It was hot, sweaty, loud, boisterous, and annoying. That’s the kind of place I usually avoid if at all possible. But this time, we drove 30 miles and walked right into that gathering of folks that takes place every Wednesday during the summer in Shipshewana, Indiana.
Today was our annual summer day trip north west of our little lake cottage to the Amish community of Shipshewana. The girls and I have our much-anticipated of tradition of heading out very early on a summer morning to drive through the rural countryside where we wander along narrow roads through corn fields, through vintage villages that seem to have missed the 21st century, and along pathways scattered with gardens bursting with color, where a steady stream of horses and buggies scurry along the side of the road, all the way into town.
Amish homes, although very simple and sturdy, almost always painted white, usually have stunning gardens that are picture-perfect with the corn stalks standing in tall rows at the back, beans and beets, celery and carrots, peppers and peas lined up in tidy rows in the front. Then the very front of each garden is a riot of color with rows and rows of every imaginable flower tumbling over picket fences, trailing along the pathway, and nodding in the summer sunshine. Very early in the morning you will also see freshly washed laundry hanging on the clothes lines, flapping in the breeze.
I’ve been told that the reason for such devotion of the Amish to their flower gardens is that it is one of the ways that they can express their creativity and love of color, as their communities prefer more subtle colors for their clothing and their homes, as well as their buggies. I don’t know if that is true or not, but for whatever reason, their gardens are always such a special part of our drive to Shipshewana.
The auction in Shipshewana is different from any other auction I’ve ever seen! Perhaps it is typical for other Amish communities, but the farm auctions that I’ve seen around our area are usually at one farm (with about a gazillion cars lining the road so it is tricky to get through on auction day!) with one auctioneer. At Shipshewana, the auction is in a HUGE pole barn filled with everything from antique hankies and quilts, to tricycles, rusty buckets, shovels and hoes, wringer washing machines and chandeliers, baby cradles and toys, old window frames and vintage radios, and everything in between.
The barn is packed with people who wander from one auctioneer station to the next, with about 10 or 12 auctioneers going all at once. So it is a bit tricky if you find something you want to bid on because if you walk away to see what else you might want to buy, it is possible that you will miss the first thing that caught your eye.
It is great fun to watch the auctioneers and the people bidding. Unless you watch very carefully you won’t even know who is bidding! It just takes a second to catch the eye of the auctioneer and ever so slightly nod your head and BAM! you’re in the bidding. So it is important to be careful not to raise your hand to scratch your head or you might end up with one of those rusty buckets!
The one thing I spotted today that I would have bid on if the price was right was a small antique Singer sewing machine. It was in perfect condition, the black paint with gold lettering looked like it had rarely been used, and it had a carrying case that appeared to have been kept in storage from the day it was originally purchased.
I waited around while the auctioneer sold off pictures of angels and babies in frames with peeling black and gold paint. I waited while he auctioned off glassware, a chandelier, an old rocking cradle, a ruby red vase, a box full of toys, an antique telephone, and a wire egg basket. Finally, he held up that shiny Singer sewing machine. I leaned in close to look directly at the auctioneer to figure out the starting bid (sometimes you can’t tell what they are saying because they go so fast!) – he made eye contact with me and said “$150.00 . . . . do I hear $150.00?”
Well, at that point I was not prepared to spend so much money on something that I really didn’t need so I shook my head and then watched in fascination as the bidding went back and forth for a couple of minutes until that lovely little Singer sold for $195.00. It truly was a beauty but not worth that much to me on this particular day!
After about an hour and a half of all that noise and confusion, with people bumping into each other to get a better look at the next treasure that was on the auction block, we decided it was time to get a cup of homemade ice cream, so Gracie had vanilla, Annie had strawberry, and I had butter pecan. That didn’t quite make up for missing out on that Singer, but it would have to do.
After visiting a couple of little shops in downtown Shipshewana, including Yoder’s Department Store where I always like to shop for fabric, we decided it was time to head home. By then, of course, the girls announced that it was time for lunch so we took the back way and stopped at the Emma Cafe in Emma Town. This quaint little cafe is at the cross roads in the middle of the cornfields where they serve traditional Amish food, along with plain ol’ hot dogs and hamburgers, and it was, as usual, packed!
We ordered chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes, and finished up with peach and raspberry frozen yogurt. What a fun day for us girls! We’ll be heading back again in a couple of weeks as there is a little shop there where we always get the girls’ back packs for school. It was too early to start thinking about school today, but it won’t be long.
All along the road home we spotted Amish folks out working in their gardens and in the fields, on bicycles and in pony carts, and children playing catch in the shade of a big Maple tree. It’s a slower kind of life, that’s for sure!
It’s fun to have family traditions, and going to the Shipshewana Auction is one of our favorites. If you ever get the chance to come to Indiana, the auction is a great place to take your family.
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