November 24, 2017

Rural America

Posted on July 26, 2012 by in God's Country

Rural America

It was Thursday afternoon and I was mowing the front yard on the riding mower, when I saw the Boss waving her arms at me from the front porch. She had the cordless house phone in her hand, so I turned off the mower and hollered at her, “Who is it?” She said, “Its Nellie”, our boss. I answered the phone all hot and sweaty and he asked me if I wanted to make a run to North Carolina? I immediately said yes and he told me that I needed to rent a trailer, because the company wasn’t sure that the two tool boxes that I was going to get would fit in the bed of the wonder truck.

Amish Parking     I called a local equipment company about two   blocks from the house and they had a 16’ car hauler that I could rent. I called Nellie back and told him that I had found a trailer, and that’s when he explained that the load was actually in Hamilton, Michigan. He said that we needed to pull an empty trailer to Michigan, load up two tool boxes and then bring it all back to Houston.

I should have known that this was a bad omen, because this was to be no ordinary trip.

We had to drive straight through to Michigan, some 1245 miles, and then drag the loaded trailer home to Houston and be back by the following Monday morning. That meant we needed to make the 1st leg of the trip in twenty one hours. I explained that there was no way we could drive that far in that amount of time. He just said “do the best you can.” I rented the trailer, fueled up the wonder truck, and bought a few things from the grocery store, and by the time I got back home the Boss had packed up everything and within just a few minutes we were off like a herd of turtles.

I drove all that day and at about 2:00am the next day, we had to stop and buy more fuel so I had the Boss take the wheel. Now she is a good driver, but she has very little experience pulling a trailer. Being a real trooper she took off, and after a few minutes she calmed down because she said that this little trailer was easy to pull. It had little marker lights on the front part of the trailer fenders that she could see in the rear view mirrors and it did not sway at all. This helped her a lot and she drove about 300 miles while I tried to sleep in the back seat sleeping berth. When I woke up she was pulling into a truck stop to get more fuel. I asked her if she had any trouble and she said no. She said if we ever bought a trailer, this was the kind she wanted to buy.

I took back over the driving duties, and we made it to I-55 headed to Chicago, IL. The Boss was reading the map and decided we could avoid all of the traffic in Chicago if we detoured east through rural Indiana and then turned north towards Hamilton, Michigan. I agreed, so we detoured through the Indiana heartland and saw miles and miles of farms, crops, small towns, and not much else. The Boss noticed that all of these farms were all impeccably well cared for by their owners. You never saw any dilapidated buildings, high grass, old cars, etc. They all looked like something out of a travel catalog.

The Boss found a highway that the map indicated was scenic that ran along the east side of Lake Michigan and decided to take it so she could look at the water as we passed. This was a bust, because we couldn’t see anything for all of the trees. Michigan calls itself the land of lakes, but they should be called land of lakes hidden by big tall trees.

Hamilton is a small town, but it had a few restaurants, a grocery store, and most of the basics of a small town. We finally got to the Trans Canada power generating station where we would get our load, and we were two hours late. We were supposed to be there at 8:00am, and we arrived at 10:03am. I was sure that the people there were going to be angry, but when I talked to them they didn’t even know to expect us on that day. So much for driving hard to meet a deadline. The Boss was some kind of upset at all of this nonsense, and I must agree with her.

Anyway I got the two tool boxes loaded onto the trailer, (they could have fit into the bed of the wonder truck with room to spare). I was talking to the man that loaded the boxes and he asked where we had driven from and I told him Texas. He asked about the weather, and I explained that it was hot, damn hot. He laughed and said that he understood hot, cause he was from the bayous of south Louisiana. He said that he and his wife had moved to Michigan because she had gotten sick and could no longer stand the oppressive heat. It was about 68 degrees where we were standing and very comfortable for a summer morning.

Naturally after such a long drive we were both starving, so we went to Hamilton to get something to eat. Using the rule of which restaurant has the most cars in the parking lot, we choose a place that was half ice cream parlor and half restaurant. Being north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I stuck with the classic Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, but the Boss ordered fried fish. She said that she could smell the fish.

She thought that being that close to so many freshwater lakes that it would be fresh and good. We waited a while, and then the meal came out. I went at mine like the starving dog I was, but the Boss tasted hers and pronounced it “fishy tasting”. Needless to say I was shocked and awed at this statement, but she is entitled to her own opinion, so I encouraged her to send it back. She pondered this for a minute, and then decided to just eat the french fries and salad and leave the fish. As we were eating a woman at another table apparently smelled the fish and went on and on to her companion about how good the fish was at this particular establishment, and lamented that she wished she had ordered the fish.

The Boss grimaced and I suggested that she just turn around and trade plates with the fish loving lady, but she thought might be unacceptable. We finished and left and the Boss was still hungry. Imagine that!

On a different trip the Boss had found a woman in an Amish community somewhere in Pennsylvania that sold handmade fresh butter. The Boss loved it so she bought about ten pounds of the creamy stuff and we packed it back home in a cooler. She had great homemade butter for several months, and she wanted to repeat that experience by going to Elkhart, Indiana. It was supposed to be the big Amish community in the area. She gave me my directions, and drifted off to sleep. I was headed to Amish country pulling the trailer loaded with toolboxes, in search of butter. We didn’t get too far before realizing that we were both exhausted, and we stopped for the night in the middle of the afternoon.

