Friday, September 28, 2007

Hoosier Daddy?

I have always been a wand'rer
Over land and sea
Yet a moonbeam on the water
Casts a spell o'er me
A vision fair I see
Again I seem to be
Back home again in Indiana,

--Ballard MacDonald and James Hanley

Sumac in full bloom
(I haven't seen Sumac since I was a child)
Taken 9/23/07 near Bloomington, Indiana

Leaving Priapus Pines, the Volvo turned east then north to catch US 50 at Xenia, Illinois. I have no idea why this particular small town rang a bell in my mind, but for some reason I was drawn to Xenia. Doing my best not to get lost in this town with three streets, I never quite figured out why the name seemed familiar.

Heading east on US 50, I crossed the Wabash and entered Indiana at Vincennes. If Illinois was mostly flat farmland, Indiana really felt (and looked) like suburbia. I’m sure there are plenty of farms across the state, but the routes I took seemed to be lined with houses, one after another.

Even though I had been seeing signs warning of horse drawn wagons ever since southern Iowa, I had yet to see any real Amish. That changed as I pulled into Bedford, Indiana. Two bearded men in a small buggy smiled at me as they headed in the other direction. I couldn’t say for sure that they were Amish, but they certainly had the look. I just wasn’t expecting them to smile. By the way, to date they are the only plain folk I have seen.

I left US 50 at Bedford and took Indiana state highways that led me through the Hoosier National Forest and across Monroe Lake, the main source of water for Bloomington, home of Indiana University. In keeping with my desire to avoid cities as much as possible, I passed through a bit of suburban Bloomington, and was back out in the country in no time. My goal for the night was Camp Buckwood, a gay men’s resort in central Indiana, located almost equidistant from Bloomington (to the west) and Indianapolis (to the north).

Lake Monroe Indiana
Taken 9/23/07 near Bloomington, Indiana

Before reaching Buckwood, I drove through Nashville then Bean Blossom. Nashville struck me as a community-wide tourist trap, similar to Jacksonville Oregon or Ferndale California, but on a grander scale. The architecture was certainly interesting, but there was so much artsy-fartsy hype every where I looked that I refused to stop and investigate things more closely. I’ve since been told that the town really is worth a visit, and that you can find good art amidst all the tourist kitch. I suppose I’ll have to go back sometime and see for myself.

Bean Blossom, on the other hand, is a wide spot in the road with a large opry house named for country music legend Bill Monroe. In fact, the highway passing between Nashville and Bean Blossom is the Bill Monroe Memorial Highway. Apparently the opry house has sold, and a big concern is whether it will keep Bill Monroe’s name.

Immediately after passing through Bean Blossom, I turned on the Spearsville Road. I had been given directions which indicated that I should follow the road for four miles to find the resort. All I can say is that is an awfully long four miles. Yes, my odometer agreed with the given directions, but it felt like a good ten or twelve miles on a regular road.

Upon checking in, I was given a set of instructions, or rules, governing conduct while at Camp Buckwood. The list had at least twenty items, and all of them were of the Thou Shalt Not variety. Damn, I was staying at gay resorts trying to get away from the fundamentalists. Eventually I found a campsite, and was able to get the tent up and the bed made before dark. Wandering around the circle of tents, I was welcomed by a handsome man visiting from Louisville, Kentucky. I’m not sure how long Michael had been at Camp Buckwood, and even he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d stay. I’d venture a guess, however, that he was going to spend at least a month camping in total. A retired English teacher who has lived most of his life in the Louisville area, Michael was a true southern gentleman, and immediately offered me both a chair by his campfire and my choice of mixing bourbon or sipping bourbon. I chose the sipping variety, and thus began what I think will be a long and close friendship. Other campers joined us at the fireside, and we talked into the night. One decision made was to drive into Morgantown for breakfast the next morning.

When I awoke, I found that Michael had been up for hours (and I thought I was an early riser). I also learned that Derrick and Lincoln were going to join us as well. Hmm, Michael’s car was even more heavily packed than mine. Oh well, just pull out the big stuff, throw everything else in the area behind the rear seats and we’ll all fit. In Morgantown, Michael directed us first to a family-style restaurant—the kind where the farmers all meet over coffee each morning. Once we were seated in the “smoking area” (What? They still allow smoking in restaurants? I thought my experience back in Minnesota was an anomaly.) The waitress immediately came to our table with a large glass of orange juice for Michael, and a smile and menus for the rest of us. It seems Michael is practically a regular at this particular restaurant. I noted that Michael had directed us to the table under the sign “Grumpy Old Men.”

Portions were large, and the orange juice was considered part of the breakfast. I finally pushed my plate away telling myself that I don’t care how many children are starving in Ethiopia. I don’t have to clean my plate. Actually, in some respects I am lucky in that regard. Mother never threatened me with starving children. The warning I got was that the only way to have a clear day “tomorrow” was to clean up my plate today. Yes, it was still a guilt trip, but one that eventually you realize you can live with. After all, maybe it’s a way of doing something about the weather, instead of just talking about it.

