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Amish Gone Wild

June 25, 2008 - Cindy Votruba
After watching the results of “Hell’s Kitchen” last night (yea Petrozza and Christina!), I decided to watch the ABC Primetime program called “The Outsiders.” This week’s show followed the lives of four Amish teenagers as they go through “rumspringa,” a rite of passage where they learn about the “modern world” and then decide if they want to be baptized into the Amish way of life forever or choose to leave their home and family.

I first learned about the Amish in a book by Lois Lenski called “Shoofly Girl.” Granted I was in elementary school when I read the book, but I found it very interesting to learn about a group of people who kind of lived like the pioneers. No phones, no radio, no cameras, no cars. The women wore long dresses and bonnets. The men had beards, black hats and wore long pants and a white shirt.

I also watched a movie called “The Devil’s Playground,” which is a documentary about teens going through rumspringa. It’s been a couple or so years since I’ve seen the movie, so I don’t remember it much. One of the comments posted on the ABC Primetime Website about last night’s “The Outsiders” said that he or she wished ABC had done its research, adding that a majority of the teens return to the Amish after their year of freedom and that “The Devil’s Playground” was much more understanding to what teens go through during rumspringa.

The teens featured in Tuesday night’s show seemed to know what they wanted out of life, except for the runaway, Danny. He jumped out of his family’s second-floor window at midnight to escape with Harley, a 19-year-old Amish who left his family with just $21. Danny got into trouble after a few incidents of vandalism, including the torching of a buggy, led back to him. He served 30 days in jail.

On the other hand, Nelson, despite the fact that he has his buggy pimped out with subwoofers and speakers blasting AC/DC as his horse trotted down the road, seemed to realize he’s not much different from past generations of Amish. To me, he seemed the only one who had a good head on his shoulders. Toward the end, Nelson wanted to remain with the Amish because he wanted to be close to his family, and hopefully meet a nice girl. Just one thing, he’ll have to give up his modern “toys.”

Lena was also another teen featured in the program. She’s the youngest of 11 children and lives with her widowed mother. She cleans houses by day and by night, Lena sheds her long dress and bonnet with her jeans and t-shirt underneath and parties with her boyfriend. Lena also plans on getting her GED. Harley wants to go to school for computers. As for Danny, who knows what will happen to him. His family was still willing to accept him back if he apologized for his vandalous actions.


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