Amish CountryAfter sleeping like dead people till the next morning, we got back on the road to Elkhart, Indiana to resume our butter quest. We were headed down I-196 near South Haven, MI when I spotted a billboard that read Dutch Farm Market.  We had been driving a few hours so I knew the Boss needed a bathroom break.  I showed her the sign and she agreed that we should stop.   We parked the truck and trailer in the large parking lot and walked in to find a host of fresh and frozen vegetables offered for sale.  Out on the porch there was a large bin of fresh asparagus spears.   I showed them to the Boss and she proclaimed them to be the most beautiful asparagus she had ever seen.  She checked the price and said that they were a great bargain.  We spoke to the ladies inside and they assured us if they were kept cool they would make it back home, and still be edible.  As we talked I learned that one of the ladies has two children that live in the Houston-Galveston area, so it was like talking to a neighbor.  We bought a few things, used the restroom facilities and went on our way.  We still hadn’t found any Amish butter, but the Boss thought that things were looking up.

We rolled along seeing the sights, and finally made it to Elkhart. We saw a sign for an Amish Farmers Market and pulled in to see what we could see. As it turned out the place was closed, but doesn’t it make a pretty magazine cover? It was a huge building complete with buggy horse hitching posts and weather vanes. I took a few pictures, but alas we had to move on down the road in our quest for the creamy delicacy that had so far eluded us. We drove through Elkhart and all we saw was a slew of places that made RV’s and travel trailers, but no quaint simple people driving horse and buggies. We stopped at several roadside fruit vendors sights along the side of the highway, but no one knew where any Amish butter makers could be located.

Finally we stopped to eat lunch at a nice little restaurant, and when we went inside we noticed that all of the waitresses were dressed in Amish apparel. We just knew that we had found the Holy Grail of Amish country and that pounds and pounds of butter awaited our arrival. This was not the case, but being wily and cunning the Boss began to interrogate the waitress and manager of the restaurant and a twenty something year old plain looking girl stepped up and said that we should go to the town of Shipshewana, Indiana. She said that was real Amish country. It was about ten miles down the road, so off we went.

When we drove into Shipshewana it was like driving back into the 17th century.

Black buggies and dark colored horses crowded the road and since it was a Saturday, plain looking men and women, boys and girls, babies and dogs were everywhere you looked. Something I’d never seen before which was interesting were all the Amish young people riding bicycles. Young men in plain dark clothing wearing knit caps, and young women wearing long dresses seemed to be the only ones riding the bicycles.

We drove all the way through town seeing the sights. This took about ten minutes, and then we turned back around and stopped at a hardware store. The Boss just knew that we would find butter here, and she wanted to buy a large plastic cooler that would keep our treasured butter cold all the way home. They had a few coolers but none met our needs and the prices were astronomical. This particular hardware store however did have anything and everything that an Amish family might need to run a large household.

The next place we stopped at was kind of an Amish tourist trap. You could buy everything from a Thomas Kincaid painting to a full blooded boxer puppy dog. Nowhere in town was anyone selling butter. We stopped at an Amish grocery store feeling sure that they would have butter because it was a large store.

Bulk Food StoreThe Boss went inside and found many a strange food, (inexpensive I might add), and it was like the food was the deconstructed version of what we (the English) eat. You could buy things like a two pound bag of the multi-colored marshmallow pieces from a box of Lucky Charms cereal. No cereal, just the marshmallow bits. When I saw her buy a fifty (50) pound bag of fresh potatoes for less than $10.00, I knew that the Boss was infatuated with the place.

We bought a whole shopping cart full of groceries and had to find room inside the wonder truck to get it all back home. A little Amish boy (about 12 years old) wheeled our purchases out to the truck and hefted the bag of potatoes into the truck like a grown man. Embarrassingly I asked him if it was alright to tip him and he said sure. I gave him a five spot and he wheeled off riding on his cart like it was a roller skate. Curses, we still hadn’t found any butter. The quest continued unabated.

We drove away headed down the road for a place called Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana. This is kind of an Amish showplace where they have musical theater, a historic farm, and country style dining. The Boss felt sure that someone there could direct us to an Amish dairy farm where she could find the golden yellow butter she sought.

We drove along the back roads of this flyover state just amazed at the beautiful pastoral scenery. When we arrived and I could see rather quickly that this was a tourist trap. We walked inside of the gift shop to look around and the Boss bought was a little magnet depicting an Amish horse and buggy for our oldest daughter who collects such things. We got to talking to the older Amish woman running the place and she didn’t know of anyone selling homemade butter, but she thought that the restaurant portion of Amish Acres might have some they would sell her.

I waited in the truck while the Boss went to the restaurant building to investigate and negotiate. Within a half hour she came skipping back to the truck with a pound of butter, and she was beaming with a smile from ear to ear. Finally our butter quest had ended. Great balls of fire, I was sure glad.

I really didn’t want to drive back to Pennsylvania from here, (you know just down the road a bit), to buy BUTTER!

The ride back was somewhat anti-climatic. The trailer pulled fine, the weather was mild and we delivered on Monday before noon. Till next time, travel when you can, enjoy God’s country by getting off the superhighways and taking the road less travelled. Sure it may be bumpy at times, but if you slow down a little and are open to new things I guarantee that you’ll enjoy the trip. “Till next time, be safe out there”.

The Working Tourist

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