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Amish show their neighbors how it's done

An ice storm was a disaster for thousands in Kentucky who lost power.

February 15, 2009|roger alford | Alford writes for the Associated Press.

MAYFIELD, KY. — When the wind died down and the ice storm had passed, Joe Stutzman gathered his spare lanterns and stepped out of his Amish farmhouse to lend them to his modern-living neighbors.

"I feel sorry for my neighbors who were used to electricity and all of a sudden didn't have it," Stutzman said. "I know that must be hard for them."

Hundreds of thousands of people in Kentucky have been without electricity for their lights, furnaces, ovens and refrigerators since the killer storm hit more than two weeks ago, and some spots might not get power back for weeks.

But Kentucky's Amish have been living that way all their lives. And when disaster struck, they generously lent a hand to their non-Amish neighbors and showed them how it's done.

"Those folks are very good at sustaining themselves," said Master Sgt. Paul Mouilleseaux, a National Guard spokesman.

The Stutzman family and the roughly 8,500 other Amish in the state were essentially unaffected by the storm that knocked out power to more than 1.3 million customers last week, about half of them in Kentucky.

Stutzman, his wife and their seven children were secure in their toasty two-story home amid corn and soybean fields and swampy stands of cypress in western Kentucky.

"We paid it no attention," Stutzman said Tuesday, relaxing in a handmade rocker as a wood stove across the room radiated heat on a windy morning with temperatures in the low 20s.

He grabbed a log, taken from a big pile out back, threw it on the fire and lit a kerosene lamp. The cellar was stocked with canned goods, the milk cow safe in the barn. Stutzman's wife and two of their daughters used the wood-fired oven in the kitchen to do their baking.

Stutzman, a sturdy 40-year-old with a traditional Amish beard and a black-brimmed hat, said he wouldn't have even known the storm was coming if one of his neighbors hadn't told him the forecast. He is a member of the Old Order Amish, a sect that shuns modern conveniences such as radios and televisions.

James and Beverly Hutchins, a non-Amish couple who sheltered nine relatives in their home, said they don't know what they would have done without the Amish family across the road from them, not far from the Stutzmans.

The neighbors brought over hot coffee every morning during the week the power was out ("Best coffee I ever drank," said James Hutchins), provided well water, cooked a meal for them, lent them a kerosene lantern and fixed the one lantern the Hutchinses had.

"Best neighbors we've ever had, and we've been around a few places," said Hutchins, 76.

Beverly Hutchins said she told the Amish family that she would turn her porch light on when the power came back on as a signal so they would know they didn't need to bring over coffee. That finally happened Feb. 3.

Mayfield Mayor Arthur Byrn said many in his town of about 10,000 would be living without modern conveniences for some time. Nearly half the town and most of the outlying areas remained without power, though utility crews were working around the clock to repair transmission lines.

In the meantime, many residents will depend on the kindness of neighbors whose way of life they probably appreciate a little more now.

The Hutchinses said their week without electricity gave them a glimpse into how their neighbors live.

"I said I didn't know how they could do it," Beverly Hutchins said.


Associated Press writers Bruce Schreiner in Wingo, Ky., and Jeffrey McMurray in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this report.

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