One of the distinguishing traits of the Swiss Amish settlements around Berne and Geneva, Indiana are the “open buggies.” I’ve also heard some Amish jokingly refer to riding around in them as “going topless.” (the Amish DO generally have a great sense of humor). While you will see open buggies in other Amish settlements elsewhere, in the Swiss Amish communities of Berne-Geneva, Indiana; Seymour, Missouri and a handful of others, the buggies generally do not have roofs. You won’t see a covered buggy. Amish are left to fend for themselves among the elements of rain, snow, wind, and hot sun without a roof. Cold is battled with thick horse blankets and rain and sun with large, black umbrellas. I will say, though, that nothing beats riding in an open buggy on a crisp autumn day or a beautiful spring afternoon. This neat photo comes to us from Dave Shaner taken in the bucolic farm country outside Geneva, Indiana. I’m always tempted to think that the reason for the open buggies is to maintain a connectedness with the earth around us. But, interestingly, when I was doing research for a book a book I asked many Amish in and around Berne why they use open buggies and virtually no one could give me an answer. Most of the time it was always “well, that’s just the way we’ve always done it.” SIGH, not very helpful answer for research! It fell to a local non-Amish historian to give me one of the more plausible explanations: 200 years ago or so the ornate covered carriages were often associated with aristocracy and wealth and this group of conservative Amish wanted to avoid such trappings then and the tradition just stuck. Not sure if it is accurate but that’s one of the better reasons I’ve been given. With approximately 50 church districts in Adams County I’m hearing that a couple of smaller churches “around the edges” are adopting closed buggies. One such church district is located southwest of Berne. Does this signal the end of the open buggy or are these just a handful of renegade churches? My opinion is that in the short-term, the closed-buggy churches could be ostracized by others in the area and it may actually serve to strengthen the open buggy’s hold. But with the passage of time as younger open buggy adherents see Amish going into town in their snug, warm, sheltered buggies, that within 10 – 15 years closed buggies may be far more common in Berne. My opinion only and I kind of hope I am wrong because there’s something charming about the open buggy. On the other hand, I don’t have to ride in one every day. So, that’s a decision the Amish themselves will have to make among themselves and I’m sure they’ll come up with the right way!