The pleasure and perils of driving in Amish country

Red barn white house by Bruce Stambaugh
A typical scene in Ohio's Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Driving in Amish Country is usually pleasurable and relaxing until the unexpected happens. A couple of recent experiences served as reminders of both the dangers and the benefits of traversing the winding, hilly highways in Holmes County.

A friend of mine, Glenda, and I recently each experienced amazingly similar situations only days apart. We each came away from our separate but comparable incidents feeling bathed in the beauty of humanity’s best behavior.

Glenda was on her way to her office when she came upon a buggy accident only seconds after it had happened. The buggy was crumpled, the horse lay injured in the roadway, and a young Amish woman was seriously hurt.

Glenda said everything happened in a whirl. Someone called 911 while she tended to Katie, the injured buggy passenger. Others came to settle the horse, releasing it from the tangled wreckage, getting it to a safe place and calling a vet.

The ambulance arrived, and transported Katie to the hospital. Glenda continued on the way to her office, wondering how the young girl would be.

Open buggy by Bruce Stambaugh
The Amish enjoy riding in their open buggies on pleasant days.

The following Sunday evening it was my turn. A friend had just arrived at our home for a visit when we heard a muffled crunch, followed by curdling screams of despair. We rushed to the front of our home to watch a horse bolt away, harnesses wildly whipping along the pavement.

A young Amish woman was slumped on the ground in front of a damaged buggy. Blood gushed from her forehead. John, our visitor, was a registered nurse and rushed to the girl’s aid. My wife retrieved towels from the house to help control the girl’s bleeding, and I called 911 on my cell phone.

Neighbors who had also heard the girl’s cries came running from every direction to help. Some brought blankets. Others lit flares to warn approaching traffic of danger on the other side of the hill. John continued to control the bleeding, and reassured the girl, whose name was Ellen.

A wave of bicycles all ridden by young Amish girls glided over the hillcrest. They had been with Ellen at a gathering, and retraced their path when they recognized her runaway horse. They came to see what had happened to their friend.

A few minutes later a pickup rolled up and out jumped Ellen’s parents and siblings. Someone had told them about the accident and they arrived to console their daughter. In addition, a passerby had corralled the horse and taken it to a neighboring farm. All this and the ambulance had yet to arrive.

Fortunately, Ellen was alert and with the bleeding stopped, she became more coherent and said the horse simply spooked. Unlike the accident Glenda happened upon, no other vehicle was involved.

Once the rescue squad arrived, treated and transported Ellen, the scene quieted dramatically. Our neighbors offered a flat trailer to haul away the damaged buggy. It was loaded and transported home. In a few minutes, the pickup returned the borrowed trailer.

The scene soon cleared after that, and we returned to visiting with John as if nothing had happened. Yet much had.

In both trauma situations, good citizens arrived to do what they could. What could have been very tragic instead turned humanitarian spontaneously.

As these two examples reveal, the beauty of driving in Amish Country isn’t always found in the scenery. The compassion of its citizens can outshine any pastoral vista.

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