Bridging an Arkansas Amish community

Here’s a neat story I missed during Christmas, worth taking a look back at.

A couple reasons why–one, it’s about an Arkansas Amish community–and you don’t hear too much about Amish in Arkansas, owing to the small size and remoteness of the Natural State Amish population.  Two, it ties in with an issue we discussed earlier this week–challenges created by obstacles like busy roads running through Amish communities.

arkansas amish sturkieIt’s not a road jamming the Amish in this case.  The Amish settlement at Sturkie, Arkansas (Fulton County), has been growing.  And they’ve run into a little obstacle: a river.  The South Fork cuts off access within the community, forcing Amish to travel 4-5 miles out of the way during high waters.

The Sturkie Amish tracked down a scrap bridge and shipped it in from 300 miles away, then adapted and lengthened it to fit their crossing.  Not exactly a piece of cake.  “If we’d known what we were getting into, we may not have done it,” said one of the Amish involved.  Read how they did it here.

As an Amish community grows, it may bump into physical challenges that maybe weren’t so immediate when a new group first planted the flag.

For another example, the Munfordville, Kentucky Amish settlement–one of the fastest-growing Amish communities in recent years–deals with something similar.  A river bisects the community of 1,500+ people, necessitating out-of-the-way travel.  Or at least it did when I visited summer 2010; perhaps they’ve done the same number as the Sturkie folks since then?

Slower world

This type of story is also a good reminder of the physical limitations you face when you rely on horse-drawn travel.  If you aren’t using a car every day, spatially it’s just a different world.  Distances become greater; life slows.  Obstacles appear–otherwise easily avoidable, via a quick car detour.  Your speediest routes–highways–effectively disappear (but are sometimes replaced by farm lane shortcuts invisible to the car driver).

Take a ride sometime in a buggy and you sense it instantly.  It feels agonizingly slow to reach the road just up ahead–the one you’d be whizzing by right now if you were behind the wheel.  Traveling to a neighbor’s for church on Sunday morning, a home that seems just around the corner by car becomes a half-hour trek.  And if you remember, a few miles down the road, that you left something at home, forget about whipping back to scoop it up.

On the plus side, it’s a lot harder to overlook your turn.  You probably won’t need to shell out for a GPS.  And of course you get to smell the flowers (and other scents) along the way.

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    1. Jessica

      I was reminded recently when I chose to roll down my window on a nice day, how difficult it must be to pass by a rotting carcass or a lingering skunk scent when you are in a horse-drawn buggy. 😉

      1. Karen S.

        I have the same problem when cruising the countryside on my Harley! Ugh…..

    2. We have a trail systemin New Brunswick that used to be used heavily by ATV and snowmobile traffic, but that has dropped a lot recently dur to high gas prices. It was mostly old railroad right of ways, and even includes bridges. I think it would be possible to use it for buggy and horse traffic, which was one of the original intentions of the province maintaining the trail – it was supposed to be for non-motorized traffic, but then the province found it was a lot cheaper to let the snowmobile associations take it over. Our dogsledding neighbours use it frequently.

    3. No, the Amish in Munfordville have not constructed a bridge. Their “detour” is nineteen miles. They have divided the church districts with this in mind.

      1. Thanks Saloma, that is quite a detour. I am a little bit surprised that this little community in Arkansas has done it but Munfordville/Horse Cave has not. Maybe in KY it’s a harder bridge to build, so to speak 🙂

    4. Rich Stevick

      Thanks for your thoughts

      . . . and also your insights, Erik. You help us understand the intricacies–and challenges–of the plain peoples. I especially appreciated your fine writing. Aus liebe, Rich Stevick P.S. Here in Pinecraft, most of the plain people travel at a three-wheel bicycle pace since Sarasota does not permit horse transportation. Also, a growing number of residents and visitors have signed on for battery-powered three-wheelers and bicycles. Ach nau! Rich

      1. Battery powered wheels

        Thank you Rich, and right back at you.

        Glad for the Pinecraft update as well. I wonder if battery bikes might ever migrate north…I remember seeing a trike in Ohio last summer, but I think it was traditional leg-powered. By the way you have a knack for picking the right time of year to be in Pinecraft 😉

    5. Mona (Kentucky Lady).

      Great story on the bridge Erik…..looks like things are picking up for them all because of this bridge……