Our family is among thousands of people who flock to Indiana’s Amish Country each year, but we don’t go to visit the Amish sights. We go to visit memories.
When we head out to Shipshewana to buy groceries at E&S Sales or Yoder’s Market, we seat Dad next to the driver and prepare to listen. Past and present merge as we drive along the back roads and into a quieter, simpler way of life.
Why don’t you come along with us this time?
This is the area where Dad grew up, on various farms between Middlebury, Bristol and Goshen during the 1930’s and 40’s. One farm was just outside Middlebury, where Das Dutchman Essenhaus now stands. We’ll start our tour there, after a filling meal at their breakfast buffet.
Let’s head east, toward Shipshewana. The route we’ll travel takes us through Middlebury, where my grandmother lived as a young girl, and down County Road 16. There are many Amish farms along this route, so we’ll drive slowly and give the buggies plenty of room as we pass by.
As we drive, watch for an Amish School or two.
Notice the difference in terrain as we cross the county line into LaGrange County. This is flat prairie land, and this is what drew my Plank ancestors to settle here. Clearing the trees took some work, of course, but since then generations of farmers have lived on this rich farm land.
After we finish our shopping in Shipshewana, we’ll wiggle southeast until we get to County Road 600 S and head toward Emma. Go ahead and return the wave of the Amishman in that buggy coming toward us.
We’re away from the normal tourist haunts now and deep in Amish Country. Roll down the windows and enjoy the sounds of the horse’s hooves on the gravel road and the scent of meadows and newly plowed fields in the spring sunshine.
Emma Lake is just ahead, but we won’t stop. It’s almost lunch time. We need to keep going for a few more miles. Tiffany’s Restaurant fills up quickly once noon comes!
Tiffany’s, as Dad says, is where the Amish go to eat. It’s on the outskirts of Topeka, originally called Hawpatch. You’ll still find Hawpatch Road angling northeast toward LaGrange, the county seat. Dad’s grandparents lived here when they were first married, so there are a lot of family memories here.
We’ll pull into a parking place over there by the building. We don’t want to crowd the horses at the hitching rail.
Their salad bar is my favorite for the noon meal. It’s hard to find better pickled beet eggs anywhere. But be sure to leave room for pie. Tiffany’s is famous among the locals for their delicious pies. I’ll have custard!
Our day is drawing to a close, so it’s time to head back toward Middlebury. We’ll go west until we cross the county line, and then north. We’ll see plenty of school children riding their bikes home this afternoon, and maybe a pony cart or two.
As we travel through this countryside, I feel close to my roots. My Plank ancestors settled in northern LaGrange County, the Yoders here in Eden Township in the southern part of the county, and the Shercks and Schrocks both settled in Elkhart County. I have distant relatives scattered all through this area – some Amish, some Mennonite, and some Brethren. Most of them I’ve never met, but there’s no mistaking who I belong to.
I’ve lived in a lot of different places, from Michigan to Texas to South Dakota, but this place, this pleasant prairie – this is home.
Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, their four adult children, two active dogs, and Maggie, the cat who thinks she’s a dog. If she isn’t sitting at her computer ruining – I mean living – the lives of her characters, she’s probably hiking in the Hills or the Badlands, enjoying the spectacular scenery.
Jan’s debut novel, The Prodigal Son Returns, was published by Love Inspired in May 2013, and her second novel, A Mother for His Children, was the winner of the 2013 TARA Contest in the Inspirational Category. It was released on August 5th. You can read Jan’s posts every Monday morning at the Yankee-Belle Cafe.
Purchase Jan’s books here.
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