Winter in Berne, Part I

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I spent Friday afternoon cruising the back-roads of one of my old haunts: Amish country outside of Berne, Indiana.  In this quiet corner of east-central Hoosierland a sprawling Swiss Amish settlement spreads out in all directions.  I came  to do some research, but the cold unwittingly quashed my plans.  While here I had planned to stop at Elizabeth Coblentz’s house, she is the mother of Lovina Eicher who writes The Amish Cook column now. Elizabeth penned The Amish Cook for me from 1991 – 2002. Whenever I get near Elizabeth’s old house it’s a very emotional experience, but today was different.  My schedule was tight and whatever emotion I felt was frozen by a teeth-chattering chill and six-inch deep snow.  I went to the door and knocked, a door I had approached so many times before and just walked in with barely a carefree rap.  I didn’t know who would answer or how I would be received. After waiting in the Arctic chill for a minute or two, a pleasant young woman wearing a headscarf and coat answered. She had that mix of friendliness and standoffishness common among the Amish (and, anyone, really….not sure I wouldn’t be standoffish if some strange guy came to my door on a freezing cold day and started asking me probing questions about my history with the house).  When I asked the young woman (I’m guessing she was in her late 20s), if she had ever heard of The Amish Cook column she gave a nonchalant shrug which I took to mean “no.”   For a fleeting second, between shivers, I glanced at a trio of apple trees by the driveway, their gnarled arms frozen in place, their sweet summer fruit just a January dream. I recalled the homemade insect traps Elizabeth used to hang from their lower branches. I remembered June days when I was in my 20s and not the temperatures.  The young woman looked at me for a second with a mix of pity and exasperation as if to say “May I help you? I really need to get back to my ironing…”   I asked the woman if she minded if I took some video footage in the driveway, to which she gave me the same nonchalant shrug, part polite, part “sure, pal, if you really want to tromp around in this biting cold and snow, knock yourself out.”   I’m never completely sure why I return, as if somehow returning to this place soaked in so many special memories can somehow  reconnect me with something that no longer exists.  It can’t, yet I still come.

I decided I’d probably return another day, when the dandelions were in bloom and the tart smell of rhubarb hangs in the air.  For now, I’d content myself with the warm car and the enjoyment of some scenes of winter from this area.  But I did have one more stop, more about that tomorrow…..

CAPTIONS:  In the above photos, children play at recess (okay, so THEY weren’t deterred by the cold, so I guess I am not as hardy) outside a classic one-room Amish school house.  Below, a husband and wife (I assume) slowly glide down the main street of Geneva, Indiana, the buildings providing a brief windbreak from the cold.  The Amish in this area use mainly open buggies even during the middle of winter.

 

 

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The Discussion


  1. I get cold just looking at those photos.

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  2. Barb Wright says:


    Kevin,I know what you mean about Elizabeth’s house. Everytime I am going to Bradford(alone!),I drive past my grandma’s house. I have no idea who owns it now,I’d love to stop..but so far haven’t gotten up the nerve. You would think in 20 some years that I would!!

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    • I think…going back to what once was…..is a form of accepting…what is’nt anymore…and it takes time…things are not what they were…and have moved on with the world..and you have too..moved on with the world..At best..it s nice to just drive by and enjoy the memories..and keep on driving by..your “need: for this..will one day not be so strong, as to want to knock on doors……I think..just having the priviledge..to view from afar..is enough, and drive on….

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    • I think…going back to what once was…..is a form of accepting…what is’nt anymore…and it takes time…things are not what they were…and have moved on with the world..and you have too..moved on with the world..At best..it s nice to just drive by and enjoy the memories..and keep on driving by..your “need: for this..will one day not be so strong, as to want to knock on doors……I think..just having the priviledge..to view from afar..is enough, and drive on….
      I don’t think I have said this before..it comes back as a dupe…

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  3. well…it WAS a dupe! What do ya know about that! I certainly did’nt! Much apologies here…..

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  4. Marilyn N Bulmahn says:


    Kevin: We are always glad to have you travel through our area. Adams County, Indiana, is a good place to visit. Come back often as I enjoy seeing the local pictures that you post. I first met you and Elizabeth at the Focus on Decatur day’s event and to this day enjoy following your many activities. Thank you for keeping up what you are doing. (Originally I had started clipping all of Elizabeth’s articles from the Decatur Democrat, which I still have today. Priceless!) Elizabeth’s daughter, who continues to write, has made her mother proud.

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    • Hi, Marilyn – Thank you for the kind words! I remember that event so well, it was one of our first public events. So glad you keep up with us here, stay tuned for more photos from your area!:)

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  5. I’m enjoying the blog Kevin…if you want to meet some folks let me introduce you. I’m on VERY good terms with all my Amish friends and family. Is Elizabeth related to Eli & Menno Cobelentz…(They live in Bryant, close to Portland just off the 27) Just curious. I write to folks in John C’s church all the time. In fact, I’m rather surprised you have never heard of Lydianne Schwartz (The local Midwife) Pretty much everyone in every church knows her. That’s my Adopted Mom. Let me know if I can help, you should come to church some time. I would be happy to take you if you would enjoy the experience. But just be aware, it’s an ALL DAY 8 hour thing (in H. Deutch. to boot:-)! But I know they would be very happy to have you and meet you, and it would be a lot easier with someone like me to introduce you. Just a thought…e-mail me.
    -Ethan Tudor W.
    Actor/Host of “The Neverhood Show” http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ethantudorw
    Catch me on “The Middle”, 8pm (PST) Wed. Night’s on ABC

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