Heat fact of life for the Amish

Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:55 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA- At an Amish residence on a dirt road off Highway Y, about 30 miles north of Columbia, a hot day is no reason to change routine.

On a Tuesday afternoon, several generations of family members sit in the front yard. It’s not a family reunion or an emergency but a gathering of relatives helping on a building project.

A woman and her daughter-in-law shuck corn in the front yard while five or six children wander around the porch and the adjacent yard. An infant in a white bonnet crawls around the porch above, darting between the wooden porch rails and taking advantage of a pile of fresh green beans sitting on the porch next to her. She awkwardly stuffs a handful into her mouth.

The main action is happening in the back of the house, where a group of men — carpentry belts wrapped around their waists — wind down the 100-plus-degree day. They lay shingles on the roof of an addition to the house to store harvested crops. A few of the men pause on the roof to eat fresh watermelon out of a plastic bucket.

It was about 4:30 p.m. Columbia time, 3:30 p.m. Amish. The Amish, at least in this particular community, don’t practice daylight saving time. Each community selects its own guidelines for its way of life.

The project, like all of Amish life, involves no electric power, meaning there neither fans nor air-conditioning.

But the heat didn’t seem to change this Amish community’s habits too much. Men worked in the fields with their horses, plowing the dirt. Samuel Yoder and his cousin Elmer Yoder, furniture workers who have a workshop just off Highway Y, seem somewhat perplexed by questions about how they deal with the heat.

“A lot of you people couldn’t make it,” Samuel Yoder said.

Both Samuel and Elmer wore homemade clothes: long-sleeved, solid-color shirts and heavy blue jeans held up by suspenders. This is the typical male wardrobe in this Amish community. Their sleeves are rolled up. Sweat shows through Samuel’s shirt. He has just been to town to buy groceries. Women wear full-length dresses of a plain, fairly thick material.

With a shrug, Samuel echoed what other Amish say about dealing with the heat: drink more water and move slower.

Part of the Yoders’ summer routine involves taking a break from the heat in their farm pond before dinner.

“We go swimming just about every night,” Samuel Yoder said. Elmer Yoder nods, adding that the Amish are good swimmers.

The heat really becomes a drag when the Amish go to bed. Some use ice-cream lids as fans. Others sleep outside on screen porches, where a slight breeze can flow through. It’s just life as usual.

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