With snow coating most of Indiana, I thought this might be a good time to look back at some of Dave Shaner's photos from "open buggy" country in Indiana. It's been awhile since I've looked at these and they bring back so many memories, bittersweet ones. Much of what I know about the Amish, I learn in Berne. But I've also been burned in Berne. It's an Amish community that is very raw...a lot of love and wonderful people there, but also very much of a survival of the fittest. I'm sure I'll write more about my experiences in this place someday.
I've spent a lot of winter days in Berne, Indiana's Amish settlement. It's a very harsh environment in winter. The Amish here don't have home heating systems beyond wood and kerosene stoves and buggies provide little relief from the elements here. I just can't imagine what it must be like riding on an open buggy on a winter day. I've ridden in open buggies on pleasant autumn days and it's very enjoyable, but when it is 15 degrees with the wind stinging your face? Hardy folk...
On the coldest of days, I am sure buggy traffic is limited. Yet, even on the coldest days there are people who need to go out in a buggy. The wicked winds whipping across the open fields would slice at you like a knife and stir up momentarily blinding swirls of snow. The first line of defense would be a big umbrella to ward off the wind. Then a heap of thick horse blankets and gloves, hat, coats and hopefully you're not alone in the buggy, hopefully you've got someone you can share a little body heat with. Brrrr!! These pictures just make me feel cold looking at them! Glad Mr. and Mrs. Amish Snowman had on coats!
So, why do the buggies in Berne, Indiana not have roofs? I've researched the issue and no one seems to know. Tradition has an often unbreakable hold on the Amish. If things are done a certain way, then there's no reason to change. Best I can tell is that a long, long time ago a closed carriage was associated with "aristocracy" and the conservative Amish in Berne didn't want to be seen as flashy or ornate in any way. And they've just stuck to the tradition. But it is a very chilly tradition in winter.