Many people know Indiana as one of those states they drive through on their way to someplace else. This indistinct distinction is the source of the state's euphemistic nickname, "Crossroads of America," which now appears on some Indiana license plates. Actually, since it became a state in 1816, this state in the heart of the Midwest has contributed more to American culture than most people realize. For starters, it is home to three of the country's leading universities: the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, and Indiana University (NOT the University of Indiana). Indiana also has produced several famous entertainers--including Cole Porter, James Dean, John Mellencamp, Michael Jackson, Carole Lombard and Shelley Long--and inspired two sports movies known all across the country: "Hoosiers," the story of a real small-town basketball team that won the state championship, and "Breaking Away," a movie about Indiana University's Little 500 bicycle race. The state also is the home of the Indianapolis 500 auto race and, of course, Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team.
Lisa and I both were born in Indiana and spent the first 25 years of our lives here. Lisa grew up in Fort Wayne, and I grew up in Indianapolis. We met at Indiana University, a wonderful place to study and fall in love, and were married in Fort Wayne in 1989.
Ever since moving to North Carolina in 1992, we have returned to our home state of Indiana at least once a year, spending time with our families, visiting our favorite old haunts, and exploring some new places. This year, we discovered a new reason to come home: free, responsible, and fantastically eager babysitters. Since Essie was born in January, her grandparents in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis had spent only a few days with her, and her parents had spent every day with her. We all seized the opportunity to trade places from time to time. On the evening of the Fourth of July, for example, Lisa's parents watched Essie while Lisa and I went to Fort Wayne's Memorial Stadium, where we enjoyed fireworks, an air show featuring barnstormers and parachutists, and a wonderful Fort Wayne Philharmonic concert of American music by Aaron Copland, John Philip Sousa, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, James Weldon Johnson, and others. Having spent the last several weeks in 95- and 100-degree heat in North Carolina, we also enjoyed the weather, which actually turned chilly after the sun went down. Best of all, Lisa and I relaxed and enjoyed each other's company.
Later, my parents did the babysitting while Lisa and I spent an afternoon at one of our favorite places on earth: Bloomington, Indiana. Anyone--with the exception of those poor, confused souls who wind up attending Purdue--could easily fall in love with IU, where students from every state and 133 foreign countries come to study in music, psychology, biology, finance, theater and drama, and 50 other programs ranked among the 10 or 20 best in the nation. They study and relax on a beautiful, wooded 1800-acre campus and attend sporting events such as the famous Little 500 bicycle race. They eat, shop, read, watch movies, hear music, or just sit and think in the gorgeous Indiana Memorial Union, the largest college union in the world. For us, IU is even more special. Between 1985 and 1989, we were those students--two of them, anyway--and we did all of those things and more. We attended classes in Woodburn Hall, where gigantic murals adorn the walls in one of the lecture halls. We watched student plays, including a musical in which one of our friends appeared. I worked for the Indiana Daily Student, one of the best student newspapers in the country, and we both studied English with some distinguished scholars. As resident assistants at Read residence hall, we met scores of students and made many friends. In 1987, we celebrated with hundreds of other students at Showalter Fountain after IU won the NCAA basketball tournament. Best of all, we met and fell in love. When we returned to Bloomington for the first time in five years, we fell in love with it and with each other all over again. We had lunch at our favorite Bloomington restaurant, the Uptown Cafe, and strolled down Kirkwood Avenue, where we used to shop. We visited the Arboretum, where I wrote a poem for Lisa, and the Union, where we went on one of our first dates. While revisiting Read, we mentioned to a student we encountered there that we had met at IU, and he immediately asked me for advice on his love life. I told Lisa later that he probably looked at her and thought, "Man, this guy knows how to find a beautiful woman!"
