Wed, Aug 4, 2004
Greenwood Amish man explores the 'City'
By Matt Conn
The vast majority of Amish won't be found roving around Los Angeles.
But that's where central Wisconsin resident Mose is, running around on the beach, something he could never do in Greenwood.
One of five Amish on the controversial UPN "reality" show "Amish in the City," Mose left his Old Order lifestyle in Greenwood to join six other young people - from such anti-Greenwoods as L.A., Las Vegas, Boston and Hollywood.
But before his television debut, Mose was just another patron at the Greenwood Public Library, said Director Pat Braun.
"They're very friendly people, and you get to know them and their families," Braun said. "They're big library users."
Back in central Wisconsin, Old Order Amish leaders say that rumspringa, a Pennsylvania Dutch word for running around, is more to experience being with other young people in the community and perhaps singing songs after church. Usually starting at about 17, rumspringa ends with marriage.
Ruth Irene Garrett, 30, recalled a harsher rumspringa: a time with young people but a continued adherence to church structure. Garrett, who left her Amish community eight years ago, has published several books about the experience and spoke recently at stops in Neillsville and Marshfield during a book tour.
"Rumspringa doesn't always mean going into the world and exploring the world," she said. "Most Amish don't do that."
Central Wisconsin Amish can vary greatly from their less conservative counterparts. Amish communities each set their own rules, Garrett said.
But the Amish on UPN exhibit unusually modern behaviors, such as language and an outgoing demeanor. Garrett surmises that these Amish have been outside the community for some time, not necessarily fresh to modern lifestyles.
"They've left. It would be kind of like myself," she said. "I still believe they've been out for quite some time. A lot of young people left the Amish. I don't believe they have the intention to go back. What they've done is put on their Amish clothes and gone to the city."
Garrett said she still has her own Amish clothes - and she's never been to L.A.
"It would be like me, like if they've been out five or six years. Of course, a lot of experiences are new," she said. "Yes, they are legitimate former Amish; that's not a question. But it's just the fact they've been out a while and put their Amish clothes on."
Some of the Amish on the television show have retained their accent, said Garrett, who added that one of them, Randy, obviously hasn't been out long,
"The rest of the kids in that house had an awful time with him cleaning up after himself," she said. "That's a typical man in the Amish community. Women do all the housework. All the cleaning. They cook and when the men have eaten, they clean the dishes."
Many young people will return to their Amish communities - if they even left. The wayward souls aren't discussed among the community, but individual families reel from the loss, Garrett said.
Free will remains, but rumspringa ends with the idea: Go back, or go to hell.
"The main reason is the fear of going to hell," Garrett said. "Growing up your whole life, you're taught that you've been born this way and you should die this way. It took me several years to get over that feeling, it's so ingrained and so embedded in your mind."