Washington Post: Horses “Lead The Way” To Less Peace In Amish Country

This story caught my attention first for how the paper framed it with their headline: Horses lead the way to a less peaceful coexistence in Amish country.”

Is that meant to be a cute title? It sounds like it is strictly blaming the Amish for the conflicts, at the least.

The article addresses two issues, both of which we’ve had an eye on here.

  1. One is the proposed horse diaper, rubber horseshoes, and 4-side buggy numbering requirements in Lycoming County, PA
  2. The other is the issue of Amish moving into subdivisions and small town areas in Lancaster County.

Horses are at the cruces of these matters, and the actions and desires of Amish people are pushing these issues to the forefront.

But framing it this way seems to absolve other parties of any part or responsibility in the conflicts.

For that matter, though horses are involved in each, these are two separate issues. I suspect this gripe of mine is more relevant in the case of #1.

The article itself is actually more sympathetic or neutral towards the Amish than the headline would suggest.

I’ve noticed that often with articles, you see two hands at work: the story which the writer researched, spend time digesting and understanding, then wrote – and the headline that the editor attached to it.

I’m not guaranteeing that’s what happened here, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I suppose “Amish lead the way to a less peaceful coexistence in Amish country” would have been a bit too bold. So horses here are a stand-in for the Amish.

Something like “Horses At The Center Of Conflict In Amish Pennsylvania” would be less subtly charged against the Amish while acknowledging the issue.

Maybe that’s blander, but if they put more than the 30 seconds I did into coming up with something catchier yet more neutral, I’m sure they could.

Updates on the 2 stories

As for the actual content: I thought this was a good insight from Steve Nolt – that the axes of Amish conflicts with government have shifted from the state level to the more local level – such as with townships:

“It’s part of a pattern we’ve seen historically since the mid-20th century, of high-profile conflict over schooling, military draft and Social Security,” said Steve Nolt, a senior scholar at Elizabethtown College, who has written extensively on the Amish. “But the conflicts you see now are with local governments, not the state.”

On matters of substance in the two conflicts, I did learn something new: the Lancaster County East Hempfield township horse barn issue was apparently resolved last month by an amendment.

I did not see any other article on this, and can’t find one now with a search, so I guess this is original reporting?

Supervisors finally addressed the complaints last month by amending an existing ordinance to prohibit horses on smaller lots in residential districts. That means the proposed barn can be built, since it will go up in an agricultural district.

So going by that snippet, it seems the Amish person in question will be able to build his barn because it happens to be in an agricultural district – but that horses will now be prohibited on “smaller lots” in districts zoned for residential.

I wish the info here were more specific, because it’s hard to tell what that means, and if the Amish-wanting-to-keep-horses-in-subdivisions-side actually lost meaningful ground here (and how much).

The Lycoming County diapers-and-rubber-horseshoes situation has not been resolved:

Levi Stoltzfus, whose parents were among the original settlers in this Amish outpost in the 1970s, eased his horse onto the pavement of Mill Road on a recent morning jaunt. He has generally shrugged off the angry rhetoric. Yet like other Amish, he is prepared to fight to protect his right to travel without conditions.

The proposed requirements are untenable, in his view. Rubber horseshoes could cause lameness, he said, and horse diapers are hazards that simply don’t work.

“I just don’t see room for compromise,” said the 45-year-old Stoltzfus, who operates a sawmill.

A lawsuit is possible in this case. It seems there are a couple of underlying issues here, and, little surprise, they’re both about money:

  1. Amish moving in have driven up land costs, pricing out some non-Amish (sort of a reverse effect of what Amish experience in places like Lancaster County)
  2. Who pays for road maintenance? Buggies damage roads and some places don’t want manure on the roads. Some of the money for road maintenance here comes from gasoline taxes, and Amish don’t buy gas for their buggies.

A pastor quoted in the article suggests regular conversations between the two sides would help.

It’s not a guaranteed path to peace, but if they haven’t been talking much outside charged environments like contentious supervisors’ meetings, a cup-of-coffee chat might be a good place to start.

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    20 Comments

    1. My take on the title

      If I understand, the main point of the post here centers around the headlines from the Post. Almost by default any more I tend to take issues with headlines in the click-bait world we now live in, so in that sense I can sympathize with you.

      But on this headline (and I didn’t click over to read the actual article), it didn’t strike me as being a direct blame on horses (per se), or even on the Amish who have them. Personally, it struck me more as a swing-and-a-miss at being clever — a twist on “you can lead a horse to water” phrase. But in this case the horse (as the subject, not as the instigator) was not the one being lead but was rather at the forefront (“leading”) the flow of the discussions/disagreements. If that was the idea behind the headline, I deem it a clever attempt, but the final product just didn’t pull it off. Just my $.02.

      1. That’s an interesting take, Don. It didn’t strike me that way and I wouldn’t have thought of that without reading your comment.

        If the structure of the headline aligned more closely with the structure of the saying (“you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…”) or contained more elements of it, then I would tend to agree, but in this case they have just used two words from that phrase, and not even in the same order, so I think your interpretation would be a stretch.

        But, perhaps that was the thinking behind it, and as you note, if so, they just didn’t succeed. On a side note, I think headline writing is a dying art. I remember headlines being better-written – now it seems that they are often sentence length, sometimes alluding to or even stating an opinion, or even two sentences (complete with a period, which I grew up thinking were not to be used in headlines).

        I think this reflects the shift to online publishing. In dead-tree publications, you had a strict limit of space so had to learn to be concise and compact. Not so with the web.

        1. I will agree that at best my read on the headline would be a bit of a stretch. After then going over to the article itself, I noticed that the quote marks were not a part of the headline there. I assumed they were, so my mind went looking for something to explain their presence — and came up with that earlier read. If they weren’t a part of the original, yeah, it makes that interpretation even a greater stretch. But even after reading the article, I find no real explanation for the wording. Maybe it’s just as you said, a dying art.

          1. Ah, gotcha, I see. Yes I added those quotation marks since that bit was pulled verbatim from the headline.

    2. Roger

      Hot skillet

      Very simple, solution.
      Get a horseless carrige.
      Most horse less carriges are run by horse power. Many horse powers they claim.

    3. Liz

      lead the way

      In an effort to keep the peace, I hope that the size of the lots within a subdivision is specified. I formerly had 2 horses in a subdivision. But, my subdivision required that the properties were at least 5 acres each. We were also had our own well and septic systems. This made the difference. I noticed in the article that the SIZE of the property was not defined.

      IN my former neighborhood, we were also beneficial to our neighbors since when the power went out or the road out was blocked by fallen trees. We were called upon to pull the trees out of the roadway or to get food or medicine from town, which was 5 miles away.

      Details make the difference..

      I also wrapped the tails and lower legs with orange and reflective tape for our own protection.

      Pack of dogs as well as deer, bear, and snakes were the hazards we had to deal with on a regular basis.
      The most dangerous were the neighbor dogs. They gathered into packs that bit not only our horses but also children.

      1. “I noticed in the article that the SIZE of the property was not defined.”

        That’s what I noticed too, Liz. In the original discussions, they were talking about allowing two horses on half-acre lots (vs. the existing one horse on one acre rule).

        As mentioned above, I wasn’t able to find any other reporting confirming specific details of the change. If anyone has a link, would be glad to see it.

    4. Richard Traunero

      Washington Post

      It’s the Washington Post. No surprise here. Anything to sensationalize a story, because newspapers are becoming less relevant all the time.

    5. Carl M Brecht

      Iet's make a deal.

      My offer, Would love to see an Amish community in Western Washington. Let me send you as many Democrats that you want for more horses. We have over 250,000. horses in our state.

    6. Walter Boomsma

      It's a brave new world...

      Intention or motivation is always hard to determine… it’s possible this was an attempt at a “cute” headline. But cute (sensational, engaging, controversial…) headlines have become the norm in what passes for journalism, mostly because the brave new world is more about clicks and less about reporting. The journalism joke used to be that a dog biting a man wasn’t news but a man biting a dog was… but the one thing both headlines had in common was they were (discounting potential fake news a relatively new term) facts, not opinions.

      Today the challenge would be to find the spin on either story that sensationalizes the story.

      Stir in the fact that our society, in general, seems to be losing critical thinking skills and it’s a recipe for an interesting dish.

      So, yes, I think a number of readers would see the story as one about how horses and their Amish owners are creating discord and disturbing the peace. There’s some irony in that the Amish are generally seen as peaceful people. Admittedly, “Horse Ownership and Use at Center of Debate” or “Debate Regarding Horse Ownership Intensifies” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Personally, I think that this headline reflects irresponsible journalism but it’s relatively mild compared to some examples.

      1. “Personally, I think that this headline reflects irresponsible journalism but it’s relatively mild compared to some examples.”

        I’d agree.

        There are really two different stories here.

        Going by what is known, I could see a headline like this being more defensible in the horse-barns-in-subdivisions story. That’s the Amish owners introducing something new (multiple horses on a small neighborhood lot) into a place which was not intended for that purpose.

        In the other case (Lycoming County) these are Amish living in an area where they’ve been for several decades and in a way that they live in 500+ other communities across the continent. Their horses are not “leading the way” into a new potentially disruptive setup that’s never been seen before or hardly the norm as in the suburban horses story; in this case they are continuing to live in they way they and many others have for many years in a rural area, and there are other residents who don’t like the effects, and that has all come to a head.