Back at the campground, I grabbed the laptop and headed for the pool—one of the few places where electricity was available. Yep, that’s right. Let’s have electricity available where there’s lots of water. I was able (barely) to catch up with some e-mail, but the glare on the screen was so bad that I feared I was going to ruin my eyes. There was just no way I could work with my photographs in this setting.

Air temperature was in the 90s, and I found myself putting a towel over the computer and climbing into the pool every few minutes. Eventually I gave up on the computer altogether, and packed it back into the car. What’s the use in fighting the elements. The pool was cool and refreshing, and much more interesting than anything that could possibly be discerned through the glare of my screen.

Real, Honest-to-God, Indiana Farmland
Taken 9/25/07 off Indiana Highway 44

This being Monday, there were only a few “campers” left at the resort, and two of them were day-trippers—arriving in the morning and leaving in time to return home before evening. Most of these men were Camp Buckwood regulars, and quickly let me know that the no-no rules were really there to be broken, and were honored more in the breach than taken terribly seriously. I was able to relax and enjoy myself after all.

I’d like to be able to talk more about the resort, but frankly there’s a lot there I just didn’t see. Tuesday morning the sky was threatening, and as I packed up, I ended up throwing things into the car in an attempt to get the tent down and safe while it was still dry. As I closed the tailgate, the rain began. It followed me the rest of the way across Indiana and into Ohio.

Leaving Buckwood (which, by the way, the resort owners spell as Camp BUCKwood), I drove north to catch Indiana Highway 44, which I then followed on east and out of the state. I had become used to seeing signs for United Methodist Churches every few miles, but in Franklin, Indiana, I passed the Franklin United Methodist Community. The web tells me that this is a retirement home, which is what I had assumed, but I’d never heard of any such thing before—at least not referred to as a “community.”

I had lunch at Don and Dona’s Restaurant and Bar. Don and/or Dona apparently is in some fight with the local authorities, and there were various petitions to sign and news articles to read. Not being a local, and not likely to ever find my way back to this particular establishment, I ignored it all, and set up my laptop on the table while waiting for lunch. Meanwhile it continued to rain, at times hard, and people ducked into doorways as they made their way down the street.

From Franklin, I passed through Shelbyville, Rushville, Connersville, and eventually Liberty—each the seat of their respective counties. In keeping with my penchant for photographing government buildings, I took shots of the respective courthouses as I passed through town, stopping finally in Liberty, the seat of Union County, and the last town in Indiana on route 44.

Union County (Indiana) Court House
Double click on image to view full screen and see the carvings
Taken 9/25/07 in Liberty, Indiana

The Union County Court House was an attractive stone building with some amazingly carved details. It also had two cannon at the front corners of the square, memorializing the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)—the Union forces in the War Between the States. As I circled the building, capturing another United Methodist Church in the process, I noticed a young man grooming the Court House lawns. At the back of the building, he approached me and asked, “Taking pictures?” I fought down the urge to be snide, and told him “Yep.” He asked if I were “from these parts,” and I allowed as how I was from Montana. That got him going. He wondered what Montana was like? Did we have a lot of trees? What was hunting like? He liked to hunt, and would really like to hunt elk and bear in a place like Montana. But just as I was having trouble adjusting to the deciduous forests in the Midwest, I couldn’t make him understand what a coniferous forest was like.

Then the conversation took a turn that had me depressed for the rest of the day. I’m going to share it with you. Why should I be depressed all by myself? Two weeks previously, this young man had enlisted in the Marine Corps, and was waiting to be sent to Missouri for basic training. Now don’t get me wrong, I think service to country is an admirable thing. It’s just that at this present time and place, I feel that enlisting in any branch of the military is most likely a one-way ticket to Iraq or Afghanistan. I did not share my concerns with the young man, however. He wants to be part of the Special Forces, “They’re the best.” I asked if I could take his picture and asked him to stand by one of the GAR cannon. I showed him the picture on the camera’s viewscreen, and he responded “that’s ok.” I left him to his work, climbed back in the Volvo, and headed for the Ohio line. I’m still depressed when I think of him and all our young people being sent to fight a senseless, and seemingly endless, war.

Cannon Fodder
Taken 9/25/07 in Liberty, Indiana

I don’t have an answer for this particular Pottery Barn war we’ve gotten ourselves into. I fear that any immediate withdrawal will mean the certain destruction of Iraq as that country gives in to its own particular demons. But I hate the thought of us being there for the rest of my lifetime, as I fear will be the case. I want my country back—without the ignorance and hubris, a most dangerous combination.

By the way, Hoosier refers to a person from Indiana. There are many suggested etymologies for the word, but no one seems to know for sure what exactly the word means. Most versions seem to suggest that the term was at first derogatory and has been taken over as a term of pride. People from Montana are Montanans. People from Oregon are Oregonians. People from New York are New Yorkers, but people from Indiana are Hoosiers. Go figure.

1 comment:

Bear said...

LOVE the stone court house. BUCKwood, huh? Okay, they can call it anything they like.