So here we are, leaving Milwaukee and heading North. As we have no clue about this land and what there is to see or visit, or where to stop, I decide to put my finger on the map (GPS) and spend the night there. The chosen place was somewhere in the green areas close to Black Creek, so we drive North from Appleton expecting a nice forest. It was about 6:30pm when we bought a watermelon for dinner and I was eagerly looking for a place to spend the night (with my only thought: can’t wait to cut that juicy watermelon open).
We avoid all the roads with a mailbox, and all the roads with “no trespassing” signs, and there it is, our perfect road. On the right side of the road, just before a farm house and a silo, cutting a narrow path between few lines of trees and shrubs into a corn field. We can’t go straight any further, as the road would open up to the farm, but we drive along the corn field for 100m just to find a wider spot, better hidden, right before a bigger mud pit (as we believed). And the way in was not that smooth, as Frank had to pass a couple of muddy spots. So here we are, nicely parked by the corn field: Lucy eating a sandwich inside the car, protected from the mosquitoes, and me, getting dirty with that watermelon – our night was just starting.
Can’t say I finished the first slice of watermelon, when this big red tractor approached slowly from the farm. There he is, the worried farmer, with gray hair and straw hat, and as I believed, a loaded gun by his side. Oh-oh! I greet the man, told him who we are and that we’re planning to sleep the night there. As this was the first time he faced this situation in his 70 years of life, he didn’t know how to handle it. He asked to see Lucy, as he believed I probably had her beaten, or tied up… Lucy comes out, confirms the story, but he is still confused about the situation. He takes a moment to think and invites us to sleep by his house, so he can see us. We agree to head over there only after finishing few more watermelon slices.
And this is how we meet Mary and Edward Gritt, waiting for us on the porch of their farm, maybe expecting us to flee after the discussion with Ed. We first find out they are a family of farmers, parents of 6 grown up kids, and grandparents of 14. Then we are told they are all hunting on they property, and they show us some pictures with deer and elk, and the slaughter room right in the basement. Ed was really enthusiast about his hunting passion and told us the history of the farm, and later we showed him pictures of Brno and then of Romania. It was past 9pm and we were all tired when they decided to host us in the hunting house they had in the forest, and to continue with the stories in the morning. We followed Ed to the hunting cabin and showed us around, enough to get settled and sleep.
The house is unbelievably well placed, as we found out in the morning: quite big, with a large meadow in front of it, really close to the forest and with all the amenities for disabled people. Not long after we woke up, Ed came to invite us for breakfast. His wife Mary, treated us with some delicious eggs, bacon and pancakes and then the stories continued. It was a pleasure listening to Ed, telling us about his lifetime work of planting trees around, growing the farm and helping the disabled people, organizing hunting parties for them, and dedicating his time now to the Amish community living in the vicinity.
After helping him in the barn with a little cleanup job, he drove us around his large property, somewhere around 100acres, and met some of his family. And like this was not enough, he offered to introduce us to the Amish community he’s been helping (driving them here and there, when necessary). We came in contact with the Amish for the first time, driving to their house while they had a birthday party. We observed plenty of children running around or riding bikes, and looking at us curiously, and a choir of people singing in the garden, loud enough to allow all the other conversations to flow uninterrupted. They were living by their own rules and they were happy. After all, ignorance is bliss. We found out more about their community from Ed, and maybe the most important thing: “hide the cameras! they don’t want to be in pictures”