The Amish Entrepreneur

Amish Horseshoe Souvenir
Amish Horseshoe Souvenir

When I was a kid I had a lemonade stand, but here in Lancaster County the Amish kids set up a stand selling horseshoes. I see them occasionally on the back roads but most of the time the shoes are just painted or rusty.

This entrepreneur goes a few steps further to attract the tourist crowd. He offers horseshoes with a picture for $3.50, with a flower for $2.00, plain for $1.50 or rusty for a buck. This one has a picture, it’s painted and has flowers so its a bargain at any price.

The pictures are mostly of horses but some have scenes like covered bridges or life on the farm. I can’t imagine where they get the images because they don’t have cameras, cell phones, computers or printers. I guess they cut them out of a secret magazine that only the Amish subscribe to.

These horseshoes may or may not be lucky for you, but with the thousands of tourists that crave unique souvenirs these kids can afford to buy a brand new scooter or whatever Amish kids spend their money on. I think the horses should get a cut but maybe they’re happy just to get a new pair of shoes.

Did you see a white duck?

The Fog
The Fog

I was standing by the water thinking of nothing in particular when a guy pulls up and asks me if I saw a white duck. I said no, why? And he said: I’m looking for him. At that point I knew it would be just another ordinary day in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The rest of the morning was spent in a fog, literally, only now my thoughts went from thinking of nothing to thinking of nothingness. I waited over an hour for the sun to come out and took a few photos of nothing.

I was about to leave with nothing when I thought of something Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in Being and Nothingness: “It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.”

Note to self: don’t buy that book and think of complaining that it’s too hard to understand. My uncle warned me about that almost forty years ago.

Big Stereotypes

Big Amos
Big Amos

This is Big Amos, the Barefoot Amish Giant and he stands at the Hershey Farm Restaurant in Strasburg, Pennsylvania misleading tourists and locals that know nothing about the Amish culture.

The definition of a stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified idea of a particular type of person or thing, and like all stereotypes this is as wrong as wearing a straw hat backwards.

First of all Amos is fifteen feet tall, very few Amish men are that size except for a few on the big, big farms where they spend most of their time making giant chairs and scaring the cows.

Amos also stands there and smiles while you take his photo, which does not happen in real life. Some Amish men will let you photograph them but they look at you like they know you stole their chickens but can’t prove it.

This kind of misinformation only confuses tourists who expect all Amish men to look like this and leads to disappointment when they discover that the average farmer is normal sized and wears shoes or boots (very important around well fed horses).

It’s been said that ignorance is bliss, which brings to mind the story of the Amish farmer and the tourist. Pay attention because there’s a moral in there somewhere.

A tourist stopped in at the farm where old Elmer Yoder was busy pumping water with his hand pump. “Where’s route forty?” the tourist asked. Elmer ignored him, continuing to draw water. “Where’s route forty?” the tourist now shouted. Old Elmer continued filling his bucket. “Are you ignorant or deaf?” the tourist shouted next. “Both,” Elmer said, finally turning around. “But at least I’m not lost.”

Dead Center is Deadly!

Almost dead center
Almost dead center

Dead Center is Deadly says photographer Rick Sammon, referring to obeying the rules of composition. He strongly (obviously) suggests you don’t put objects in the center of the frame because it’s boring, and because there are so many other ways to do it.

Its might seem simple enough to find a young sunflower in her prime and take a photo, but even though the light is fading fast you should consider these rules of composition: the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, the rule of odds, negative space, filling the frame, balance, leading lines and symmetry.

Maybe take one shot using each rule, then mix and match until it either gets too bright, too dark, it rains or you get kicked out of wherever you are. Then take the RAW files home and edit them according to the rules of editing: white balance, exposure, noise reduction, etc, etc, etc.

I’ve heard rumors in back alleys and pool halls that there are people who take photos with their compact camera or phone and upload them as shot, but I’m sure they’re just rumors. Of course this is not fight club and breaking the rules will not result in a beating. Unless Rick Sammon sees your photos, then you’re in trouble.

Feeding the Birds

Turkey Vulture at the Conowingo Dam
Turkey Vulture at the Conowingo Dam

These cute and cuddly birds hang out at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. The dam is home to hundreds of bald eagles although the peak season to see them is in the dead of winter. Every year photographers come from all over the United States to justify spending ten thousand dollars or more on a lens.

At this time of year a few die hard photographers still go there but the eagles are few and far between the scores of vultures that are there for lunch. They are actually turkey vultures but instead of turkey they like to eat cars. They also eat trucks and SUVs, but you have to park in the right place.

As you head into the parking lot bear right and park near the hiking trail, then simply leave for an hour or so. These angry birds will eat anything made of rubber from your windshield wipers to your bumper. They also tend to regurgitate as they eat as well as badly scratching all painted surfaces, which you may later decide is a problem.

These beautiful, majestic creatures are only doing what large angry rubber eating birds do, so don’t take it personally. Some people cover their vehicle with a tarp or two which only challenges them to eat through it. Your insurance will probably cover the damage but you will have to pay the deductible.

Alternatives are hiking somewhere else and/or feeding smaller birds such as ducks. Lititz, P.A. has been voted America’s coolest small town and in Lititz Springs Park they definitely have the friendliest ducks I’ve ever seen. Not only is feeding them allowed but there are machines filled with duck food. Park wherever you like, they prefer eating actual food to eating your vehicle.

Train of Thought

Working on the railroad
Working on the railroad

“Trains are beautiful. They take people to places they’ve never been, faster than they could ever go themselves. Everyone who works on trains knows they have personalities, they’re like people. They have their own mysteries.” Sam Starbuck, The Dead Isle

Signs That Horses are Intelligent

Give them a sign
Give them a sign

Back in 1966 Mister Ed went to college to become a veterinarian so he could help his friends beat the high cost of medical care. 50 years later here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania most horses are home schooled, which is more convenient and much less expensive.

Although not all horses are taught to read at a college level, the ones that pull the buggies are encouraged to develop basic skills including the ability to read signs. This is almost a necessity these days with all the confusing traffic rules like turning right on red.

You can lead a horse to water but if he finds it himself he has a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. Note: we don’t know if horses are color blind but for the ones reading this I felt it was better in black and white.