A Shawn Smucker Guest Post on Amish Country

The following is a guest post from my friend Shawn Smucker. He’s the author of two books, a blogger, and a full time writer. Here’s Shawn.

A few weeks ago Bryan and I were mulling over some writing ideas during an early breakfast. I was eating something unhealthy like creamed chipped beef on toast, and Bryan was eating a spinach and feta omelet. That’s just how he rolls.

We decided to guest post on each other’s blogs, and I asked if he would fill in on my blog’s regular Top Ten segment.

And of course his Top Ten was about television – The Best Ten Things About TV. I smirked at him through my computer when I realized this was his chosen topic, because he knows that my wife and I have given up TV for this year.

“Okay,” I asked, “then what should I write about?”

“Something Amish,” he said. “Aren’t you Amish? After all, you don’t watch television.”

Haha funny man.

But my grandparents were Amish, and I grew up in Lancaster County. I was away for about 15 years before moving back last November, and there are things about this place that constantly remind me I’ve returned:

+ The air smells like manure a lot here, maybe 3 days a week during the spring when all the farmers are getting their fields ready. It reminds me of my childhood. But when my 6-year old son Cade catches the odor, he pinches his nose and raises his other hand in despair, as if to question the existence of a good God, and yells, “It smells like cows’ butts!”

+ I keep running into former teachers, and even though I know their first names I still call them Mrs. or Mr. Something-or-other. This seems strange to me, and perfectly normal, both at the same time. I still feel that old fear rising that they might give me a detention, right in the middle of the supermarket.

+ I received a family reunion invitation the other day. At the bottom of the note, beside three stars it said ***no accomodation for horse-and-buggies.

+ Nearly every public place I go, I meet someone I’m related to and have never met before. Big families are the rule here, and most people don’t leave, so your left with misplaced 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins scattered all over the county. This is the primary reason I left the area to find a spouse.

+ Only in Lancaster County have I seen unmanned roadside stands selling fruit, vegetables or flowers – you take what you want and leave the money in a basket. If you did this anywhere else people would laugh with glee at your naivete as they loaded everything, including the basket holding the money, into their car and drove away.

+ Everyone knows that I’m a writer. This is not because I am particularly good, or that the books I wrote are best-sellers, but simply because everyone knows everyone’s business here in Lancaster. Some of these people also think that, because I wrote a few books, I must be rich – I dispel this by explaining how only recently, at the age of 33 (my current age) I moved my family of 6 into my parent’s basement.

+ The Amish are everywhere: driving their buggies, walking around the grocery, playing softball on Saturday nights. They’re even at my family reunions. I never found this remarkable when I was a kid, but now that I’ve returned I feel kind of like a tourist. Sometimes I have to fight back the urge to take pictures of them on my phone. (This is an urge Bryan does not try to fight.) Editor’s Note: New Amish blog post coming tomorrow!

+ Philadelphia Phillies fans are also everywhere, so dazed and confused by their recent World Series exploits (win, lose) that they remind me of the little finches constantly crashing into our glass deck doors, then peering strangely at the invisible barrier, heads tilted to the side. But I flew through that shadow so easily last time . . . what happened?

And with that I should stop.

Bryan and I have never talked baseball before, and who knows if our friendship could survive it.

Editor’s Note: Probably not.

You can read more from Shawn on being a full-time writer, going without TV for a year, and a lot of other stuff at his blog at ShawnSmucker.com.

Thanks Shawn!