We had other adventures, as well. In Indianapolis, my mom and I visited the Eiteljorg Museum, which is known for its extensive collection of Western and Native American art. As a fan of Frederic Remington's Western sculptures and paintings, I enjoyed seeing his sculpture The Cheyenne (1901) and his painting Baffled Chiefs Leaving the Fort (1897). We also saw works by Charles M. Russell, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and other Americans who made a reputation as artists of Western landscapes and peoples, largely by selling their works to Eastern magazines such as Scribner's Monthly. I especially liked Bierstadt's picturesque Indian Encampment at Sunset (1872) and Alfred Jacob Hubler's Trapper's Bride (1847), which reminded me of Vardis Fisher novel I read last year. Perhaps the most unusual and interesting item on display, however, is a 1919 letter that Russell wrote to a friend; amidst the words on the pages, Russell sketched and painted two tiny Western scenes of horses and men, each intricately drawn. After leaving the Western Art Gallery, we visited several galleries featuring Native American art and craft items, including beautiful beadwork, soapstone carvings, an Aleut cape made of sea lion intestine, and a cleverly designed chess set featuring American soldiers on one side and Native Americans on the other.
Also in Indianapolis, my parents joined Lisa, Essie, and me at a Revolutionary War re-enactment. Lisa and I had seen a Civil War re-enactment in Charleston, but this was our first chance to see a demonstration of the American Revolution, which interests me even more than the Civil War. We interviewed a surgeon in the Continental camp, where we learned about bleeding and various medicines, and chatted for a long time with a colonial soldier, who happened to be one of my dad's co-workers in his real life. He showed us several items that Revolutionary soldiers carried, such as a musket and bayonet, and told us a fascinating story about George Rogers Clark's military exploits in Indiana. Finally, there was the mock battle itself, a re-enactment of a battle fought on Long Island. I knew that the warfare of the eighteenth century was quite different from that of today, but I still learned something from watching this demonstration, in which elaborately--and warmly--dressed soldiers on each side boldly advanced on each other in lines, then stopped and fired their muskets, usually without even trying to find cover. When they needed to retreat, they simply turned their backs and walked back in the direction they came, and the opposing army did not fire at them. At one point, some of the British troops had managed to sneak up behind the colonial soldiers, forcing them to fight in both directions. The colonists simply fired at the troops on one side, then turned 180 degrees and fired at the troops on the other side. When they were fighting in one direction, they apparently didn't have to worry about being shot from the other direction. The smoke and boom of the muskets and cannons added to the realism. While a few anomalies--an Indian with a tan line, an overheard comment from a colonial soldier that he didn't drive five hours to die in the first five minutes, and a peculiar command from the British leader, "Casulaties, up!"--forced us to work a little harder to suspend our disbelief, we found the whole experience a lot of fun.
In Fort Wayne, I visited the Lincoln Museum to see a temporary exhibit on the Lincoln Highway, the nation's first transcontinental highway. A fascinating collection of maps, photographs, videotapes, and other items, the exhibit interested me even more than I thought it would, particularly because it was so full of surprises. I learned, for example, that the Lincoln Highway was not so much a construction project as a public relations campaign. In 1912, representatives from the car industry, tire companies, and other businesses that stood to gain from automobile travel formed the Lincoln Highway Association. Realizing that Americans would be more likely to buy and use cars if they had better roads on which to drive them, members of the association sponsored a survey that identified already-exisiting roads that could link New York to San Francisco. Some of these "roads" were mere gravel or even dirt trails, including paths that had once been part of Pony Express routes and the Oregon Trail. Nevertheless, the association promoted these connected roads--which passed through Philadelphia, Fort Wayne, Omaha, and dozens of other cities and towns--as the "Lincoln Highway." With the hope of encouraging local government entities to improve these roads, some of which turned into muddy morasses after rain or snow, the association also built mile-long stretches of concrete roadways as models. Inspired by the "new" highway--which was promoted through pennants, signs, cigar boxes, even a Lincoln Highway board game manufactured by Parker Brothers--many Americans set out in cars to explore their country. Because of the unreliability of their cars and the roads, however, a trip by automobile was more of an adventure than it is today. A contemporary manual encouraged auto travelers to pack extra headlights, a gallon of motor oil, tire chains, even a shovel to cope with muddy roadways. Until motels began to appear, many travelers on the Lincoln Highway camped along the way. Indeed, the exhibit explained that early auto travelers saw themselves as pioneers akin to those who had set out on the Oregon Trail some 70 years earlier.
