Contributor Don Burke recently paid a visit to the small Amish community at Garnett, Kansas. He calls the piece below “Not Exactly What I Expected to See.”
Sure enough, you’ll see Don found some things not too common in other Amish places.
Don’s virtual visit to Garnett gives us a good example of how Amish practices can vary–sometimes quite significantly–in different communities and regions.
After a recent business trip had me in northeast Missouri for a few days, I decided to take the long way home and cross over into Kansas and Oklahoma to see a few Amish communities that I had never visited before. The first settlement on my list was the three-church-district community of Garnett, Kansas (founded 1903).
If my many visits to various Amish places have taught me anything it’s that most settlements “do Amish” in at least slightly different ways. In fact, one of the things that I most enjoy is noticing how one place differs from others.
Differences in houses, differences in buggies, differences in dress – these and similar things are what I look for and even expect. But when I traveled through Garnett I got a bit more of the differences than I anticipated.
Of course there are many of the normal signs of Amish life in Garnett. Laundry is done by wringer washer…
…and left out to dry on the clothes lines….
…and phone shanties are scattered here and there…
…and there is a typical-looking Amish schoolhouse in one of the districts.
The homes here didn’t appear to have any unique characteristics, and in fact they varied considerably…
I found an Amish cemetery with typical plain markers. Another caught my eye for a toy horse left in memory of the deceased child.
Of course Amish buggies in the barn is nothing surprising…but when Amish buggies share the barn with an Amish tractor, it’s time to take notice.
Now I’ve seen Amish use tractors (e.g., Holmes Co., OH), but while others use tractors, it seems the fine folk in Garnett love tractors…
… and you can see them everywhere.
As I understand it, the Amish here use their tractors for more than agriculture, routinely driving them to town or other places they need to travel through the week (I believe they use horses and buggies for Sunday trips to church).
And here is a tractor that seemingly has even been given its own garage space.
Notice the ‘box’ mounted to the back of the tractor. I’m guessing that this allows the driver to carry passengers or possessions — much like the English would use a pickup truck.
Along with loving their tractors, it appears that Amish here also love accessorizing them. Since my visit was during the cool days of early spring, several tractors were still equipped with a “heat-houser,” used during the cooler months to channel the warmth of the engine back to the driver.
And no Garnett tractor is complete without an old pickup truck bed resurrected and repurposed as a trailer. This was a common sight.
But it’s not just tractors. The Amish here also have combines…
…and a full assortment of contemporary farm implements like this feed wagon…
…and this sprayer, as well as the blue vertical feeder.
Garnett is clearly one of the more technology-savy Amish communities. One Amish home sported this 50-60 year old Massey-Ferguson retrofitted with a hay bailer monitor (installed in front of the steering wheel)….
…and another place had solar panels and a modern windmill.
Another way that Garnett was a bit different was that it is only the second Amish community I’ve seen that has a Sunday School Building. I can’t say for sure about this community, but in Kalona (IA) the Sunday School buildings are used for teaching Bible, German, and church membership classes to the young people.
And yet another way Garnett is different is that the map of the Amish in this community includes the public school. According to other information on this website, this is in fact a public (public-funded) school, but most of the students are Amish.