliance picnic and inception a year ago as an outgrowth of the Ron Paul Campaign, and this year to visit the “Family Farm and Field Day”.
I did not know what to expect as I had never been to that event and to be honest, have more experience with Mennonites of Columbiana county than the Amish, which I know passingly through visits to other counties to visit my maternal grandparents and in movies. I have to admit, going by myself to a primarily Amish event, made me feel just a little apprehensive. Along the same lines as I felt upon my arrival in Asia to live for 7 years among Taiwanese Chinese. I should have known that much like the earlier experience, I would have little trouble. With my ancestry being Teutonic (my family came to America in the 1770’s as Dutch immigrants) I should have had perhaps less apprehension.
My first impression was one of awe that I had returned to a culture much like I remember from childhood… in fact… images from that childhood periodically returned to me. I was after driving through clean and quiet farm country impressed by the scarcity of poles for utilities. The houses were clean and mostly painted or sided (unfortunately with vinyl in many instances) white. They were large and had gardens and many familiar out buildings. Fences were well maintained and there was an air of industry about the place- not belching smoke-stacks but the homey industry of people making and producing things the old fashioned way.
Did I say that I was from a hardy stock of farmers who settled into Western Virginia (now West Virginia) in a county called Doddridge from Greene County Pennsylvania in the mid 1880’s. If anyone is familiar with Doddridge county, they will know that the population is about 10,000 souls with about 10 surnames all either Irish, Scots or German. West Union, the county seat and largest town has a population of a little over 2,000. All the houses are large two story structures painted white and plain. Every house has a cellar house, a corncrib and a smoke house as well as a well weathered rough siding barn and between a dozen to 200 head of grass fed cattle. There is usually a big patch of potatoes, a grape arbor and all the same type of industry exhibited in Holmes County.
When I was 13, my father, his brothers and my uncle helped my grandfather put up hay by horse driven mower. This was the first year I was tapped to help and my job was to rake the loose hay into the neat windrows so as not to waste any precious winter-feed. The hay was then pitched onto a horse driven wagon by the older folks and taken to a “haystack” and ricked into a pile around a locust pole about 15 feet high and having a tapered top to repel rain. It was another couple of years before my uncle Oral Madison went off to Western Maryland to buy a tractor and put old Poly out to pasture.
My grandmother still had kerosene lanterns on the counter separating the kitchen from the living room where the coal stove set. Electricity came to Marshville via the Harrison County Rural Electrification Association in the late 40’s after my father had gone off to War in the Pacific and it wasn’t always reliable enough to get rid of the “oil lamps” even in my childhood. The telephone arrived from the Sardis and Gregory Run Telephone Company about my junior year of High School. I used my grandparents “out house’ when I visited until about the same time. So, I was amazed at how my memories came back to me during this day.
It’s not so much that the Amish seem “primitive” as some might describe them, but rather plain, honest and wholesome. Some of my earliest family memories centered around large family “get togethers’ we had at either great uncle Willards (Wiseman’s Run) , Uncle Clates’(Big Issak) , or Aunt Delmont’s place (Meat House Fork) or other kin like the Gum family from Robert’s Fork on Little Indian in Doddridge County. There would often be three and sometimes five generations sitting reminiscing and talking together. Cambric work shirts, gray hats and plain trousers were worn by the older men, long calico dresses by the older women. kids would play in the little streams or in the barn or catch lightning bugs in mason jars. The smell of green beans cooked in ham-hocks or bacon, the smell of fresh baked bread, Red Rose sweet ice tea in big glass jars filled the air. There were pies- minced meat and berry- you name it.
That is why when I ate at the food tent* and saw the fresh local tomatoes and lettuce, the potato salad and noodles the many pies which made it hard to choose (I went with the vanilla crumb), I silently smiled. I inwardly smiled more when after taking a large plate of simple home-cooked food out and finding a clean place in the grass I saw whole families from grandfather, parents and children sitting together near me doing what I was… enjoying the cool and comfortable grass and eating wholesome and delicious food- all hand made and like a church social. I thought that aspect of life was dead and gone from America. But here in Holmes County with close to 3,000 Amish it was alive and well and the kids did not seem to mind.
Speaking of kids, had there been a gathering this size in “regular” America, they would have had to have some form of entertainment beyond the Milk Cow display or the juggling class and horse and buggy train rides… there would have been noisy and expensive carnival fare and trashy funnel cakes and you name it. Here, there was quiet, there was family and there was hope.
Speaking of hope, there were speakers talking of using animal manure wisely, there were displays of solar power water pumps and wood driven hot water heaters, there were 12 and 24 volt freezers and wind turbines, organic fertilizer and chicken tractors. It was enough to make a boring boy of an almost old man feel like he had literally died and gone to heaven….
I would truly have to say that I enjoyed this outing, this event. It was more than the good food, the wheel of grass fed Ohio Baby Swiss cheese I bought for 18 dollars, the scenery and the knowledge I gained. It was the awareness that there is a remnant of hope in this country which may ultimately heal our nation and its land, and restore goodness to the country we call America and some have written off as a lost cause.
* The menu conspicuously lacked prices, all food was donated as a way to raise money for schooling for the handicapped. A donation was voluntarily placed in a simple wooden box and no one watched to make sure you donated or how much. I put in a ten dollar bill for a hamburger, a side of potato salad and a piece of pie. It was honestly the best meal I had had for quite some time. People have almost forgotten what good food and good people are these days.