On our way back home to North Carolina, we stopped in Madison, Indiana, and visited Hanover College, a liberal arts school of about 1,000 students. In the few hours we spent on it, the Hanover campus quickly became one of our favorites among the dozens we have seen. In fact, I told Lisa that it looks like the type of campus I would design if I could. After following a winding, tree-lined approach that must have stretched for more than half a mile, we came upon a gorgeous mixture of tall trees, grassy areas, and Georgian-style buildings with red-brick walls and white trim. The architects and designers obviously had made a deliberate effort to bring a classy look to everything they did. Even the three-year-old gymnasium featured huge palladian windows and a bright, open foyer, in addition to its utilitarian basketball courts and weight rooms. Standing in front of the college president's house, we enjoyed a majestic view of the Ohio River, which runs along the south edge of the campus. If not for the smoke stacks of a nearby power plant, the spectacular panorama would have rivaled the view from George Washington's Mount Vernon. When we finished visiting the campus, we spent a couple of hours at nearby Clifty Falls State Park, where we had lunch and enjoyed more great views of the river, as well as impressive Clifty Falls, a waterfall on an Ohio tributary.
In addition to all of these excursions, we had a great time just spending time with our families and seeing them interact with our new daughter.
We visited Fort Wayne mainly to attend the Henry-Degitz family reunion, knowing that most, if not all, of my brothers and sisters would make the effort of being there, too. That way, Mark and I could see everybody in my family at the reunion, and then spend time with individual families as our schedule allowed. Fortunately, we were able to see a lot of my brothers and sisters outside of the reunion celebration. We saw Mom and Dad first, on the afternoon we drove into town. There we also saw my sister, Jess, who lives with Mom and Dad, and my brother Karl who is staying with them. We all had supper together, a meal of pot roast and Yorkshire pudding which I thought was great, but Dad found it a little dry. Mark pointed out that next time DAD makes pot roast, it will probably be perfect.
Then we dashed off to see my niece Lindsay play her last game of T-ball at Lawton Park. Chris and Carolyn were there with Allison and Sam, their 3-month old boy to watch Lindsay play. She did well: she got a good hit, scored a run, and fielded a ground ball in left field. The game and season ended with the team cheer, "We Love T-Ball Forever, Even If We Quit!"
We spent the night at Chris and Carolyn's home, where we would stay throughout our visit. We moved into the guest room to discover that Carolyn, my sister-in-law, had prepared the room beautifully, with a dozen peach roses, a basket of fruit and chocolates, a photo album that recorded Chris's and my childhood, and a gift -- a book of Mary Cassatt's paintings showing the different portraits of motherhood. I read the book to Lindsay and Allison, who were delighted and confused by the Cassatt painting "Baby Reaching for an Apple," in which a mother carries her babe au natural through an orchard. The girls puzzled, argued, and truly agonized over why anyone would take a baby out picking apples straight from the bath. I left it up to them to decide the mother's motivation.
The next day Mark spent the morning and much of the afternoon swimming with the girls in Chris and Carolyn's pond, as well as touring the barns, playhouse, gazebo, and miniature amusement park that make up the Henry compound. I, on the other hand, began bonding with Sam. They can have their merry-go-round, llama barn, raft, and gazebo...I was content to look at Sam's beautiful face, slate eyes, and huge, glossy, face-splitting grin. Before our visit to Fort Wayne ended, we were sold on Sam and ready to smuggle him back to North Carolina. Of course, Carolyn would have noticed him missing right away -- and he couldn't have fit in the car anyway. It was filled floorboard to dome light with baby bathtubs, clothes, hampers, strollers, bouncers, exer-circles, and every make of layette I could imagine.
All of these goods were thanks to my brother Chris and, again, his fabulous wife, Carolyn, for throwing Mark and me a baby shower. As if their hospitality weren't enough, Carolyn put on a shower that amazed everyone. Cucumber sandwiches, artichoke salad, shrimp cocktail, vegetable pastries, crab dip, croissants, roasted pecans, fruit salad, and one of the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen kicked off an afternoon of my sisters and sisters-in-law offering me their advice, maternity clothes, and lots of brand-new items that the new baby will need.
