Indiana


21
Apr 21

Just … why?

Woke up to this site this morning.

It gets better.

And if I double-check the calendar …

Yep, April 21st. We’re all fools.

It melted off by afternoon and, hey, it’ll help make things greener. Which would be a nice thing to see at this date in the year.

At least the heartier wild flowers are making an appearance.

These were covered in snow just a few hours ago.

If you stay there long enough, and it is quiet enough, and you are still and listen enough, it’s obvious they are as bemused as we are.

Next week it’ll be … who knows what it’ll be.


15
Apr 21

Let’s go back in time

I had a fine meeting with a lovely gentleman yesterday. And that meeting has somehow carried over into this afternoon. But at least the company is nice. And there a few emails and my computer froze in a way that took some doing to remedy and, finally and importantly, I had to write a letter of recommendation for a star student. And if nothing else today was good I hope that letter was.

And then I went into the television studio and watch the sports folks put together two nice little shows and then sat back and watched the seniors run things and wondered, not for the first time, why we let them graduate just as they are really coming into their own.

There are always leaders, of course. And there are always people willing to take useful information from them and they all have agency and they work together, but if you get to see people grow in those important years, you really see some visions come together. It is, I think, the confluence of knowing what they want to do next and understanding how to do it. It’s the transition from commodity to normal good, the maturation from student to professional.

And that’s when we send them out into the world. Why can’t we keep them two or three more years? The things we could accomplish if they all enrolled in grad school.

Let’s look back to this same date, 106 years ago. Clear your calendar, you’ll be here for a few minutes.

I was going to pick a different year, but this story was a big part of why I went with 1915. This child had ambition, argumentation and no problem giving dad the slip.

I enjoy the earnestness of the story, and the eloquence of the child.

“I have been wading in the dusty road and have had a dood time,” he said. And his shoes looked it.

Dood time is probably a typesetting error rather than a phrase of the day, and I’m sorry I’ve ruined that for you. Anyway, H.R. Barrow only shows up a few times in the paper beyond the performance of his professional duties. He gets bought out in 1917. A month or two earlier he rolled his horse-drawn hearse after a service. Maybe that’s why he left the business. The new guys, local boys done good, advertised motorized ambulances. And in the fall of 1915, just when Mr. Barrow’s friends were tiring of hearing about Jack’s wandering adventures, the roof of their house caught on fire.

What’s with that kid?

No word on whatever became of Jack as he experienced the roaring twenties as a teen and so on. We’re thinking he had a dood time, though. We must always think this of young, adventurous, Jack. Young, adventurous — and have we ruled out pyromaniac? — Jack.

Also on the front page, the Dixie Highway plans:

You don’t often hear about this, by name, anymore. The road was going to stretch from the south side of Chicago to Miami. Then Michigan got added, within a week. The designers wanted to serve as many towns as possible, so there’s an eastern route and a western route. Some of these roads are still in service today. Some parallel the modern U.S. Highway 31, or run near the I-65 corridor or the old Federal Highway, U.S. Route 1. In Kentucky it’s still called the Dixie Highway. And the part of it that runs through this part of the world is something you endure to reach Indianapolis.

On the inside of the paper there is more on these new fangled things, highways:

You have to remember that Eisenhower’s famed (and brutal) coast-to-coast journey was still four years in the future. This is very cutting edge stuff, these highways.

It would be another century, December 2015, before the first interstate finally opened here, however. Take that as a statement for whatever it is worth.

This is front page news, and if you can’t see it, then you’re not ready for community journalism in any era.

Lauron and Rosa had five children, including Henry. At least three of them lived and died here. Henry passed in 1949.

Also on the front page:

A quick search doesn’t give game-by-game results from the early part of the 20th century, but the team went 2-7 that year, so it’s a safe bet they might not have one both of those games. Which is a shame, because the team might have been bad, but they looked great.

How do you lose games when you’ve got swag like that?

Now here’s a term you don’t hear anymore:

Blind tigers, or blind pigs, are carnival-style promotions. “Come in and see the blind tiger!” By which the person meant, “I’m giving away free hooch.” You assume there was a donation somewhere, or you paid handsomely for a bar stool or a bad sandwich or something.

Indiana went dry in 1918, two years ahead of the 18th Amendment kicking in. So maybe the local area was dry. Maybe it was just bootlegging for the sake of bootlegging.

Hurst, I learned from a later edition of the paper, was …

a son of Mack Hurst the man who blew up the house on the corner of Seventh and Morton streets with dynamite, killing himself and daughter. Young Hurst has made the same threat against his wife for disclosing his guilt of the blind tiger charge.

Bootlegging couldn’t have been that good to him. He couldn’t afford a lawyer! Nevertheless, he’s threatening to blow people up. Real pride of Indiana, that guy.