        In that story, I suspect there are more layers, and I don’t see that the reporting in the story dug deep enough to uncover that the fault lies all with the Amish here as the title seems to imply (certainly some fault may and likely does lie on the Amish side however; I think it would be wise if they are not already doing so to find a way to at least address the maintenance issue, even in a partial or symbolic way by offering to pay a fee or something like what is done in other settlements).

        I suspect there are probably personal grievances or biases at work here, and again not necessarily just on one side. The bottom line is I’d guess there is more history dating back some time if the powers that be felt it would be wise to introduce a proposal for a draconian package of regulations to Amish transport, and given that, it’s unlikely to be a case where the fault lies strictly on one side. This has the feel of a “feud”.

        I am aware that it is about clicks though (clicks are appreciated on this small blog as well, and you need to catch the reader’s attention and stimulate interest, though I try to keep the titles I use mostly non-sensational:)), and I suspect the paper knows its readership.

        If you read the comments to that WP story, it is a mixture of strong “pro-Amish” and “anti-Amish” (for lack of better terms) meaning a good number of anti-religion and Amish animal abuse comments mixed with some idealizing of the Amish.

    7. Leslie Kendall

      Just another example of the “democracy” we’ve become rather than the Republic we were created to be.
      Funny how you’ll never see an article comparing the few people killed in horse/buggy accidents with the 3,287 deaths PER DAY from car accidents.

    8. Michelle

      Horse manure

      Lol let’s be sensible catchy titles get us to read digest and comment. Now for My 2 cents . How about those little leather catch containers strapped to back of the animals behind. Simple solution . Go to Central Park in NYC the owners are made to use them on the horses. And for the roads, Of course change is not going to come easily, but can you keep snow chains on winter tires year round? I say Make them register buggy and that cost could go to road repair as needed. We all have to pay for the roads traveled and it really is unsanitary with mounds of horse excrement .

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        Or, those who don’t like to live with a little horse manure, can always go live in New York City.

    9. Don Burke

      Question....

      Erik, after reading through some of the comments I was sitting here wondering how our per-automobile horse-riding great-grandparents managed to survive, what with all that unsightly, life-threatening horse poop — and not just in the road but all around their very own barns and such…(ha). And that brought to mind a for-real serious question: What did they do with all the horse poop in the cities back then when that was all people had to get around on? There would have been hundreds of horses a day through any town of any size. So when the English had horses back in the day, did they do anything about it?

      1. Don, I missed answering this comment and throwing in my 2 cents vis a vis your good questions, apologies. Well I think it must have created a sanitation and public health issue when you had so many horses in a town or city area way-back-when. I can comment on what I am familiar with – in Krakow, Poland, there are a number of tourist buggies (much fancier than anything you’d see the Amish driving). I believe for many years the city has employed a scooper who collects the horses’ leave behinds so that tourists don’t have to deal with that on their shoes (wouldn’t be the best calling card). Did cities and towns have armies of similarly-employed people back in those days?

    10. Nadir Goldstone

      It’s the Washington Post…. what do you really expect? Owned by Bezo and other elites. I have been a viewer of the Washington Post for 2-decades and in the last few years I noticed a shift in the editorial and opinion (mouth piece) section of attacks on traditional and normal lifestyles. The regularly lam-blast Othodox Jews and Mormons for example, and until recently Chic-fil-a. They want to destroy all non-progressive, non-conformist and non-consumer centered lifestyles so that Bezo and others can make them into consumers, automotive purchasers, and they can buy up their farms on the cheap. There is a war being waged between genocidal globalists and regular everyday people. It is waged in their media outlets. They want the extinction of all non-consumerist societies, especially anyone that is European oriented.

      We all know that cars, not horses are the problem. Cars kill nearly 50k per year. Horses can’t even travel fast enough to kill. Horses and buggies are absolutekly safe in comparison to cars. Maybe they need to question why cars are on the road, or at least what safety measures can be taken to ensure cars are safer for other modes of transport. Not the other way around.

    11. C Jeffords

      Road damage?

      How does an Amish buggy damage the roads? If the roads were dirt, I could see it; buggies have narrow wheels that cut into soft-ish surfaces. But the roads in most of the U.S. are asphalt. (Or else they’re whitetop, which is even harder.)

      1. Asphalt can be relatively soft, particularly in warmer weather.

    12. Only part of "divisiveness"

      I came across a reprint of this WaPo article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper- but they went with an even more pointed headline: “Horses only part of Amish divisiveness”.

      https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/nov/23/horses-only-part-of-amish-divisiveness-/