Last weekend we visited the Amish community of Mississippi and this weekend, especially after being encouraged by the basket maker we had met, we decided to drive up to the community in Tennessee, in Ethridge.
Especially compared to the Amish in Mississippi, this community is *huge*! The houses are largely the very same, mostly white midwestern-looking houses, and just like in Mississippi, the ones with things to sell have signs out by the road listing what they offer.
When we drove up to Ethridge, we noticed that there are an awful lot of businesses on the main highway touting that they carry Amish-made merchandise. I think these are just for people who are either uneasy about visiting or feel like they don’t have the time to drive into the community and shop for themselves. Either way, they mostly look like (sorry!) tacky tourist traps.
Av did go into one of them just to get a map, but the map does not list all the houses with something for sale. I don’t know why some are listed and some are not, but some of the best ones had been left off the one we got.
Ah, it was wonderful. Again. Everyone-everyone-everyone we met was *so* welcoming and *so* nice. It was just idyllic. Even the clothes out on the line had charm:
…caskets, moldings, pickled beets, fire wood, beaded crafts, and jams. Av said to me, “do you think they build them (caskets) like we do?”. Now, yes, it is weird just to be driving along and say “let’s go look at coffins!” but just out of curiosity…um…we did. We figured that maybe their tradition and ours would be similar.
It’s Jewish tradition that when you’re buried, it’s in a super-plain wooden box with no metal hardware at all – the plainer, the better. The idea is that you return back to the earth completely (we don’t even embalm, usually the burial is within 24 hours anyway) and in complete modesty. And you don’t even wear regular clothes! Just a white linen shroud, so that if you’re rich or poor, there is no difference. I think all this is based on Genesis 3:19. Oh gosh, I am not the authority on this, but there’s lots more about it here.
Well is the Amish tradition, casket-making-wise, anything like ours?
Pretty close. The nice man with the shop showed us what he builds. They’re made simply with metal fasteners and hinges, but he said that he could make them just with pegs. We talked about how each tradition is similar: plain, modest box; they also don’t embalm (although he said sometimes in the summer they will); no fancy clothes; and they try to bury quickly.
Oh, enough of that. When we were there, he asked us inside the house and I think he was enjoying hearing how we are similar in some ways.
I could *not* pass up the chance to see what his house was like! It seemed like the kitchen took up most of the room on the first floor. We met his wife and children – nice. Upstairs was the bedroom, I think everyone slept up there in one big room. That room was also used for storage, and I was a little surprised to see Sam’s Club-sized boxes of Cheerios!
Well, Av and the nice man exchanged addresses and they’ll probably communicate some more. We left, but not before we bought a jar of pickled beets – Av’s mother loves them.
Gosh there are so many places we stopped! There were just worlds of soaps, jellies, cedar chests, porch swings, baskets, potholders, candles, and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Oh we had the biggest time!
At this home on Denson Road, we saw this sign for rustic furniture:
…and here’s the house – the railing is sure a lot different than other houses’! If you go to Ethridge, you *have* to stop here. This very-nice man sells gorgeous walking canes, benches, bentwood rockers, and even bedroom furniture.
We bought two bentwood rockers – well, put them on order, actually, because there are about 30 on order ahead of us. They are magnificent! They should be ready late this year. Can’t wait.
Update: here’s one!
And the bedroom furniture he makes…you can kind-of make it out all the way to the right in the pic above. Very cabin, rustic looking – like you see in shops and catalogs for anywhere from $3k-8k for a bed frame – he was selling them for well under $1000. If one of our boys really gets into the outdoors and wants that type theme for his room, we will be driving up to Ethridge to place an order here to get the ‘real thing’!
Shug was loving it all too! There were lots of children for him to babytalk with!
The people at this other house even sell playsets.
This was just one version. The man at this house was also making one like a Noah’s ark design.
We saw this sign for quilts on Hughes Road and of course had to stop:
…and here it is, hanging upstairs in our hallway. Oh am I ever in love with this. I saw on some websites people were selling ‘perfect’ Amish quilts but just look at how perfectly imperfect this one is:
We’ll be going back at the end of this year to pick up the rocking chairs. We just had a fantastic time meeting everyone and looking at all the handmade things…can’t wait!
This is our homemade map/route of going to all the neat Amish houses: