I took a ride through the Amish countryside in the late afternoon yesterday. It's just a few miles north of where I live. This is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, no matter what time of the year it is.
Like all farmers, the Amish farmers are busy at the harvest. I pass stubbly cornfields with rows of shocked corn. These little corn teepees have always fascinated me. As a boy I would eagerly kick the sides of the corn shocks to flush out a rabbit. My hunting skills back then were still in the early learning stages; the hard lesson came when my kick startled a sleeping skunk! After that I didn't mess with corn shocks unless I could follow a set of identifiable tracks under the stalks of corn.
Someone has just given a pair of huge draft horses a bale of fresh hay, which they share with a couple of brown spotted goats. Nothing is wasted, as a half dozen barred rock hens quickly snap up dry alfalfa leaves and stray weed seeds that hit the bare ground. There were even more enough guests at the table; a dozen English sparrows hopped all about, even under the tall bellies of the horses.
On the opposite side of the weathered red barn stand ten Holstein cows and two buggy horses. They too have just been fed, and they toss their heads as they come up with each mouthful of hay. Oh yes, chickens and sparrows join them as they dine as well.
Across the road from the barn, children play around a swing that hangs from the limb of a large white pine. A woman takes clean white sheets off the clothesline, her blue apron blowing in the breeze. Though it is only about 30 degrees outside, they all go about their lives as though it were a summer day. Even so, I'll bet her fingers get cold and her cheeks get rosy. The whole scene was pretty much what I remember as a boy. Up the road, I met a wagon being pulled by a team of shiny black draft horses. As I went by I waved, but couldn't see anybody on the wagon. The reins led up into a huge pile of cornstalks and disappeared. It made me laugh; the driver of the wagon probably laughed too when he saw my double- take. There was some pink showing in the clouds as the sun began to set. I don't get a chance to see a sunset from up on the ridge very often, living down in the valley. I pulled over along the road, in a place where I could see clearly to the western horizon. A field of corn shocks stood in the foreground, completing the scene.
The sunset was grand, of course. But then again, I've never seen a bad sunset. I sat there and took it all in; it was nearly dark when I headed for home. Another thing I really like about the area where the Amish live is the darkness. No yard lights for miles around. What a fitting way to end a peaceful ride. Tonight I'll fall asleep with visions of a yard swing and the smell of crisp fresh sheets. It's nice to let the simple things set the tempo for our lives.
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