My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Shipshewana 500

I’ve been meaning to write about an event I attended at Shipshewana’s Mayfest last month, but I lost my notes!  So here’s the post, but it’ll be shorter than I planned...

After the annual Shipshe Mayfest parade on Saturday morning, an event is held on Morton Street called “The Shipshewana 500.”  This involves teams of four people—two inside a buggy and two pulling it.  They pull the buggy 250 feet down the street, around a traffic cone, switch places (pullers and riders), and race back down across the starting/finish line.  All teams use the same buggy, to keep a level playing field.

All the teams are trying to break through the elusive “30-second barrier.”  The key to that seems to be rounding the traffic cone and making the U-turn while keeping as much momentum as possible.  Some of the contestants barely made it into the buggy as it raced back down the street, hanging on with one foot and both hands, trying to pull themselves back inside!

An announcer provides plenty of commentary, and crowds (mostly Amish) lined both sides of the street.

This year there were about a dozen teams entered—mostly fit young people, but not all!  The teams had names like the Peacocks and the Eagles.  One team came all the way from Pennsylvania.

The winning team was the Eagles, so they got the $100 first prize.  Second and third place teams got gift certificates to local places, with coffee mugs for the fourth place team.

Here’s a video of the action: 

For a sample Shipshewana Mayfest calendar (this one from 2018), click here.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Three Amish Families Convert to Mormonism

Wow! This 22-minute video from KSL News, a news radio station in Salt Lake City, Utah, tells the story of three Ohio Amish couples who converted to Mormonism and their transition out of the Amish church and community.  (Needless to say, they were excommunicated/shunned.)  It's definitely told from the Mormon point of view, as would be expected from a Utah news source.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


I met the most delightful child the other day.

Actually, I’d met her before, but she was part of a larger group of Amish kids who were at their grandma’s house while I was singing to their great-grandma, my beloved Mrs. R. 

But this time, Melinda stood out.

It happened at my friend Rosanna’s beautiful new Amish farmhouse (shown above, late last winter), where Mrs. R was staying for a few weeks.  Rosanna’s granddaughter Melinda (names changed), age 7 and in first grade, had heard I was coming and was waiting for me.  She likes music and wanted to sit in on my little concert.

As I opened my hymnal and started picking out songs to sing, Melinda began to hover closer, and soon she was looking over my shoulder.  I pulled up a chair and she gladly sat down.  As I held the songbook so she could see it, I could see her eyes following my finger, and soon she was mouthing the words as I sang them—no small feat for a first grader, who had probably never seen a regular music score before, and for whom English was her second language!  I was amazed she could follow the lines of words from verse to verse, but she could.

So I stopped a few times and explained how music scores work…  I told her that when the notes go up on the page, my voice would go up.  Later I explained that the hollow notes were held longer than the solid black ones, and I demonstrated that. 

She sat for three quarters of an hour, enthralled, following the songs as I sang them and often mouthing the words.  I told her that when she got older, there was a group of Amish young people locally who meet every winter for ten or twelve weeks, learning to read sheet music and singing hymns in four-part harmony.  She thought that sounded wonderful.

A week went by, and I was back at Rosanna’s house singing to Mrs. R. once again.  As I walked in, the two of them were gazing out the window, across the open fields behind the farmhouse.  There was little Melinda, riding her pony across the fields, flying like the wind, with all the skill of a little cowgirl.  It was amazing!

Rosanna shouted that I was there to sing to her great-grandma, and she quickly put the pony away and came across the fields, holding something.  It was for me—and here it is below:

Melinda had written a song the previous Sunday afternoon after church, and she wanted me to have it. (I have concealed her name, but the rest is just as she drew it.)  She sang the song to me and gave me the drawing.  I told her it would go right up on my refrigerator when I got home—and it did!