Saturday, December 17, 2011

Come with me on a trip to Amish country - part 1

Every other month or so, my mama and I take a drive over to Amish land.  I thought I might document the journey.  It's not very pretty at this time of year; the fields that usually wave green or gold lie mostly fallow and the trees are desolate.  Next time, maybe I'll remember my camera in the spring.

We start out early.  I am in Indiana.  Our small town sits on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River. Once we leave town, we wind thru field and forest until we come to another couple of rivers we must cross:  first, the Wabash, which lands us in Illinois, and then, the Little Wabash.  Both of these rivers were swollen destructively this Spring.  Many homes were ruined, little towns nearly went under.

I have a couple of tag-alongs today, Mariam and Julia.  They are bundled against the cold; but they come for the cheap candy.  We will stop to pick up Grandma in Illinois.

Aside from the rivers, the landscape is flat.  This is mostly farming territory - well, that and oil wells, and coal mines.  The rivers are vital shipping routes for both fuel and food.  This area is also rich in Native American history.  There are several large Indian Mounds and archeological sites in our location, plus many which have never been excavated.

After driving for about 45 minutes, I come to the Shawnee National Forest.  It, too, is drab in winter, but it is full of life.  I almost always see wild turkeys, perhaps a bobcat, and of course, herds of deer.  I find that I can't show good perspective with my camera from this angle.  In reality, my van was headed down a very steep hill, and the road ahead is a steady climb upward.  It always makes the kids in the back squeal with delight.  Fifteen minutes on this road, and then we hit gravel or dirt for the rest of the way.  In over two hours of driving, I will cross three rivers and thru three states, yet never go thru a town of more than 400 people.

This photo is looking down over a wide and sweeping valley.  The road I take is part gravel, part dirt; it rides the rim of an extinct volcano.  The rim is hilly and rugged, forested.  The inner portion, mostly plains and used for keeping livestock.  The soil is too rocky to grow much more than hay.

It's about 7:30 now.  I'll be at the farm in less than 10 minutes.  I'm running right on time, mom should be expecting me.  I'm guessing she'll bring sandwiches for lunch and maybe a bag of popcorn.  We like to go to the Amish stores in Kentucky, because they have a store of discontinued items and also a bulk foods store.  I can buy 25 lb. bags of oats and a gallon of coconut oil, home-made cheddar cheese and bacon.  We stock up when we go - enough to last several months if need be.

It takes awhile to learn to drive these backroads.  I could never remember if it was "right at the Y" and "left at the T," or the other way around.  You'll notice there are no street signs.  :)

This is what we call the "ridge road."  A few people live up there.  It has recently been cleared, after being blocked for the better part of a year following an ice storm.  My vehicle would never make it all the way to the top, it would require a four-wheel drive.  An ATV would be better, as the road gets skinny. 

Almost there.  Mom is waiting, Dad is picking out pecans at the kitchen table by the light of one tiny lamp.  The wood smoke smells wonderful in the crisp country air, the cabin is a deep comforting warm.  When we return, Dad will still be picking out pecans to give to us kids for Christmas.  He always makes sure that I have a gallon or so picked out before Christmas, so that I can do my "Christmas baking."

There's still frost on the ground, and a light glazing of ice on the pond.

First, a quick stop at Grandpa's outhouse.  Does anyone recognize what these stepping stones are?

(Old combine disks.  I've been tripping over them barefoot for thirty years.  Freezing cold on a cool morning, searing to tender toes in the heat - but better than the sharp rocks that surround them any day.)

We wash hands (you were wondering that, weren't you?,) collect Grandma (yes, to the sandwiches and popcorn,) wave goodbye to Grandpa and we're off.

Off thru more woods, past the long-horn cattle and across a few streams, thru a little town, until we come to the ferry that will take us across the Ohio River.

As you can see, the town is heavily decorated for Christmas.

The ferry is on the other side of the Ohio.  It will be a 15 or 20 minute wait.

The river is high today, higher than I've ever crossed it before.  (But not higher than it's ever been, not by a long shot.)  Usually, there is a large parking lot, and the ramp is out by the trees.  I actually have to drive thru water when I drive off the ramp on the other side.

I'm at the front of the ferry.  There's just one other vehicle on with me today - a semi truck.  That's better than being positioned in between two huge trucks carrying logs.  That always makes me uncomfortable.

The river is choppy today - the ferry keeps getting pulled into the current.  I always admire the captain and his skill; but think what a boring job it must be to make the same trek, back and forth, back and forth - all day long.

We're halfway to Kentucky now, looking back at the limestone cliffs.  You can't see it very well, but tucked into one crevasse there is a large cave.  It was used originally as an Indian dwelling, then as a pirate's cave.  River pirates would lure steamboats in with music and booze, then rob the passengers.  In later years, it was used as a location for making bootleg whiskey, and even as a gangster hideout in the 1930s and 40s.  The cave and the river have a sometimes wild history.   That always makes for a fun fieldtrip, especially with little boys.
This is looking East down the river.  And this is where the battery of my camera died.  :)
Next time, I'll take you the rest of the way.
We returned home by 2 p.m.,  loaded with bounty ~
happy to be back and thankful for a good day completed.


  1. This sounds like an amazing trip. Your parent's place sounds wonderful.

  2. I think it's pretty, in a stark kind of way. :)

    I love the pictures. :) Sounds like everyone had a nice time.

  3. those old combine discs...that's a REALLY good idea... now .. why didn't I think of that? :)