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Saturday brain dump: “Rhymie Aaron”, Big Valley Blues, and secrets of Amish heating

A grab-bag of thoughts and stories for the weekend.  Enjoy!

Rhymemaster B

“Full of action, traction and a lot of satisfaction.”  So replied Amishman “Rhymie Aaron” when asked how he was feeling.  “Rhymie Aaron” was the nickname of Aaron Beiler, who lived most his life in Lancaster County before passing away in 1964.  I recently came across an article about him dating to last year.  Sounds like a guy to make both hip-hop artists and scribblers of iambic pentameter green with envy.

Blue in the Big Valley

People who first visit Lancaster County and then travel to the Amish settlement at Big Valley, 2 hours away in the heart of the state, are often struck by the differences.

The Big Valley community, home to 3 distinct affiliations of Amish (Renno, Byler, and Nebraska Amish) has a much more isolated and “off-the-beaten path” feel.  This can be pegged to geography and location–getting there just takes a lot longer, and the 30-mile-long valley only has a few entrances.

Penn Live is running a story on the valley’s economic woes, much of it tied to the closure of a local plant.  In the video below (unavailable), you can hear locals, all of whom bear ‘Amish’ last names (Zook, Smoker, Schwartz) explaining how they’ve fared.

At about the 3 minute mark, a woman discusses the Amish community, noting that the area will never see the tourist popularity of Lancaster, “because our Amish are more…Amish.”  I don’t know how my Lancaster friends would react to that statement, but I think I know what she was getting at.

Thank you

A warm thanks to all who voted for my book in the recent contest.  It didn’t quite crack the top 10, finishing at #16, but not a bad showing in a field of 100+ nominees.  Consolation prize: a couple days ago Success Made Simple was named to the “Best Business Books of 2010” short list at 800-CEO-READ.

Mule-powered miracle heaters?

Where I’m sitting, the mercury is parked at a toasty 12 degrees.  Winter storms have ravaged the Midwest, and my buddy Sherry Gore in Sarasota speaks of harrowing frosts even reaching her normally balmy location.

Perhaps inspired by all the frigidity, reader IJ has asked how Amish heat their homes in winter.  Coal, wood, propane gas, kerosene are all used as fuels in various heaters and stoves found in Amish homes.  Here’s a bit more on how Amish stay warm if you’re interested how the Plain community keeps its toes from freezing.

Winter wheels

What can I say, your photo of the day, a snowy ride in PA (Where’s the hay?):

amish winter snowPhoto credit: Joel Galbraith

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    26 Comments

    1. richard

      enjoyed watching that short clip, and id like to drive over to that side one time soon. since i live in the lancaster area and if you want to see the it in a non-commercial way, just avoid rt 340 and rt 30. those areas i would say are the most tourist of all the roads there. other than that lancaster is a wonderful place to see not only for its amish population, although the amish add to the greatness of lancaster itself. as ive said before on this site im living in south lebanon county 1 county north of lancaster, and we do have amish here as well only smaller than lancasters. ive been told its a sister community of lancaster, and this area is not really for the normal amish tourist.so if you should go to lancaster just dont think as a tourist would, explore outside the tourist path and you will see the area in a much more natural way, which is really the way it is. im not a big fan of the tourist there either as far as trying to drive in those tourist areas, but they do help provide some jobs and business in the community, and a tax base to help keep local taxes at a lower rate. so maybe if that community had just alittle tourist going there, it would help thier economy alittle. i think its all about balance, to keep the people who live there happy and working, and keep the community a great place to live along with employment. thats my 2 cents anyway on this cold day in penn, enjoy your day folks………. richard

    2. Katie Troyer

      I think it is up to the Amish in any given location if they want to attract tourists or not.

    3. richard

      didnt really mean the amish wanting tourist in my comment katie, but now that you bring it up i think in away they do. back in they day they may have even hated having all those tourist in thier area, but i think they just went with it and are now making money from it. it does not make them bad people, just very smart business people, and it helps them keep a lifestyle and servive. does the town or community benefit from tourist dollars the answer is yes, and that includes the amish like it or not. and again, its about keeping a balance. thats me 3 cents anyway……… richard

    4. Alice Aber

      Before I became a small business owner I was like many who did not like a lot of tourists in my small town making it swell with people and causing traffic jams and such.

