Aidan learning horses have runny noses.

Note the sign posted in the buggy.

Eye to eye with a big concrete frog.

                A Day in Amish Country with a Three Year Old

My niece, Tami, and I took our annual fall pilgrimage to Amish country yesterday along with her three year old son, Aidan. We usually plan this for one of the first crisp fall days but it turned out to be a record setting day with temps in the 90+ range. However, a steady wind made the day comfortable if not fall-like.

 Aidan greeted me in the morning with a big hug around the knees and an excited, “We’re going to Amish country!” He then continued to remind us several times through the day that we were in Amish country.

Our first stop was at a cheese factory where we could sample various cheeses as we made our way through the dairy cases. This was a heavenly smorgasbord for Aidan since he loves cheese. At the end of our cheese factory tour his mother bought him an all-day sucker. When I asked him what flavor it was he proudly proclaimed, “red!”

We had lunch at Der Dutchman, a popular Amish restaurant that always serves ample portions of hearty food. We enjoyed our lunch complete with homemade breads and buns while Aidan played with his food but downed a double serving of chocolate milk.

 After lunch we took a buggy ride which was the highlight of Aidan’s day. He was able to pet the horse, whose name was Duke, and get acquainted with him before we began our short journey. We had a chatty Amish tour guide named Lester and since he was so friendly Aidan decided to inform him that his horse had a runny nose. Tami then noticed a fuel gauge on the dashboard of the buggy. Lester explained that told him how much charge was left on his battery that ran the lights on the buggy. He then laughed and said in his unusual dialect that no, that doesn’t run to the horse’s stomach to tell him when he needs to be fed. Obviously, he had heard that joke before. Unlike my Mustang that needs high octane to fuel its power of over 200 horses, Lester’s one horse power buggy is pretty much self-sufficient.

We commented on how beautiful and strong Duke was and Lester told us that Duke had to work really hard one day. He said that he had a full buggy of six good-sized adults including one “big fella” in the front seat next to him. When he stopped before crossing a busy intersection Duke knew he had to start with a big tug before crossing the traffic and heading up an incline. Lester continued with almost a childish giggle that Duke started with such force that the “buggy popped a wheelie!”

Although the Amish are a very devout religious sect, they also like money. They work hard for it but they don’t shy away from taking it from the many travelers who come through their universe daily. I’m sure that in the beginning they resented the nosey tourist who invaded their community but they soon learned all these tourists came with lots of green to spend and they became enterprising entrepreneurs in devising many ways of participating in the game of capitalism. Lester had a small sign inside the buggy where the riding guests could see saying, “gratuities are accepted and greatly appreciated.” Hint taken!

We continued our shopping and although young Aidan was good he began to wear out. We were in a store specializing in art and decorative objects and as I stood next to a display table talking to my husband on my cell phone the table began to move and everyone began running in my direction. The display table was actually a flat hay wagon and what the adults saw as a beautiful display, Aidan suddenly recognized as a giant wagon and decided to give it a big push. In his world that is what wagons are for. Something else caught his attention in that store which we thought very peculiar. He suddenly became very agitated and repeatedly told us someone had turned off the TV. Since this wasn’t earth shaking to us we continued our shopping and conversing but he wouldn’t give up. He finally dragged us to a display of various art objects including several framed paintings. I guess, to a child of the computer age these paintings resembled a frozen computer or TV screen.

The day continued with more shopping, driving, and eating. We planned our last stop for our favorite winery where we usually unwind with a glass of wine on a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking farm lands. Unfortunately, by 5:30 the only thing Aidan wanted was to unwind with a glass of chocolate milk so we bought our bottles of wine and headed for home with a day full of Kodak memories and Aidan sitting in his car seat sucking on his sippy cup full of chocolate milk. Guess we’ll have to go back soon for that glass of wine in Amish country.

What a strange world Amish country must have seemed to a kid accustomed to high def TVs, computers, cell phones, and microwaves. Who else but a kid from the computer age would see a framed picture and think the TV was turned off or broken. Along the way Aidan discovered horses have runny noses, art work is everything from framed pictures to giant frogs, pumpkins are all sizes and orange, red suckers are cherry, giant wagons aren’t for play, wind chimes sound like church bells, and Amish country is a whole different world. We can learn a lot from him—we all need to slow down, eat a red sucker, and add more chocolate milk to our diets. We will sleep like babies, I guarantee it.

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