Category: Roadside Attractions

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.”

If you meet the snapping turtle in the road…

Snapping Turtle-Lancaster County Park
Snapping Turtle-Lancaster County Park

If you meet the snapping turtle in the road call the turtle man. Unfortunately the turtle man lives in Kentucky so you might have to figure something out for yourself. Based on today’s experience, I strongly suggest you do not try to pick him up.

I’ve saved many turtles in my day by gently moving them across the road in the direction they were traveling, so I thought: why is this day different than any other day? And as he went to bite off my hand I realized that snapping turtles have a bit of an attitude.

When I first saw him I wasn’t even sure it was a turtle it looked so strange. So I got out to confirm this and ran back for my camera. After a few quick shots I decided to save him from becoming a paperweight, but I guess he wasn’t thinking that far ahead and resisted. Then I got my other camera.

Several drivers slowed to look at the turtle and the photographer in the middle of the road, some gave advice and some made jokes. But it only takes one person driving while on their phone to run us both over so I nudged him across.

Park rangers showed up and after a brief discussion everyone felt he was fine where he was, safely on the other side of the road in the wet grass. I was the only one that knew he was actually headed up the hill, possibly for a Slurpee, but he’s an adult and has to play the hand he’s dealt. Fortunately it wasn’t mine.

The Camels of Lancaster County

I'd walk a mile...
I’d walk a mile…

Yes Virginia, there are camels in Lancaster County on a very large farm off Mill Creek School Road in Bird-In-Hand. I’ve been there before but the big ones always seem to be way off in the field doing whatever camels do.

Yesterday I was in the area, which is not far from the daring cow escape I witnessed on Friday, and discovered three baby camels frolicking just a few feet from the barn. This one may not look like a baby but a baby camel can weigh up to 90 pounds at birth, the other two were much smaller.

In the past I would have gladly walked a mile for three camels, maybe more if I knew they would be posing in good light. But they share the same problems with horses and Alpacas: crud in their eyes and unless it’s late in the season, flies all over those pretty faces.

At one point a tour bus called The Amish Experience pulled up and let three passengers off to take selfies. I thought nothing of it until one woman insisted on kissing the big one, not once but several times. I hope it was good for her because he seemed a bit confused by the whole thing.

I found out that these are dairy camels and are raised for their milk. Also available are camel milk yogurt and camel milk soap which is made by a local company. I didn’t really smell them but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to smell like a camel right out of the shower.

It’s really something to see if you’re not expecting it, but for a local like me it’s as normal as a tourist making out with one. Maybe they should set up a kissing booth because that tour bus passes by every day. It’s all good until someone gets their nose bit off though; I guess they could sign a waiver.

All Mama’s Children

Haines Shoe House
Haines Shoe House

The rain had just stopped as dawn broke over the Haines Shoe House in York, Pennsylvania yesterday, and I remembered a song I heard years ago working on a much larger house in Southampton.

The lead carpenter was a former lawyer who found that chopping wood was more rewarding then Jurisprudence, and he listened to county music all day long.

The song was All Mama’s Children by Carl Perkins and it went like this:

“There was an old woman that lived in a shoe, had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. They were doin all right, til she took em to town, the kids started pickin em up and putting em down.

Now all your children wanna rock, mama, all your children want to roll. They wanna roll, wanna rock, wanna bop til they pop. All your children want to rock.”

The Haines Shoe House is now open for guided tours and they serve gourmet hand-dipped ice cream and Mellie’s Makery treats (it’s not just a bakery it’s a makery). Rocking and bopping are encouraged but only outside.