Monday, May 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Sampling the simple life in Amish country

KIDRON, Ohio - Talk about on-the-spot coverage. You can't get any closer to American country than the vantage point from which I am writing.

I am parked in the barnyard on the Kidron, Ohio, farm-machinery auction grounds. Kidron, 20 miles from Wooster, is said to have the largest Amish population in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.

The largest tractor I have ever seen, or imagined, is snuggled up close to the trailer, and the three beautiful horses roaming in the corral out back are giving Digby fits. To him, the passing buggies and Amish countryside, with grazing cows and sheep, must appear like a TV adventure show. Back home we drive by an occasional pasture with cows, but nothing like the numbers seen in this region of Ohio, where agriculture is the prime industry and the Amish people are the faithful stewards of the land.

Though today's merchandise that stretches over 15 acres is part of a machinery auction, auction owner John Sprunger specializes, as his father did, in farm animal auctions. I have as much trouble with them as I do seeing a stray, hungry dog or cat. The first night here, when I went out for a moonlight walk on a country road, a long trailer-load of hogs was being delivered. Poor things, they were squealing and fighting for the little air and space that there was. The sight and sounds sent me back inside the trailer to turn the radio on loud and the air conditioner on high to drown out the sound. Still, all night there were squeals. The next morning, hogs and trailer were gone, and I did not ask why or where.

This morning not far from the trailer door, Kidron volunteer firemen are unloading the soda pop they sell every August at the auction. Wes Hofstetter says that they will sell all of the 250 cases plus almost as much bottled water before the day ends.

Mr. Hofstetter has worked at the Schantz Pipe Organ Co. in Orrville, Ohio, for 35 years, and wonders why more visitors to Ohio Amish country don't make reservations to tour the factory. Orrville, about 10 miles from Kidron and not far from familiar Amish tourist towns, is best known as the origin and headquarters for Smucker's jams and jellies. Schantz organs are custom-built for churches throughout the country.

There are a few things spread out on the auction grounds that I would like to bid on, like the white fencing, an antique German farm wagon, some antique crocks, and a darling Amish wagon.

But the auctioneers move and talk faster than I can absorb, though I do have a bid ticket: No. 635. The last I heard, the bid ticket numbers were at 2,800, which tells you it's a mighty big auction. That's why at least eight auctioneers are at work at the same time at different locations.

I love this auction in this setting because it tells me that American agriculture is still alive, and that the Amish people continue to adhere to their beliefs in the midst of a world of technology. Non-electric treadle sewing machines and wringer washers are hot sale items. Kerosene stoves bring top dollar. Manure spreaders, hay loaders, corn planters, discs, and other farm machinery bring crowds of bidders.

This time of year, and spring, are the best seasons to travel into Amish territory. Now the harvest of grain crops and vegetable-garden produce at roadside stands can be appreciated, just as the plowing and planting are in the spring. The Wayne County Fair will be held Sept. 7 to 12 in Wooster.

I have backed off on traditional Amish craft souvenirs, and will stick to the basics: Trail bologna (named for the town where it has been made for 80 years) and a new broom. The farmer who lives in Farmerstown and makes the brooms from straw in his barn said that for house-sweeping a five-string broom is needed; the larger ones bound by seven strings are for the barn.

Five strings, it is. A new broom sweeps clean, you know. We'll see.

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