I hope I have just a little of the energy that Carolyn has to keep and care for a 7-acre farm, 5-bedroom house, and 3 young children with the skill and grace she does and still buy flowers and gifts for guests and prepare a table full of fabulous food for a baby shower.
The following day was reunion day, which started with breakfast at Chris and Carolyn's, followed by Mass at the reunion, lunch, and then reunion festivities. I visited with the few siblings that I had not seen either at the Green Frog pub, the baby shower, or at Mom and Dad's. One of the difficulties of coming from such a large family is making time to visit every brother and sister adequately. The number of siblings combined with their own children who are now practically adults makes having anything more than a brief chit-chat nearly impossible. I hardly spoke to my brothers Jerry, Tom, and Mart at the reunion, and had only brief talks with Erik, Matt, and Louie during our visit. I wonder if it's not only a matter of too little time, but maybe too much distance. Living so far away from them separates me from my family's concerns, interests, troubles, joys, and everything else that makes up life.
While in Fort Wayne, I went on several field trips with Lisa's dad, Jerry Henry. Like me, Jerry has extraordinary sightseeing stamina, and together we tramped all over northern Indiana. In South Bend, for example, I saw the University of Notre Dame for the first time. In addition to admiring the famous gold dome and the gorgeous campus, we stepped inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Knute Rockne Memorial, college bookstore, even a residence hall. One of my favorite spots is the grotto, where Jerry lighted a candle for the baby Lisa and I are expecting. While in South Bend, we also visited the campus of St. Mary of the Woods, where Jerry showed me a remarkable church, striking in both its modernity and beauty. Finally, we stopped at a restaurant called Tippecanoe Place, located in the house where the Studebakers lived while the famous automobile was manufactured in South Bend. Later in the week, we visited the Auburn-Cord-Duesenburg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, and saw scores of classic cars manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s.
While staying at Chris and Carolyn's home, Lisa went on a brief excursion together. On our way back from the nearby rural town of Leo, where we had breakfast one morning, we stopped to visit the Spencerville Covered Bridge, built in 1873.
Beautiful weather, a couple of field trips, and time with family and friends made for a great four days in and around my hometown of Indianapolis. On the first full day, Lisa and I joined my parents for a day trip down to Spring Mill State Park near Mitchell, Indiana. There, after a picnic lunch, a visit to a cave, and a hike along a creek, we visited the highlight of the park: a Pioneer village from the early 19th century, when the location of a grist mill and saw mill in the area made for a prosperous community. Today, this village, which is made up of buildings originally located and other from nearby locations, is extrodinary not only for its appealing appearance, but for its historical interest. In addition to the attractive mill and street wall--both constructed of stone--and colorful garden, Lisa and I saw several features we had not seen at any of the many other pioneer buildings and villages we had visited. The first couple of houses we visited, for example, featured 'dog trots,' breezeways useful for packing wagons. Another house, one that belonged to the owner of the mill, was extraordinary for its design. Constructed of logs that had been carefully sawed to be straight instead of rough-hewn logs, this house looked much more modern than most log houses. The inside was even more modern. Instead of one or two large, open areas, like the ones we have seen in other early pioneer cabins, this house contains more than a half-dozen rooms arranged in quadrants on two separate floors, as well as a detached summer kitchen. Finally, one of the strangest sights in the village is the nursery. Following the sign and not sure whether we were going to see a building designed for nurturing plants or people, my mom and I discovered a half-circle of tiny chairs and had our answer. This early version of preschool must have been one of the first of its kind in the Indiana wilderness in the early 19th century. A bed and china cabinet in the adjoining room suggested to us that the teacher lived there.
The following day, we visited our friends Chris and Angie Prince, who had a party that day because of the Brickyard 400 stock car race in town. In addition to seeing Chris, whom I've known since we went to Mary Castle Elemetary School together, I had the extra treat of seeing his parents, Terry and Margaret, and his brother, Richie, who used to play baseball with us back in the days of ghost runners and pitcher's hand. We also visited with some other old friends, Steve and Deb Lawrence, who still live in Indianapolis.
