Monday, June 12, 2006

Todd County's Amish Country

My parents live north of Sauk Centre in the central part of Minnesota. I have to go from there up to Staples for a morning meeting.

Instead of the state highway, I take the county road, which slices through the hills, woods, and wetlands that are now home to old order Amish families.

The route itself is bucolic, but the signs of the Amish inhabitants are what I enjoy most.

There is something oddly comforting and at the same time surreal about the sight of the small, horse-drawn black buggies traveling along the roadway. They look tiny and fragile, yet timeless and permanent - the past come to life. With my car's top down (the better to enjoy the sight of blue sky and sunshine and the smell of the fields), I can actually hear the clippity clop of the horse's hooves on the pavement.

The Amish generally don't like to be photographed, so there are no pictures here - you'll have to imagine the rolling, fresh green hills, the blue sky above, the dainty black buggy gliding down the silvery ribbon of road. From a distance the buggies look triangular - the dark legs of the horse forming a clearly visible point beneath the dark rectangle of the covered buggy.

Besides seeing my parent's Amish neighbors on the road, I enjoy seeing the farms -- both the traditional farmsteads like my grandmother's (often with large gambrel roofs and spikey silos) and the new, clean-lined farmsteads being constructed by the Amish.

All along the way I note and admire these new farms, so different from the old. When they first moved here, the Amish purchased existing farms and moved into them. Now they are established here and have begun building new structures on existing farmsteads and establishing all new farmsteads featuring buildings with sleek lines, clear paint colors, and mullioned windows.

The sheds especially catch my eye. They are as lean and functional as the ubiquitous pole sheds, but beautifully constructed and graced with rows of the multi-paned mullioned windows. I realize the windows are a necessity for people who do not use electricity, but they make even the simplest building look warm and inviting. Their impact on the landscape is both significant and pleasing.