The Amish have a special vulnerability, more so than other farmers. When night drapes its cape over the landscape, the darkness of an Amish farm is complete. Their only source of light is from lanterns or candles or the moon and stars. On a cloudy night, the darkness is deeper still. This puts the Amish at special risk for home intrusions and robbery. When this happens, and it does more often than in neighborhoods, the Amish have very little protection. Their religious beliefs prohibit the ownership of guns, and those who would prey on them know this.
Darkness has always been a cover for crime, but even in neighborhoods with street and porch lights and neighborhood watches, people tend to shutter in after dark. I can remember as a child how we loved the period of dusk. The fireflies would come out and we would run about catching them to put in glass jars to make a sort of blinking lantern. The grownups would come out on their porches and call greetings to each other.
But when dusk turned to dark, a stillness would settle over the neighborhood. Everyone would go inside, draw their drapes, and lock their doors. Before he went to bed, my father would walk through the house making sure that all was secure--and this was in a safe neighborhood.
Humans seem genetically programmed to fear the night. There are so many ancient tales of, not only highwaymen and other robbers, but also of ghosts, goblins, vampires, witches. It is also the time when cockroaches come out for their nightly foraging. We feel less safe in the dark.
I remember one time, when I was a child, I had stayed too long at a friend's house and had to walk home in the dark. I took a short cut through a parking lot. There were woods bordering the edge of the lot, and I knew that bad things lurked in the woods at night. So I walked across the middle of the lot. Suddenly I noticed the shadow of someone following me. There was my own shadow and the other shadow. I walked faster, but the second shadow kept pace. I broke into a run. The shadow ran, too. I could tell that whoever or whatever it was, it was about to pounce. In sheer terror, I whirled around to face the monster that was following me. But there was no one there. Then I realized--I was somehow casting a double shadow.
In retrospect, maybe I should have stayed close to the woods. When you are out in the open and all alone, that's when you can get sucked up into an alien spaceship, which also is more likely to happen at night.
I have to admit, I still fear the darkness of night. I was raised on a steady diet of stories of ghosts and goblins, of the highway man who "came riding, riding, riding, up to the old inn door." I was told that "Up in the mountain and down in the glen, we daren't go a hunting for fear of little men."
Still, there is much in the night to thrill the soul in other ways. The midnight sky becomes a canvas of the moon and stars, of the constellations and the milky way galaxy. There is the coziness of a hearth or camp fire or the soft glow of candlelight. There is a lover's caress. There are wintertime walks through the woods with snow falling softly all around you and lighting up the night while your small hand is tucked snugly into the warmth of your father's hand. Perhaps most special of all, when summer nights are softly furred by the heat of summer, there is the magic of the luna moth.