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In an attempt to acquaint you with the road less travelled I have decided to write a review of Indiana. I can hear you all shuffling for the door, particularly those who joined me recently on our little tour of Iowa. Please don’t be alarmed, you see we were on holiday in Chicago and had the opportunity to visit some of the surrounding states. As Indiana is just below and slightly to the right of Illinois (alright, southwest then) we decided to spend a Sunday there. What exactly can you see in one day in a country as big as this? We decided to visit the Amish country of northeast Indiana. In order to fulfil your quest for facts on Indiana I have included some of the salient stuff but the body of this review will focus on the Amish and the part of the state that they live in. So lets get started with the Indiana facts and figures then. Indiana joined the Union on December 11, 1816 and was the 19th state to do so. It is nicknamed The Hoosier State and it’s capital is Indianapolis, home of the famous 500 motor race. There are just over six million people living in an area of 36,291 square miles. They enjoy four distinct seasons with an average summer temperature of 25 degrees and getting down to just below freezing in winter on average. Manufacturing is the number one employer and if you happen to pass by the city of Gary in the northeast you will witness some of the bleakest scenery in America. All around the city are various manufacturing plants that spew various plumes into the sky. I have no idea what they are making or how harmful, if harmful at all, the effluent is but I do know that it does not do anything for the image of manufacturing in this state or any other. I suppose that this is one of the reasons why I love this country of such stark and compelling contrasts. To get to the agricultural heartland you have to pass by the worst excesses of commercialism. Squalor before beauty. The Amish hav
e always fascinated us. These are a people set apart from the world. It is possible to visit countries where progress has been slow and people are too poor to have all of the modern conveniences that we are used to. But here are a people who have chosen to live apart from all of the things that we cannot do without. They have no electricity or telephone, no television or computers. The modern world is there for the asking but yet they decide to live in a manner akin to their religions founders. When we realised that there was a large community of Amish people in the next state we just had to visit the area. From Chicago we took Interstate 80 all the way east to Elkhart and then travelled south on state road 19 to Nappanee. Just west of the town lies Amish Acres. The place includes a farm and bills itself as an Amish cultural experience. It also houses a theatre in a round barn, a variety of shops selling crafts and produce as well as a restaurant and café. Full details can be found on www.amishacres.com The entrance fee covers a guided tour of the farm and this really is worth taking. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly and this may be the only chance that you will have to see inside an Amish house. The old farm is preserved as it was when the Amish family lived there and the guide will point out the various things that mark it out as an Amish home. You will learn that the Amish only use three colours for painting. Green for the grass, blue for the sky and brown for the earth. No colour charts needed there then! They have two separate kitchens one for summer and one for winter. The summer one is used for preserving fruit as it allows the men to come in from the fields without being disturbed by the steam created by that process. We spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around, eating the excellent ice cream and perusing the variety of crafts that are for sale. It really is a treasure trove for anyone wh
o likes this sort of thing. I was most impressed by the quilts, which are fantastic and of course handmade. At the centre we picked up a little map of the area, which outlines a drive, that takes you through the Amish farmlands. We decided that this was for us and hit the road. So far we had seen one buggy in Nappanee and we had almost missed that. We were eager to see these people and their homes. The drive takes you east from Nappanee and north to Shipshewana through the heart of the Amish community. As luck would have it we had chosen Friendship Sunday for our drive. The Amish worship every other Sunday and the remaining Sundays are designated Friendship days. On these days the Amish relax and visit their neighbours and friends. As we drove around we found many of then relaxing on porches or under shade trees. It is hard to explain the wonder that these people instilled in us but I will try to give you a flavour of it. As you approach their home the first thing you notice is the lack of vehicles around the house. In this part of the US one expects to find SUV’s or mini-vans outside of family homes. The Amish use the horse and buggy so you will not find any cars or vans. There are no wires connecting the house to the outside world, as no telephone or electricity connection is needed. The Amish do use telephones they just do not own them. They recognise the need for telephones for calling doctors or vets but have decided that while an outside phone booth is permissible it should not be capable of being heard from the home. The people all dress the same way. The men and boys wore shirt and trousers with a waistcoat being worn by the older men. The married men all sported beards but no moustache. The women and girls wear a dress and apron and a cap on their head. They all appeared friendly and returned our salutes as we passed along. At one house we found a gathering of buggies that might signify a barn dance or some su
ch get together. The houses and barns are of solid construction and have an old world charm all of their own. It seems such a peaceful way to live life albeit a hardworking one. The Amish broke away from the Mennonites 300 years ago in a row about the practice of shunning members of the church who had broken its law. They were persecuted in Europe and took up an offer from William Penn to settle the land in America. Today there are no Amish in Europe and some 145,000 across 22 states in the US and Canada. Pennsylvania is the state that most people associate with the Amish. As a reaction to their persecution they wear nothing that can be construed to have military connotations. This includes the moustaches, buttons and belts as well as collars and epaulets. They live a simple life close to the land. They marry only other Amish and only educate their children in the things that will be of use to them in their future lives as Amish. They are hardworking and very good neighbours. They do not carry life or health insurance, as the community will provide in times of great loss. The famous barn raising actually happens when a barn is lost. Men from the community and the surrounding communities will turn up and the barn will be rebuilt in a few days. They do believe in modern medicine as they see the body as a temple that needs to be cared for and looked after. This is a beautiful part of the country and even if you are not interested in the Amish this little drive through agricultural America will gladden your heart. There is surely no prettier sight than the rolling fields of corn on a summer’s day, dotted here and there with an American farmhouse and grain silo. Sheer bliss for this particular traveller. Other attractions in north Indiana are the Studabaker museum and the college football hall of fame. Some famous people to hail from the state include David Letterman, Hoagy Carmichael, John Mellencamp, Cole Porter
and Eli Lilly. We enjoyed our little sojourn in the state that calls itself ‘the crossroads of America’. Thank you for reading. ©MurphEE 2002
State in the north central USA, in the Midwest.Manufacturing is Indiana's single most important economic activity, but agriculture remains a principal activity throughout much of the state.