Meanwhile, part of an ad on page two. Countless men!

And 1.4 million tires. How is it that they have the units sold, but not the customers? Let’s do the basic math here. If everyone bought a complete set, that’s 369,970 customers. Of course it wasn’t four-apiece. Remember, the roads and the highways and byways still left something to be desired. There were a lot of flats is what I’m saying. It could be that we are talking 1.4 million customers. Which is still not … countless.

But “countless” sounds good, especially when it’s right next to a number.

Norine Dodds was, I believe, a teacher. I’m not sure what became of her.

And I want you to notice that they just bought a volleyball. The net, you imagine, they had to save up for, special. Or maybe they made their own. But, in another example of how their time was similar to ours, but not ours, the sport of volleyball had only been around for about 20 years. Basketball, just four years older, was thought by some businessmen and older YMCA members to be too vigorous. One mustn’t work up a sweat. So a man named William Morgan designed the game to be a combination of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball. And here, when the young ladies at the local high school put their pennies together to obtain a ball, the game was still in its relative infancy. The rules weren’t uniformly formalized for another 14 years. Someone in the Philippines, while Nodds was writing this little blurb, was developing the spike.

Sorta makes you wonder how these kids went around with their new volleyball, and what they wound up doing with it.

Wanda Mottier was the daughter of David Mottier, who ran the botany program at IU for about 40 years. He’d also done his undergraduate work here and is regarded as one of the first people to advocate for preserving the woodland campus aesthetic.

If that’s true it was an excellent choice on his part. I submit as evidence these four photographs I took just outside of our building during a seven-minute break between tasks.

Mottier was on the faculty until the late 1930s.

Maybe somewhere in these woods there’s a tree he knew.

Maybe somewhere out there we could find leaves and shade we owe to him.

Also, this same paper notes that tomorrow, April 16th (albeit in 1915) was Arbor Day. The paper demanded that you plant a tree. We mark Arbor Day this year on April 30th.

Anyway, his daughter, Wanda, would later marry a doctor and they later retired from Indianapolis to Florida in the early 1960s. She passed away down there and is buried up here.

I found her Florida home on Google Maps. Nice, humble little post-war subdivision. Three beds, two baths, built in 1958, meaning they built it or moved in soon after. Plenty of room in the backyard to pass around a volleyball. There’s a giant oak tree out front today. The tree has a wonderful looking tire swing on it.

In my mind Wanda planted that tree and thought of her dad whenever she looked out the two picture windows of her home.


14
Apr 21

To put the sun at your back and the wind in your face

It was a lovely afternoon for a bike ride. I did not dawdle, and so we set out for an hour, with the slightest chill in the shade and the perfect amount of warmth in the sun.

It could be that the wind whisked it all away. Wind is the thing that demands the most of us. It’s a cycling thing — some 30 percent of your energy, says the almost-science/sorta-old-wives-tale, is devoted to overcoming wind resistance. It’s also a regional thing. Nothing moves the seasons here like the wind. And today things were moving.

So was she. I looked down and looked up, that’s all it took, and she’d put that gap in between us. My lovely wife is up there, powering her way through some ridiculous gear. If you peer into the picture you can just make her out, small dots in the middle-distance. Sometimes you can’t blink and she’ll be gone. When she does that I have to use all the tricks I know to pull my way back up.

I can never tell her all the tricks or she’ll be up the road and it’ll just be me back here with my shadow.

Or, if you prefer the video version …

That might have actually been on the same road. This one was a different road.

Shows I should show you, include this show, which I told you about last night. There’s a comedienne interview in here, among some other fun stuff.

And you can get all of the news and then some right here.

And this, which I neglected from Monday … I don’t know what you do at a distillery, it’s not my scene, but doing it in the morning seems like a tough assignment.

I have a full day tomorrow, and an even more full day on Friday, if that’s possible, so we’ll leave it here for now. If you have some more time to kill right now, however, there’s always more on Twitter and check me out on Instagram, too.


22
Mar 21

And how will this week be any different?

I took this photo on Saturday evening, to sorta prove a point about one of my favorite aspects of this area. It’s 8:10 p.m., and this is looking south-southwest. Because we’re in the Eastern Time Zone, but so far west relative to most of that region, we get long spring and summer days like this.

In a few months it’ll still be bright enough outside to read at about 9:30 p.m. And that’s the nice thing about living 50 miles from the far border of the clocking changing.

It’s one of the best features about the place.

And spring finally showed up this weekend. Fake spring, anyway. We’ve still got another cold snap or two coming our way. Always verify your meteorological impressions, friends, that’s the lesson revisited upon a great many of us this time of year. Anyway, sunny skies and slightly warmer weather — it was in the 50s — meant I put my bike on roads for the first time this year.

