Scenes from inside a Buggy

Very often when people think of Amish, they think of their mode of transportation — the horse and buggy. I'd like to offer a view of what it’s like to look out from inside a buggy. 

Sometimes those buggy rides were as romantic as they seem, especially on a summer day, when we drove past the woods and fields bordering quiet country roads. I remember the summer breezes picking up and waving the flaps on my bonnet, and the ride was slow enough that we could identify birds and flowers along the way. It was an unhurried atmosphere for conversation along the way.
There were many other times when a buggy ride wasn’t so much fun.  I’ll name a few of these:
When it was so cold in the winter that no amount of bundling up and covering ourselves with layers of blankets, would be warm enough.
When the horse was dropping its manure on the road and filling the buggy with that organic smell or when he was blowing his nose into a wind, spraying the faces of the passengers in the buggy.
When car and truck drivers endangered us by passing too closely, or with something coming from the other direction.
When our horse got spooked and bolted, putting us in harm’s way. 

In the same way that it looks different from the inside of a buggy looking out, than it does looking from the outside looking in, there are many aspects of Amish culture that are quite different in this respect.

I am finding that my favorite parts of my book talks are the questions and answers. I would like to have a Q&A here on my blog. I will be answering your questions in my upcoming blog posts. To get started, I have a few for all of you: What aspects of the Amish lifestyle do you wonder about? Given the choice, would you have wanted to be born Amish? Why or why not?

In my next posts, I will answer the questions in the order in which I receive them. I look forward to hearing your questions.

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18 thoughts on “Scenes from inside a Buggy”

  1. Are perfumes or scented lotions or even scented soaps allowed? and even though a certain way of dressing was expected were there ways that you expressed your own individuality without getting in trouble?

  2. Hi Saloma! I’m saving most of my questions for your appearance in S. Hadley :-) However, I do have one from this last post: What reason is there for not having storm fronts on buggies? I know there are some communities that don’t allow them and that makes no sense at all, especially in the winter time. I can’t figure where pride could get in the way but safety can sure be compromised. Happily, the 3 separate communites around here have them, even the most conservative one.

  3. Would I have chosen to be amish? Well, I think I like their lifestyle in many ways. But don’t really know that much about them. I like the way they seem to look out for each other. I like that they are very self sufficient. But would I choose to be amish,I guess I would rather just be english.Because that’s how I was raised. Blessings jane

  4. Would I have chosen to be Amish? Culturaly, yes. I was born a farmer in a big city and have always longed for that type of lifestyle (though now that I am middle aged I would keep my electronic servants, lol). Religiously, no. The Amish are close, but they miss the truth of the scripture and live in spiritual bondage called legalisim. I do NOT envy that.

  5. The Amish lifestyle has always appealed to me, but taken the life you have found; hinders my decision to actually want to be of their heritage. Your mind and personality would have gone to the wayside! I have been wondering, so happy that you are offering to answer questions, do the women shun you or show envy toward you for the moves you have made with your life?

    Debbie S.

  6. I would like to know what the Amish think of their non-Amish neighbors in general. My next door neighbors are Amish but we’ve only lived here for about 9 months. They seem to work SO HARD that I wonder if they think we are wimps? (I’ve seen the husband spreading manure in SEVERE winter weather, for example). We are born again Christians, I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom. So I wonder, do they think us less “worldly” than the cussing gritty farmers we’re surrounded with? The 14 year old girl borrowed my Anne of Green Gables books and devoured them – the mother seemed pleased. When I let her know that we also have the Anne DVD’s and that the girl is welcome to come over and watch them, her whole attitude changed – it was very awkward – She said “Going to the movies is something that the Amish just do not do.” I appologized up and down and wanted to explain that it wouldn’t be the same as “going to the movies” but I just thought I better drop it. I am used to being judged for being too Christian but now I find myself in the odd position of being looked at as too worldly. It’s been strange! I would love for our kids to play together more but I’m afraid they’ll think we’re a bad influence. What did you think of English children when you were a child? Did you know any Christian ones?

  7. I love the question about how the Amish feel about their English neighbors. We too have neighbors who are Amish and I’ve always wondered the same thing.

  8. Given the choice, would you have wanted to be born Amish? Why or why not?

    No, I would not. The simplicity of life that the Amish represent is appealing but I do not like the extraordinary amount of rules that inhibit individuality. I’ve read about a Bishop declaring what fabrics the dresses can be made out of and what is prohibited…like fabric choice can lead to sin.

    Another reason is simply because I am not Christian and therefor I wouldn’t want to be raised in such a strict Christian setting. It’s bad enough being told in the “English” world how that makes me a “bad” person, I cannot imagine how horrible it would be in an Amish world.

    What aspects of the Amish lifestyle do you wonder about?

    Touching earlier on the Bishop I read about, are there any times that an authority figure within the community makes a decree about something and there are people within the community that do not agree/follow the new rule(s)? What happens?

    I’m also curious like Anon about what the Amish think about their “English” neighbors. Do the Amish make friends with non-Amish? Do the Amish follow the “judge not” creed or do they secretly judge all the “English” for being “worldly”?