      But, being a small business owner, I have learned that as a business we need to count on tourist trade to boost sales and keep our businesses open. Especially in small communities, the locals alone can not support and carry a small business.

      While I still may not totally like the traffic, I will smile at tourism now, because it helps local businesses stay alive. 😀

    5. We have a long article on nicknames that’s a fun read. I pulled this from it about Rhymie Aaron…
      Rhymey Aaron
      When he talked, he would often do so naturally in rhymes. Obviously, this was so unusual, that he got this nickname. The story goes that a minister once told him he shouldn’t speak this was so much. He is to have responded…
      Ich ib mich net drin
      Ess cumt mach yust in da sin
      En drei yereck koo
      Macht en gut rin.
      This was translated roughly as “I don’t do it intentionally, it just comes to mind; a three-year-old cow makes a good heifer.” To get the flavor a bit better, I have re-arranged it in English as…
      It’s not that I try,
      The words they just fly.
      A cow of age three,
      A good heifer will be.

    6. Ruben

      great Pennlive clip, with absolutely beautiful stills in it!

    7. Do Amish try to attract tourists?

      Alice, Katie and Richard interesting points on tourists and tourism. Alice I can understand why your opinion switched! Tourism has its pluses and minuses as with anything. It can really be the lifeblood of some communities.

      Richard it is an interesting question to what degree Amish actively seek tourists. In communities with established tourist traffic you can orient your business towards them, and in Lancaster for instance they do, depending on the industry.

      Actively trying to attract tourists to a community where they do not already exist is another question. English people definitely do, while often newer communities are founded by Amish to escape the traffic. You are right Lebanon Co is a Lancaster spin-off settlement; I haven’t spent much time there but the Kumm Esse restaurant comes to mind.

      Also, I think tourists get a bad rap–after all, virtually all of us are “tourists” at some point, even (increasingly) the Amish.

    8. Brad, loved your re-working of the heifer rhyme, thanks for sharing it. You’ve got a talent!

    9. Ruben, Big Valley really is one of the most picturesque places I’ve visited.

    10. Sure you have your location right on the last picture? Those hills in the background seem a bit large and steep for Lancaster. But maybe that is the south end, which I have never been in.

    11. Actually, thanks for catching that, I went back and checked the source, and now no I’m not. I could see this being a Welsh Mountain type of hill or even another corner of the county, but I went ahead and cut Lancaster, which is what I originally thought it referred to. Well, I guess “PA” alone gives better pace to the rhyme.

    12. richard

      hey erik ive been to that restaurant one time before, its pretty good. since i pretty much moved to lebanon county im still finding my way around, and exploring good place to eat. i just came back from dutchway in lebanon, its a market/restaurant and its pretty good i have to say. when i pulled in thier were 5 amish buggys in the parking lot, so like they say about truck drivers if you see them in a parking lot, the food must be good.if your ever in the lebanon area we can do lunch, id be happy to show you around the amish community. since i had a business one time dealing with the amish, i have no shame in talking with them, maybe you could talk to a few and see how they feel about living in lebanon,pa, and thier ties to lancaster. temps are dropping folks, but im feeling toasty with a hot cup of hot choc and a warm home………. richard

    13. Richard that sounds great, I will need to get back up there some time soon. I do like the truck drivers=Amish buggies guideline, at least for food!

    14. richard

      anytime erik, just let me know. it would give me more of a chance to talk with them myself since i have a strong interest in them as well. i did drive a buggy in ohio in the mid 1990s. i knew this amish family that made hickory rockers, a very nice family, i stayed with them for 5 days and wrote about it for a few weekly newspapers in fla. and im sure most can tell im no writer,lol, i did it for fun and it was interesting for sure. i wrote all my notes for the story under a gas lamp, so when i looked at my notes the next day, i could hardly understand what i had wrote,lol. true story. good night everyone………. richard

    15. Alice Aber

      Hey Erik and Richard,,, I sure do hope you two invite this ole lady along. I would love a trip out to PA, its been a long time.

      As for the pictures,,, depending on distance and angle those hills could look much larger than real life. That still could be Lancaster. Either way, they are most definitely beautiful.

