During Thanksgiving week, my husband and I drove to Colorado to research the Amish communities there before I begin work on the eighth book in my Whinburg Township Amish series, The Highest Mountain. Let me tell you about the second part of our journey to learn about this wonderful community set in some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen (after spending six years in Alberta, Canada, I’m partial to ranch country).
As we drove out of Westcliffe it was getting dark, so we overnighted in Salida, to the north, and the next day travelled down the west side of the Sangre de Christo mountain range. Here, in the San Luis Valley, we drove to the Amish district slightly south of Monte Vista, where there are two fairly large churches, and one smaller one.
We visited the Sunshine Country Grocery Store, known affectionately as the “dented grocery,” because it sells discount groceries and bulk items that may have slight faults, but nothing that would make the goods unfit to eat. It also sells stationery, mixes and packaged foods of all kinds, and hand-woven rugs made by the women in the family who run the store. (Since there was one made in exactly the colors of my bathroom, of course I bought it!)
There I talked with Karen, who told me that while the buggies may not have a standard “Colorado look” to them, there is one thing that does—a woman’s Kapp, or prayer covering. These have the standard Midwestern construction “from the smaller districts,” Karen said, “but with a few differences. For instance, they’re pleated in the back.” The women either make their own, or, like Karen, busy wives and mothers often buy them from a woman in the valley who specializes in making them for others. Karen allowed me to photograph her Kapp.
I asked her how, since the communities here were remote, the Youngie found marriage partners. This brought a smile. From only 11 young people when the Amish community was first settled here in 2002 to 30–40 now, there are plenty of possibilities for courting! Some meet their future spouse here in Colorado. Some find him or her during home visits. The Amish families here can go back to their home communities as often as a couple of times a year because there is good train service back and forth. And some find a partner when young people come for the summer to work … and just never leave. Mostly, as the Amish believe, God directs a young person to the one they are to spend their life with.
The two valleys, San Luis and the Wet Mountain, are some of the most beautiful country I have ever travelled through. There is a lot of tourist traffic in the summer, and the Amish enjoy talking with people about a place it’s clear they love. They’ve even prepared a brochure, “Amish Businesses of the San Luis Valley, Colorado,” to make it easier for people to find the fourteen Amish businesses in the valley. I can’t wait to go back—but for now, it will have to be in the pages of my books!
My latest release is The Longest Road, book seven in the Whinburg Township Amish series, available at your favorite online retailer. Watch for the next book, The Highest Mountain, featuring the Colorado Amish in summer 2017!