  9. What are the customs of head coverings? I know they vary a bit from community to community, but on the “A Joyful Chaos” blog, Marianne said that she switched from a black one to a white one. I’ve seen little girls, however, wear white, so I’m guessing this is not a universal custom. Also, at what point would a girl begin to wear one?

    Would I want to be Amish? I confess that the sense of community appeals to me, as does the simpler life. If I were born in it, I don’t know how I’d feel, but I do think I’d be awfully curious about what else there is besides Amish. I’ve always chafed at chauvenism, even though that mind-set was what I was taught, so I think the submissive / subservience of women would never have set well with me – whether or not I was born Amish.

    – Sally

  10. How do the Amish deal with infertility and how does this change their lifestyle by not having helping hands.

  11. I have so many questions. But I’ll ask two. I didn’t read the other questions (I’m in a bit of a hurry here) so I hope I don’t duplicate.

    How often do the Amish bathe? I would think that with no electricity, it would be difficult to have enough hot water to make it very easy to bathe often.

    Do most Amish have running water inside?

    How do they deal with the issue of practically everyone being related?

    I think being born Amish would have been nice in some respects, but looking at the big picture the answer would have to be a resoundiing no. The big reason would be that I could not obey without question. It would not be possible. Over the years, I’ve reflected on the things that I admire about the Amish and, frankly, there is no reason that I can’t implement much of the simplicity and beliefs into my own life.

    I’d write more, but I have to get. Very thought provoking questions!

  12. When you were in the Amish, were you aware of the fascination the English had with the Amish? When you were around the English in a public setting, did you ever feel like you were a bit of a living museum (for lack of a better description)?

    It seems as though amish women, although given few real choices throughout their lives and subject to an extremely male-dominant society, are very highly regarded within the Amish culture. Is that true? I know your family had other issues but I’m speaking of the Amish culture in general.

  13. What are some of the “secrets” the Amish keep from outsiders?

    Does the “Pow Wow” type of healing really work? How did it get started? Has it ever been done on/to you?

    What are some of the confessions you heard made by other Amish in church? Were any of them strange?
    Who confessed more men or women?

    I don’t mean to be to nosey but … you opened the door.
    Thank you! I love it! It’s like the Amish believe it or not! lol

  14. Yes! I would love to have been born Amish. In fact, I think I might have been in a past life.

    When I was 18 yrs.old, I workrd at a daycare center a little boy was drawing a picture of an old man with a beard and a hat. I asked him to tell me about his drawing, he said it was of some people called the Amish, he saw them in PA where his grammy lived. I had never heard of the Amish before!
    After the center closed, I went straight to the library as fast as I could- checked out every book they had on the Amish and been hooked ever since. I am now 45 yrs. old!
    Questions – Why do most Amish favor the color blue?
    What are some Amish superstitions?
    Why so much celery at weddings?
    Does food taste better on a wood stove or an electric one? I bet its really tricky to cook on a wood stove.
    I could go on…. this is so exciting!
    Thank you!

  15. There are times when the modern world seems a bit too much that I think that perhaps one would have been better off amish or born in the past. But then I start thinking about all the hard work. electric stove within minutes. I am not one that needs a lot of of gadgets to live my life but I prefer being able to use modern technology and chosing what in that area to use myself. I also think I would be much too independent to fit into amish society. The culture of where I grew up has some similarities with the Amish as it is quite collective but even there I was never very good at fitting in and it is much more allowing than Amish culture.

  16. Hi,
    I’ve been a “lurker” of the site for a few months now. I am curious about Amish folks. My aunt is friends with a young Amish girl who used to clean for her. About a year ago this girl, who was considered Beachy, decided to go into the Amish church. She’s now what I believe is called “Old Order.” My aunt is afraid that after her Amish friend and boyfriend are married, that it will change the friendship. We go up to visit her, take her out to eat and shopping. We attended her baptism (I now know what it is to be a minority!) into the church, and experienced the backless benches. And felt like we were the devil when we entered the services. It was quite the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love new experiences and wouldn’t trade it. We were then invited to her house where she fixed a meal for her and her boyfriend’s family. My aunt is more like a second mother to this girl, and helps her considerably financially. Do you think they would make her sever her friendship with my aunt?

    As for bring born Amish, I think there’s a familiarity with the Amish and our pioneering history in the US. The knowledge base of being self-sufficient is still present within the Amish communities where the history of our pioneers is just that: history. For the average American, being self-sufficient is making a strong comeback. It’s a lost art. Many have to take classes to relearn the things our ancestors knew so well. I believe the steadfast ways of the Amish is one that is sought after today. That, and the fact that the Amish seem to be almost secretive. Most “English,” it seems, aren’t allowed “in” so they will remain a curiosity.
    That was a long way to the answer. I wish I was born with the knowledge the Amish have, just as my ancestors did. I don’t think I would want to live with someone else making decisions about my life.

    Thanks for your insight. I’m anxious to read your book.

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