While here in Ohio, I had one specific thing I wanted to do in addition to dropping Older Daughter at her school: visit Lehman's.
Lehman's, as you no doubt know, is an enormous retailer of non-electric goods. It began as a service to the local Amish population and its popularity has expanded in the last twenty years. We've been customers since the late 90s (we ordered a wonderful set of Lincoln Logs for the girls when they were very young, for example) and I've always wanted to see the store.
So when I learned Older Daughter's school is only about a 90 minute drive from Kidron, the store's location, I actually delayed my return home for a day for the express purpose of visiting. In fact, I was looking forward to it so much I jokingly called it my Pilgrimage to Lehman's.
I was anxious to see rural Ohio since so far I wasn't impressed with the urban areas I'd seen. (To be fair, I'm seldom impressed with any urban areas. I'm a country girl.) I couldn't see much of the terrain on the major highways since they were hemmed in by trees, so it wasn't until I got onto the rural two-lane roads that things started looking up.
In fact, it was spectacularly beautiful. Coming from the drought-stricken west where temperatures had climbed over 100F during the weekend, the cool rain was welcome and I couldn't get over how green green green everything was. (Sadly for the farmers, however, I understand the rain is adversely impacting the corn crop.)
Ohio, I learned, isn't really big on road signs. Every crossroad is a tiny town with a name, but the names are seldom visible, so I blundered around a lot before I finally saw the sign for Kidron Road.
This is truly Amish country -- supposedly there are more Amish here than in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania -- and indications were everywhere. It should be noted many "English" are not above cashing in on the Amish reputation for quality products. I had no way of knowing which stores were actually run by Amish versus English.
At last my destination hove into view. It was crowded with tourists, but both the store and its parking were spacious.
I walked into the enormous building, and all I can say is...wow. Just wow.
The store is divvied into categories. I started by walking through the stoves area.
On the floor they had the models which were for sale, along with every possible accoutrement (stove pipes, cleaning brushes, etc.) to go with them. Since this area required detailed knowledge of installing stoves and other heating devices, there was a counter with specialized sales people to help customers. I overheard some of the conversations and yes, the sales people knew what they were talking about.
Ranged in niches on the walls above the room, there were numerous antique stoves on display. The only pity is they weren't accessible at floor level for people to admire. It was every bit as good as a museum.
The whole store was like that -- museum-quality antiques were on display everywhere.
Here's our Baker's Choice model cookstove, the one we have in our house waiting to be installed.
I wandered into another area of the store and found myself in a darkened room with wood carvings on display around the walls. "Wood carvings" hardly do these works of art justice -- they were astoundingly detailed and in three dimensions. Numerous signs indicated photography was permitted, so I took advantage of that.
Having had a woodcraft business for twenty-three years, I was lost in admiration for these pieces and spent a happy twenty minutes examining them. Here are photos of a few of them, but understand a photo can't do them justice:
Remember, these are not flat relief-style carvings -- these are actually in three dimensions (which is what a photo can't convey). They were more like wooden sculptures. Amazing, just amazing.
At last I pulled myself away from the carvings and went to explore the rest of the store.
The Lighting Department was particularly attractive.
I got thiiiis close to buying this hanging lamp -- the price was right and I've always had a thing for hanging lamps -- and the only thing that deterred me was knowing I couldn't pack it in my suitcase for the trip home without it breaking.
In the coffee and tea section, I was amused by this sign.
It seems Lehman's is quite taken with Lord of the Rings -- I heard snippets from the movie score playing over the store's sound system a few times, and they had a line of tea packaged specifically for fans. I bypassed Gandalf the Gray tea (since none of us like Earl Gray) but purchased a box of Bilbo Baggins Breakfast Blend for Older Daughter (sadly, I didn't take a photo of the box because it was charming).
Needless to say, the Toy Department was wonderful. I've always enjoyed toy stores that aren't enamored of the plastic trendy junk.
I didn't realize this, but apparently Lehman's had a horrific flash flood in 2011 that devastated the store. After having witnessed some of the rainfall this part of the country can get, this doesn't surprise me. In several spots around the store, the water line was marked.
They also had a wall of newspaper and magazine publicity from over the years, including the flood.
These are closeups of the newspaper photos depicting the cleanup. Holy cow, what a mess.
A pretty lamp display:
Needless to say, I lingered a long time in the book department. I didn't buy anything because I wouldn't be able to shlep it home easily, but in fact I was gratified by how many of the titles we already owned.
Another example of Lehman's status as a quasi-museum: a wall full of antique miniature sewing machines. Lovely.
So what did I purchase at the store? Besides tea for Older Daughter, Younger Daughter requested a bonnet (I found a sunbonnet) and Don requested a hat (I purchased an Amish men's straw hat). Ironically the one thing I wanted for myself was a curved butter paddle and -- wouldn't you know? -- the store was out of stock.
They had two left in the warehouse, so I purchased the paddle and they agreed to ship it from the warehouse at no cost.
I left the store deeply satisfied. What a wonderful place.
Then a funny thing happened. I was sitting in the car with the windows open, looking at a map, when I heard a rapid clip-clop-clip-clop coming down the road. An Amish buggy. I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car, but the driver was already out of sight. I was disappointed, for some reason thinking I'd missed my only opportunity to photograph a genuine Amish buggy.
But the driver turned around and came back down the road a few minutes later, and this time I was ready.
I know I was gaping like a tourist -- well okay, I am a tourist -- but I've never seen a real Amish buggy before. It was beautiful.
I wasn't in a rush to get back to the hotel room -- Older Daughter wasn't expecting me until 6 pm or so -- so I avoided the highways and instead meandered back toward the hotel via back roads and smaller routes. I saw many buggies and wagons along the way. It was something else to see the Amish just going about their ordinary business. On smaller byways, they used the roads.
On busier thoroughfares, they used the shoulders, which were clearly made wide to accommodate wagons. I admired the calmness of the horses, who never shied even when semi-trucks roared right by them.
I saw what I thought was a child walking along the side of the road pulling a wagon, and managed to snap a photo. It wasn't until after I passed that I saw it wasn't a child but a grown woman, a dwarf. (I won't show the photo out of respect for the Amish preference not to have their faces shown.) It brought to mind what I'd heard about the Amish having a higher number of genetic abnormalities due to a relatively small population.
The drive back to the hotel was lovely. I snapped random photos as I could of pretty farms or homes.
One place had airplane hangers -- for crop dusting?
I positively drooled over this collection of barns.
As I left the lovely rural areas behind me and entered urban chaos once more, I had a thought about Ohio.
Granted I've seen just the merely sliver of the state, but it strikes me that even outside the urban areas, Ohio is very crowded. In Idaho, towns are separated by vast open spaces with maybe a house or two at wide intervals. In Ohio, every crossroad (almost literally) has a cluster of homes and stores dating back a century or two (many had signs indicating such-and-such township was established in 1810, or 1817, or whatever). Coming from the relatively recently-settled west, these places were venerable and beautiful.
But they're everywhere. Ohio has no unsettled locations. Massive highways criss-cross the slower rural regions, and large cities are speckled all over. It seems there are very few wilderness areas in the state where someone can be a long distance from anyone else. Or am I drawing the wrong conclusion?
One thing's for sure, I wouldn't mind spending more time exploring the state, but I won't have the chance since I'm flying home today. Still, I'm glad to see what small part of it I did.