Amma! Ammo! Amish! – A tale of an epic journey

Written By

Vijaya Lakshmi

Ammo! Amma! Amish Loading

Early morning on a late winter day I set out from Chicago to New York, a nice long drive to rev up the soul; bonus, I get to see my favorite niece and nephew at the end of it.  A couple of hours away from NY, I was cruising at a comfortable speed and was too lazy to make a stop for gas. After all there a plenty of gas stations. Man o man, what was I thinking?

Fast forward an hour, sudden night fall and the needle on my fuel gauge dropping dangerously low. No big deal,  my trusty GPS indicated a gas station just a few miles ahead. Exit highway in one hundred meters; turn right onto South Mead road, in two hundred meters take left; and, bam! My car stalled as if it was frightened to move forward, I frantically stepped on the gas and phew! It continued to move but it wasn’t the car at all, the road was like the road not taken in Robert frost’s poem but rougher and certainly sinister. Dark, tree-lined, flanked with eerie dim houses, where a single candle flickered in the window while shadowy figures peered out from behind the curtains and suddenly there was a distinct clip-clop of hooves.

I wasn’t sure if my heart was racing or if it stopped. Where am I? Is this a dream that I will wake up from and laugh at myself for being terrified? I pinched myself and yelped at the sharp pain; no, I wasn’t dreaming, this was real! What then was this place?  Sleepy Hollow? And, the horse? Was that a blood thirsty headless ghost-rider on the horse looking for a head to claim as his own? I frantically looked out of the car window searching the narrow road for something, anything however there was nothing but the dark road. I took a deep breath, invoked my guardian angels, turned around slowly and squinted into the darkness and screamed silently.

Behind me was a single horse-drawn carriage, black as soot (Come on now! Obviously everything appears black on a moon-less night). My sweat slick hands were gripping the steering wheel hard to keep it steady as I felt the car shake as if the earth below it was crumbling, no wait, that’s just me shivering. Ok, ok, calm down! The horse carriage moved along steadily but a car is way faster than a horse, isn’t it? Sure, if the engine didn’t die, whispered a small voice.

I sneaked another quick glance at the horse carriage, turned back and glared at my over- priced GPS. Where is the gas station? You promised that it was just around the corner? Oh, why didn’t I fill up gas at that station 30kms back?

I tried to floor the pedal, but couldn’t pull away from the horse carriage. Muttering every prayer I knew including the long forgotten ones I learned as a kid in school and throwing quick glances to make sure that the horse carriage wasn’t getting too close. I drove through the winding roads blindly taking every turn the GPS suggested and then suddenly I was there! Thank God! I saw the dim lights of a tiny gas station, pulled up to the pump and noticed with relief that the carriage continued down the road.

I walked into the gas station which was bathed in the dim light of a low watt bulb that flickered intermittently and stopped short and almost took a step back when I saw a person there. Dressed all in black, with bushy eye brows and hair that was tied back under a white lace hat and ringlet side burns, she looked like someone from a 1960’s horror movie. That dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach came back and as I stood there staring like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car I heard a chirpy voice from behind the counter say, “Well, hello! How are you today? What can I help you with?” I turned to find the sweetest looking teenager and I stammered, “Where am I? What is this place?” She smiled sweetly and said that I was in an Amish village where people live simple lives without a lot of modern facilities including electricity.

Oh my sweet Lord, I could have hugged her! Feeling a little foolish and a lot relieved I paid for gas and a sandwich and followed my trusted GPS instructions back to the highway.

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