First time in 99 days, in fact. December 11th was unnaturally warm, about 62 degrees, so we did some time trialing.

My first ride last year was March 8. So, in the outdoor sense, I am behind. But, because of the smart trainer my lovely bride gave me for Christmas and birthday this year, I was 676 miles ahead of last year’s curve before putting my helmet on. No pictures from the actual ride. I have a tradition of not taking any shots on the first one, because I feel I should concentrate complete. And I have a further tradition of not taking photos while wearing that vest. It has no back pocket, meaning I’d have to wrestle my way under the gilet, to get to the shirt pockets, and who wants to do that, when you can get a kiss at the end of your ride, anyway?

It felt like a nice mid-season ride. I passed seven other bicyclists. Sure, some of them were children, and none of them knew we were racing as such, but these issues are hardly my problem.

Strange sensation, having a tiny little bit of form to start the year. Let’s see how long before I mess that up.

We went on a spontaneous 16-mile ride this evening, because the weather was practically perfect. I think it made us even go a little faster.

The cats are doing great! Except when they are misbehaving. Phoebe, who is almost always a good girl — and we tell her this so as to try to coax her brother into being less of a troublemaker — is seen here being a bad girl.

She knows she’s not supposed to be on this ledge, and she’s just doing it for spite.

Poseidon is doing this for comfort. He’s on one pillow, and under another pillow. It was a challenging day for him.

Something caught their attention outside simultaneously, and I just happened to be in the right spot.

It’s unnerving when they’re both doing the same random thing, except for the times when they’re being cute about it.


3
Dec 20

The week with bad titles, part four

This area is rich in limestone. The campus is full of local stuff. Courthouses around the state feature stone that was ripped from the ground around here. The stone was the necessary ingredient for the move Breaking Away‘s subtext.

We watched Breaking Away when we moved up here. The Yankee had never read it. It’s still a fine film, and I wonder how townies feel about it. It still holds up, even if the locals would tell you there are some geographical problems. And I’m older now. Growing up it was a movie aimed at me, the child. Today I’m much, much closer to the dad’s age than the young kids who really make up the movie. The dad’s big speech, which probably raced right by me each time I saw it as a kid, really sank in differently that last time we watched it.

And it’s popular far and wide. Indiana’s limestone is what you see at the Empire State Building. The U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Archives, the Department of Justice, Wilson Center, the EPA, NOAA, the Department of Commerce and more, they all came from here. Federal courthouses, churches, college campuses across the country, tons of them feature Indiana limestone.

At the height of the industry, the state sent 14.5 million cubic feet of dimension stone to all of those projects, most of it coming from this region. It has certain attributes that make it both aesthetically pleasing and professionally easy to work with. Even today, those cutters quarry 2.7 million cubic feet of Indiana Limestone each year, and it generates about $26 million annually in revenue.

And it all started right here, or, rather just a few miles up the road. The first real digging of limestone in Indiana is the subject of this installment of my old and forgotten, and now remembered and almost completed historical marker project. I’m showing off all those beautiful painted signs in the county. I rode to all of them on my bicycle. This particular one is the second-furthest away from the house, in fact, so enjoy. Click on the image to see this particular entry.

The marker itself, which you can see by clicking over via the image above, is a bit removed from the location it celebrates. You can’t, in fact, see the old quarry (it failed in the 1860s) by road, or even from the bird’s eye view of Google Maps. But there’s some more local history sitting in the center of the park in that sleepy, small town, population 200. (Stinesville was laid out 28 years after the quarry began, which was when the rail line showed up. The post office arrived five years after that.) The bonus photo you’ll find in the post is of a locally important bell. It came from a church established in 1894, just 67 years after that first quarry was dug. The community saved the bell in 1995, and I bet there’s a story behind that which the web isn’t telling us, and it was put in that park in 2005. So it’s been there 15 years now. I wonder where it was for the 10 years it was being saved.

Oh, here it is, in a local historical newsletter, from 2006. It seems the church building has had several lives. First it was a congregation for Lutherans, and then it became known as the First Christian Church. It was badly damaged in a 1964 storm, though, and a few years later the church was sold to a private individual. All the contents were auctioned, including the bell. And then in 1995 the bell was going to go on the market again, but the community preserved it. Later, the church building, not made of limestone, was repaired, renovated and is now a private residence. Happy ending. And, in the summer of 2015, the last time the Google car came through, it needed a fresh coat of paint. I believe it’s had one since then, and now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ll check on it when I’m out that way again. But the lawn was well-kept! So, like all of us, it’s in progress.

If you’d like to see two county’s worth of historical signs and the places they’re highlighting, go to the main page.