      Erik, when I had my teaching ceramic studio I relied primarily on local people for the bulk of my business, as I was selling supplies and teaching. But when push came to shove and you boiled things down to the real nuts and bolts, if I did not have students coming from other towns on a regular basis I would not have made ends meet. So even though I catered to the locals it was out of towners that kept me going.

      Now that I sell finished wares and have dropped doing classes I need those tourists in a big way. I’ll put up with the minor inconveniences to have the business.LOL

      Richard, I have a cup of hot chocolate here too. Just came back from walking the dog and that hot chocolate hits the spot in this cold weather. 😀

      Blessings, Alice

    16. Marilyn

      Thanks Erik, for another good post…I always look forward to another “Amish America” when I get into hotmail! Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!~~mm

    17. richard

      erik, myself and alice, sounds like a bob hope bing crosby road show in the works,lol with a twist. theres nothing like a friendly face waiting to greet you in a strange place, so alice your welcome to come anytime, the hot choc is on erik………..richard ….. and for the 3rd time,lol………. good night folks

    18. Lowell Yoder

      My parents often shared stories of Rhymie Aaron even though they were from Kalona, Iowa. When falling in the snow he said
      Hipp Hipp Horay
      Mit my bay in de snea

      or in english (not nearly as funny)
      Hipp Hipp Horay
      With my leg in the snow

      I often wondered if Rhymie Aaron had the psychiatric condition called “clang association” a symptom of some psychotic disorders.

      Big Valley is one of my favorite Amish commnunities.
      Not only is it beautifull it has such a colorfull and diverse group of Amish.

    19. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Here is a hopefully funny caption for the picture.

      “While playing the Amish equivalent of the Englisher game show ‘Cash Cab’ or in this case ‘Cash Cart’, one of the participants was heard to exclaim, disappointedly, ‘Gosh, what a lousy place to desperately need a street shout-out!’”

    20. Alice Aber

      Richard,,, thanks for the warm welcome. I guess I am the twist in the Bob Hope – Bing Crosby road show,, but you could think of me as a brunette Rosemary Clooney, LOL. Sounds like fun!!

      Good night to you to, and everyone on the board!!

      Blessings, Alice

    21. Dr._K

      @ Lowell: The clanging associations are very much what I was thinking of with Rhymie Aaron, especially since psychotic disorders (Schizophrenia) have been identified as a dominant trait (passed down generationally) within some Amish communities. It would make sense further since this seemed to come to him spontaneously, and likely he couldn’t stop himself. When I think of what Brad suggested earlier, specifically Rhymie Aaron’s response to a minister, I don’t think anyone else except someone with a behavior related to a dominant trait such as psychosis, would respond to an elder in that fashion. I could be wrong as this is all conjecture from what is commonly called a psychological autopsy.

    22. Dr K and Lowell, maybe I’m a bit dense but it never occurred to me that there might be something wrong with him when I first read about him. But now it does seem that may be the case; I just recalled that in the Lancaster New Era/Intelligencer Journal piece I linked to above it was written that he passed away in a mental institution in Harrisburg.

      There wasn’t much more info other than on his rhyming habit. From the piece it sounds like he brought joy to a lot of people, but I admit now I do feel bad if it was symptomatic of something else.

    23. Thanks for keeping me in mind, Richard, Alice and Marilyn glad you got another delivery!

    24. Shom–caption contest might be fun, and I might be dense again here, but am not familiar with “Cash Cab”.

    25. Dr._K

      Erik, disorder as in Rhymie Aaron is not always struggling or miserable. I have heard anecdotally in some cultures that some disorders are valued. Persons with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are useful when it comes to polishing silver in high-end hotels; persons with Developmental Disabilities do very well with monotonous, repetitive piecework, requiring accuracy; I’ve also had a number of contacts wherein ‘sufferers’ with Bipolar Disorder were blessed with critical wisdom or artistic skills (it may be the rumination and the explosion of mania, which allows them to unleash). Finally, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were two individuals in the OT whose disorders or visions were similar to depression or mania and/or hallucinations. Without these two individuals, a good amount of spiritual information on OT life and experience would be lost.
      I hope this provides clarity that not all disorders are ‘suffering’ types.

    26. Dr. K–thanks for making this important point. And I agree, and feeling sorry for someone can be a condescending position to take, which is not what I meant either. He seems to be spoken of warmly by others and that probably says something. In any case, I had no idea this disorder exists, so learned something here, assuming that is what he had.