Or consider the issue of how propane should be supplied in a home—piping or small tanks. Some felt if propane were piped throughout the home, it would be too easy to have a light in every room, so family members would be more likely to read in their own bedrooms and spend less time together in the evening. I was reminded of a mainstream woman I once knew who traced the breakup of her family to when her husband brought home a television for each kid’s bedroom. Piping was ultimately allowed because of fire concerns about propane tanks in the home.
Or another: a member wanted to purchase a round baler for hay, which enables a farmer to do hay solo. But some in the community felt that the team approach to hay is an important part of neighborliness and keeping community bonds strong. Eventually they allowed the baler, but only one farmer uses it.
And there are other places where I’m surprised to find technology in the conversation. Tricia says a photographer shot a story at the Montana Amish school where their eldest son teaches. “You can see it on the Internet,” she says. The community has not officially discussed Internet use.
I try to think of the most out-there technological dilemma I know of. “I read that people who have had a child die are the most ardent activists pushing for the cloning of humans—what do you think of that?” I ask.
Bill looks to the ceiling. He pauses for a while. “You see, what am I even able to do with that information?” he says. “I have no way to influence that. It does not affect my life. There is a passage in the Bible that says, ‘do not be overly concerned with rumors of war.’ And it implies do not be overly concerned with distant issues that you cannot change. Like global warming. I can send money to some far off group in Washington, and who knows if it will have any impact, or I can reduce my carbon footprint right here.”
I ask Bill to tell me of a moment when it came to him that the couple made the right decision, when it all felt really good. Maybe not a big high profile moment, but one of those subtle, passing moments of everydayness when the realization struck.
“When we first moved to Cadillac, we had bought this place, but we had to fix up the house before we could move in, so we were renting two miles away. Our shop was here, and our hay was here, but our animals were at the rental place. It was a chore, bringing the hay to the house by horse all the time.
"And one night," he continues, "when the work day was done, we were going home with some hay, and it was zero degrees, and the boys were snuggled in for warmth, I remember saying to the boys, you could be living in Novi or Livonia and driving to a mall or a drugstore, but instead you are driving down this road, and you have a purpose for doing it. Not just a hobby or an event or recreation, but a purpose that is actually part of your life. Do you know how lucky you are for that?”
Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. [email protected]
For over 30 years the staff at Traverse Magazine has written about the history and natural world of our region. For the web series, Traverse Classics, we've reached into our archives to bring our favorites to our MyNorth.com audience.