Like many people, I didn't see much of my home state until I left it. Now, whenever I return to Indiana, where I lived the first 25 years of my life, I appreciate it more and try to take in as much of it as possible. One place I have wanted to visit for some time is New Harmony, the site of two extraordinary settlements in the early 19th century. In 1814, George Papp led about 800 German Lutheran separatists from Pennsylvania to this area alongside the Wabash River, just a few miles north of the Ohio River, to wait for the Second Coming of Christ. The founded the city of Harmonie, where they built several houses, a granary, a church, a tavern, a brewery, and other buildings. For the next decade the city thrived as the Harmonists, who abstained from hard liquor, sold beer and whiskey, along with tools and clothing, to people thousands of miles away in America and 10 foreign countries. Despite their commercial success, the settlers abandoned Harmonie in 1824 and founded a new city near Pittsburgh. In Walker's Guide to New Harmony's History, Janet R. Walker writes: "After ten years on the Wabash, Harmonie was almost complete and very productive, but Christ had not returned, the west had not grown as expected, and few disciples had immigrated from Germany. Father Rapp still did not have the large markets that he wanted. Also, he may have believed his flock was more dedicated and pure while challenged by the harder labor of building a town" (2).
In 1825, a Scot named Robert Owen purchased Harmonie, and another type of settlement was soon under way. This time the focus was not the peculiar combination of economics and religion, but the equally peculiar combination of economics and scholarship. "Owen envisioned a center for educational and social equality," Walker explains. "He believed character was environmentally determined and with such perfect environment as he would create with his new communal social order, all society would be perfect" (2). Later, the successful geologist William Maclure and other scholars took part in Owen's venture. By 1827, however, the grand project dissolved. A librarian I met at New Harmony's Workingman's Institute suggested that the intellectuals who congregated here perhaps were not cut out for the isolation of the Indiana wilderness or the physical labor required to make New Harmony succeed and that Owen's son Robert Dale Owen, who became the community's leader after his father left in 1827, lacked the leadership qualities of his father. Even though they abandoned the socialist experiment and reverted to capitalism, many residents remained in New Harmony and continued their intellectual work, particularly in geology.
Lisa and I came to New Harmony as tourists interested in exploring the history of these settlements. In our self-guided bicycle tour through the town, we saw the Harmonist Cemetery, where the people of the first community buried their dead alongside Indian Burial Mounds, but used no tombstones because they believed in equality in both life and death. As a result, the cemetery, which is enclosed by a brick wall, simply looks like a small park. We also saw some of the Harmonists' houses, which they left unpainted because they expected Christ's appearance within 10 years. From the era of Owen's New Harmony, we saw the Workingman's Institute, which Maclure founded as a means for laborers to develop their intellects.
New Harmony is more than a relic, though. Indeed, what impressed us even more than the settlements of 170 years ago was the community as we experienced it in 1997. As soon as we arrived and checked into our hotel, we were struck by the beauty and peace of the place. Our room at the New Harmony Inn contained hardwood floors, a four-poster fed, and a balcony overlooking a nearby pond. As the sun was setting, we took a walk around the grounds and discovered that they are designed for spiritual retreats. Visitors can feel inspiration in the physical features such as a small waterfall and wooded trails, as well as a tiny chapel and plaques featuring inspirational words from Ludwig von Beethoven and Henry David Thoreau. For people who need a little more structure, there is the Roofless Church, a large, enclosed area where visitors can reflect in corner grottoes or on benches overlooking a beautiful field. The next morning I went for a jog and took in many of these peaceful sites, as well as much of the town and the nearby Wabash River.
were in town visiting, my parents took us to the Indiana State Museum, which
neither Lisa nor I had visited in a long time. Lisa spent a lot of time
at an exhibit on wedding gowns throughout history and at another exhibit
called "American Mourning," which features quotations from Edgar
Allan Poe and others. We also enjoyed exhibits on wildlife in Indiana 200
years ago, Indiana during the Civil War, and Indiana athletics, as well
as a walk through reconstructed stores of the 19th century.
