In 1978 I was asked by a former classmate from Rockway Mennonite High School, Dr. Paul Tiessen, to illustrate a manuscript by an Old Order Amish Farmer, Andy Herrfort. Although I did not know Andy, I had seen this thin small man many times as I prowled through the rural areas which are home to the horse-powered Mennonite and Amish groups. I was intrigued and went to meet Andy at his small farmhouse on a blind line west of Milverton.
A bachelor, Andy lived with his sister and spent much of his time with “experiments” as he grafted trees and bushes. He certainly was not a dedicated farmer who took care of his property. When not absorbed with his projects he would roam around the country attending sales and other agricultural gatherings. On one visit he asked me how much I had paid for my watch. When I said that I could not remember as it was one that I had worn for a number of years, he said, “That would be $300.” It turned out that on a visit to Stratford, he killed time by looking in store windows. Interestingly he wore no watch. He didn’t even carry a pocket watch.
Their house was unchanged from the day it was constructed. This dark house had no electricity, no plumbing, unpainted walls and crude barn-like floors. Andy pointed out, almost proudly, that the furniture was also unstained. This unsophisticated interior was a matter of principle. There was no decoration of any sort. Decoration was not only unnecessary but also showed pride. I immediately thought of my mother’s statement that some of the proudest hearts beat under the plainest coats. Andrew was indeed proud of his humility.
Andrew died May 11/10 in the Stratford hospital, aged 88. He was predeceased by his sister, Katie. Andy was certainly a one-off and will be missed by those who value the road less taken.
Mennonite Country, Waterloo County Drawings by Peter Etril Snyder, Text by A.K. Herrfort, Foreword and Introduction by Paul Tiessen, Sand Hills Books, Inc., St. Jacobs, Ontario, 1978
A Painter’s Harvest: Published in 1986, Hardcover 170 Pages.
A New Harvest: Published 1996, Hardcover 170 Pages.
The Painted Horse: Published 2001, Hardcover 105 Pages.
Painting Canada: Published 2003, Hardcover 143 Pages.
Winterberries and Apple Blossoms written by Nan Fowler with illustrations by Peter Etril Snyder