Please welcome Naomi King, author of Abby Finds Her Calling – a must have book for lovers of gentle romance and Amish fiction!

Do the Amish DO that?

by Naomi King

You know, the more I read and research for my Amish books—the more I chit-chat with Jim, my source fellow in Jamesport, Missouri—the more fascinating, unexpected stuff I learn about Plain people. Part of what I hear is different, I suspect, because I write about the Old Order Amish in Missouri, where customs and dress vary a bit from the “gold standard” Amish characters in novels that are set in Lancaster County, PA or Holmes County, OH. In general, the Amish in Missouri wear more colorful dresses and shirts (still solids, never prints) and don’t hold as tightly to some of the old traditions, although their faith and their families remain their highest priorities.

I think we tend to put the Amish in a box . . . and it’s a black box where the only color might be the quilt that lines it. We categorize them as stoic and somber and stern . . . but read on! Some of the things I’ve learned are definitely outside the box, and you can bet I’ll use these tidbits in stories someday.

Who knew? Jim was telling me the other day about a young Jamesport fellow who, during his rumspringa, (a “running around” time before young adults join the church) became really, really good at championship bull riding! But think about it. We hear that the Amish discourage competition—between people, that is. As rural farm folks, Amish fellows can hold their own with livestock, so it stands to reason that a young man could indeed excel at bull riding because he’s pitting his intelligence and savvy against the animal. This fellow from Jamesport won several prizes riding the bulls while his friends and family cheered him on at fairs and rodeos. (A sad twist: he survived the bulls, but died in a car accident.)

Who knew? I was asking, as a point of reference for my current book, if the Amish ride carnival rides like roller coasters. Jim told me he and his Amish buddies loved to ride all those rides at the state fair when they were kids! During their rumspringa, his Plain friends dressed in English clothes and had a big time playing all the games on the midway and riding the rides, while their parents took in the livestock and quilting exhibits.

And who would think about this? A few families in Jamesport raise deer, which are then transported to hunting lodges and turned loose . . . for sport. When I saw these pens of young deer along the roadside, I had to ask about them—and was not expecting that answer. But it’s a way to earn money. Most families have several kids and live on farms that range from thirty to eighty acres—not enough land to support themselves by raising crops, because the Amish believe in remaining small businessmen. So they look for a variety of income streams.

Another unexpected revelation: I saw a rack of postcards featuring Amish folks in a Jamesport gift shop. It’s against Amish beliefs to have photographs taken, because these “graven images” are forbidden in the Bible. (This is also why Amish dolls have no facial features.) Yet there they were in their kapps and broad-brimmed black hats, adults and kids smiling for the camera while riding in their buggies or doing chores at home. Turns out there are a few communities in Missouri where the Amish will indeed pose for commercial photographers but won’t keep any of the photos for themselves. I’m just guessing, but I suspect they might get paid a little for posing.

And board games! When I mentioned the game Settlers of Catan in my current book, my editor questioned it, but the Amish are avid board gamers because it’s an activity that brings the family together. They don’t own TV’s, radios, computers, etc., so they still enjoy the simple pleasures of gathering around a game board in the evening. And doesn’t that make sense? Think of how your spelling and math improved by playing Scrabble and Yahtzee when you were a kid, and how you learned about following the rules, taking turns, playing fairly, and handling your emotions when you lost. I had never even heard of Settlers of Catan until I was researching for the sequel to Abby Finds Her Calling, but it’s a building and trading game that’s apparently a huge hit with the Plain population. You can even buy extension sets so more people can play.

So there you have it, a bit of trivia and information gleaned from my hours of research as I write the Home at Cedar Creek series. Thanks for your interest in my post, and I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Abby Lambright, James Graber, and the other residents of Cedar Creek, Missouri. And yes, there really is a Cedar Creek in northeastern Missouri, but it’s a waterway rather than a town. Just one more thing I thought you’d enjoy knowing!

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