The dust has now begun to settle along the rural country road outside of Seymour following a large trotting horse sale held late last week. Wayne County residents watched as hundreds arrived to attend this event from not only Iowa, but also seven other states, while the local Amish community is now left to pick up the pieces.
As we have all heard before, you should never judge a book by its cover; a similar sentiment comes to mind in this situation. Do not judge all based on the actions of one.
In an unprecedented move, bishops within the Amish Community in the Seymour area granted me the opportunity to meet with them to hear their side of this story in an effort to let the truth be known. As we are all aware, the truth too often can be misconstrued and tangled once it reaches the masses online and through social media.
“There’s been concerns on what this created beyond us, so yes there is definitely some concerns and I think most of us would say we would have been better off if it (the horse sale) never would have happened,” stated Bishop Levi Yoder. “We were surprised as anyone this auction was allowed to continue.”
“We are now getting calls from our community wondering how could this sale take place if we are not allowed to have church,” said Yoder. “We recognized the seriousness of this virus when they came out and told us we had to shut down our schools and church. That is when we learned if we have to shut our churches down it is probably pretty serious.”
The original sale date for the trotting horse sale was slated for March 18, however following the guidance from the Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds, all gatherings of 10 people or more were to be suspended at that time. Following the cancelation of the auction, new guidance was released from the Department of Agriculture in collaboration with Iowa Department of Public Health stating auctions could be held following protective measures.
With the new guidance, Ura Gingerich moved forward with the horse sale on the scheduled date of April 2. Even with the Wayne County Board of Health and Public Health strongly opposed to the sale moving forward, the laws set in place were not in their favor to have the sale canceled.
“We are not set over the law and the law was ok with this,” Yoder added. “We were not for the sale, but being a bishop doesn’t set us over the law to cancel it. I had no rights to go over the law. If it was our rules, we would have been able to do something about it.”
“I was asked to go speak to Ura at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon just before the sale to have it stopped,” Yoder continued. “We were told the Health Department couldn’t stop it and the law wouldn’t stop it. We were told the law was more or less supporting it. I felt if they didn’t stop it, I had no rights to stop it.”
“If they wouldn’t have told Ura it was possible to have the sale, he never would have had it,” Yoder also stated. “The equipment could have been stored and the horse sale didn’t have to be then.”
By Wednesday afternoon, with concerns growing and attempts still being made to get the sale postponed, several horses consigned for the sale as well as those traveling from other states had already arrived into the Seymour area.
In an earlier meeting with members from the Wayne County Board of Health and Shelley Bickel, Wayne County Public Health Administrator, it was stated the sale would have 65 horses and approximately 100 people as Gingerich was unsure how to estimate numbers based on not knowing how many telephone calls had been made to spread by word of mouth. The bishops were unaware of consigned horses being added to the auction making the numbers go well over 100 horses being sold.
The bishops were also unaware of 1,600 sale fliers being printed and distributed to states as far away as New York, Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and more. While it was stated they knew fliers were printed having received one in the mail themselves, at the time they were unaware how many had been sent out.
“I know it was on his voicemail when you called him, about the date of the sale also," said Yoder.
The bishops also stated phone calls were also received as others beyond the State of Iowa received their fliers asking how this sale was able to happen and take place.
“Ura is part of our brotherhood and we cannot condemn him, but as far as us thinking it was alright and we supported it, we all knew it never should have happened,” said Yoder. “Ura has stated he never dreamed this would reach the news like it did and if he would have known, he never would have held it. He just figured with the support of the governor and the county with the law, it would be ok to continue.”
“He figured out it was not cool,” he added. “He even told his wife the night before the sale if he had known before what he knew at that moment the sale would not take place. He regrets it. The part that was not in his control was who chose to come from the other states, but what he did have control of was sending the fliers out.”
At the end of the day, the trotting horse sale did take place and the numbers of attendance were much larger than anyone anticipated. The common goal at this point is to move forward in our lives.
“If we could do something to fix this we would,” stated Yoder. “We sincerely apologize.”
“It was so backwards for the auction to take place when we cannot even have church,” he added. “We respect our law, but we want to put an apology out there. We don’t want to blame, but we apologize for what happened. We are trying to respect the laws with our schools and our churches.”
It was stated there are a few schools open within their communities however it is with one teacher working with students that may need slightly more help learning and they are keeping less than 10 in the schoolhouse. All other students are doing home schooling at this point.
“We have not had one church sermon since the first horse sale was stopped,” Yoder added.
Bishop Andy King was in agreement with Yoder on these statements.
“We would much prefer to live peacefully. Our belief and rule is to go forth and carry out and abide by a peaceful living. Whatever we need to do to keep that is our goal.”