My favorite exhibit was a temporary one on baseball's Negro Leagues. Through photographs of teams and stars such as Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, this excellent exhibit tells the story of black baseball players beginning in the late 19th century, when a few of these players played alongside whites, but a "Gentlemen's Agreement" barred them the major league of the time. In 1901, the great baseball manager John McGraw slipped one star onto his team, claiming he was a Native American named "Tokohoma." Although I had heard this story before, I paused to reflect the irony that white America could accept a Native American, but not a black American, even though both races had been the victims of racism and oppression throughout American history. Tokohoma's guise didn't last long, however, and the Major Leagues became all white again. Around 1920, Major League Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis forbade blacks from playing alongside whites, and the great pitcher and organizer "Rube" Foster helped to form the Negro League, which pulled together many teams from all over the country, including the Homestead Grays, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and one of the great dynasties in all of baseball, the Kansas City Monarchs. This league prospered, attracting thousands of fans, until the middle of this century. In 1945, "Happy" Chandler replaced Landis as baseball commissioner and announced that he would not block the admission of black players in the Major Leagues. Jackie Robinson, of course, was the first of these players to break the color barrier, signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. As other Negro League players, including Willie Mays and Roy Campanella, followed Robinson into the Major Leagues, the Negro League suffered, eventually disappearing. They left an indelible mark on the majors, however. In the decade after Robinson's admission, nearly every Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the Major Leagues was a former Negro League player. Dodger catcher Roy Campanella, for example, was named baseball's MVP three times. Indianapolis has a rich tradition in the history of black baseball, having been home city to both the Indianapolis ABCs and the Indianapolis Clowns, a barnstorming club similar to today's Harlem Globetrotters in basketball. Henry Aaron, who go on to break Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, played with the Clowns before joining the Boston Braves.
On our second full day in Indianapolis, we joined Mom on a short trip to Greenfield, where we visited the childhood home of James Whitcomb Riley. Born in the cabin that was the original house, Riley lived in the cabin and the rooms his father added during his youth and found inspiration in many of the objects and people he encountered here--from knicknacks such as a yellow-eyed porcelain dog on his mother's mantle to "Little Orphant Annie," a girl who came to live with the Rileys when she was about 12. "Annie," whose real name was Mary Alice and who went by "Allie," entranced Riley and his siblings with stories about ghosts who lived in various nooks of the home. We saw these nooks, Allie's bedroom and her toys, the yellow-eyed dog, a twisting stair and several beautiful pieces of furniture made by Riley's father, and the front porch where Riley watched wagons travel down the National Road, now U.S. 40, into and out of Indianapolis. Lisa enjoyed the kitchen furnished with period utensils and housewares and the parlor decorated with Riley's books and hair wreaths and samplers made by Mary Riley, the poet's youngest and favorite sibing. After we left the house, the three of us rode our bikes through Greenfield's charming historic district and continued riding until we reached Riley Park, where we visited the "Old Swimmin' Hole" Riley describes in one of his most famous poems.
we drove up some side roads to Fort Wayne to visit Lisa's family. In the
first day and a half, we enjoyed a lot of time with Lisa's parents and even
managed to see a large portion of the Henry clan: Jessica Henry; Matt, Ann,
Adam, Emily, Kaitlan, Olivia, and Reid Henry; Andrea Chris, and Joe Navarro;
Paula, Bill, Sara, and Melissa Bentley; Jim Todoran; Cindy and Ben Henry;
and Tony Henry.
Friday, our last full day in town, was our day for adventure. In the morning, Lisa and I went for a long bike ride at St. Francis College and Fort Wayne's historic Lindenwood Cemetery. Lisa then went home and spent some more time with her parents while I visited the New Lincoln Museum, which has a wonderful collection of exhibits and memorabilia telling the story of Abraham Lincoln's political career. I especially enjoyed the information on Lincoln's trip down the Mississippi River as a young man, the exhibit of company flags used during the Civil War, and the section on America's mourning of Lincoln's death. In the afternoon, Lisa, her parents, and I drove up to Rome City, where we visited Gene Stratton Porter's home on Sylvan Lake and took a boat ride on the lake. Porter's home, where she and her husband lived close to nature for seven years near the end of her life, was a treat. We saw their collection of Native American artifacts, several of her photographs, and her extensive library of nature books, including Henry David Thoreau's Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers. My favorite feature was the living room fireplace, made of stones arranged in the shape of a butterfly, George Washington's profile, and other shapes.