Nashville’s award-winning broom-maker
For Henryville’s bounce-back team
The gospel music church with a country twang
HOUNDMOUTH: New Albany’s band on the brink
Why they disappeared Who brought them back Where to see them soar
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Ta b l e o f co n t e n ts
ON THE COVER:
28 Back home again
How the majestic bald eagle made an unlikely return to Southern Indiana. Story by Kathryn Moody and Rachel Wisinski
10 God’s country 40 In plein sight A small gospel music church strikes a chord with Brown County tourists. Story by Jackie Veling
Painters capture the changing color and light of our landscape. Story by Alexis Benveniste and Danielle Kam
Naturalists share the joys of working in our parks. Story by Margaret Bakle and Callie Miller
Engineer Brian Newton pursues his passion for artisanal broom-making. Story by Alli Friedman
17 The wild life 22 Almost
DEPARTMENTS GET OUT OF TOWN
46 Swept away 50 Etched in
New Albany’s Houndmouth is on the verge of making it big. Story by Briana Petty and Sinikka Roinila
Discover the poignant stories behind Indiana’s unusual graves. Story by Katie Mettler and Jacob Klopfenstein
36 The long rebound The Henryville Hornets struggle to come back from a devastating tornado. Story by Charles Scudder Cover photo courtesy of Frank Oliver and the Indiana DNR. Special thanks to Malinda Aston, Allen Major and Stephen Layton for their assistance in the publication of this magazine.
Sip a cup of tea at Twigs and Sprigs Tearoom.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
7 Hailey Stegemoller,
TASTE OF SOUTHERN INDIANA
8 The buzz on honey THE 812 LIST
54 Eight reasons Pawnee
is an 812 town
8 1 2 M ag a z i n e sta f f
After spending time at a soulful gospel music church, senior and managing editor Jackie Veling now has “Country Hymns” on her Pandora.
Senior Margaret Bakle explored Indiana’s state parks with the expectation of falling in love with the wild. Instead, she fell in love with the people who protect it.
Danielle Kam, a junior from Philadelphia studying journalism and gender studies, enjoyed presenting the passion behind plein air painting.
A senior from small town Indiana, Katie Mettler grew up driving back country roads and wondering about the stories inside the old cemeteries scattered along the way.
Though she didn’t know much about the bald eagle resurgence, art director Rachel Wisinski is from Wisconsin — home to the birds that started it all.
Designer Sinikka Roinila is a junior who always liked Americana music. Since meeting Houndmouth, her passion for true stories and sound has ignited.
From the flatlands of northern Indiana, senior Callie Miller loved the beauty of the Hoosier hills as she trekked through Southern Indiana’s state parks.
Kathryn Moody, a junior from Kokomo, turned her newfound passion for tea into an adventure through Southern Indiana’s coolest cafes.
Senior Charles Scudder was raised under the Friday-night lights of Texas. He got a taste of Hoosier Hysteria while reporting in the new Henryville High School gym.
Social media editor Alexis Benveniste is a journalism student with a fine arts minor. She loved painting a picture about the importance of plein air art.
Alli Friedman is a junior from the Chicago suburbs. She had the opportunity to make her first artisanal broom at Broomcorn Johnny’s in Nashville.
Senior and online editor Jacob Klopfenstein is originally from Fort Wayne. He enjoyed exploring the gravesites at the other end of the state.
Editor Briana Petty is a senior from northwest Indiana who has grown to love the hills of the 812 region — the same hills that Houndmouth hails from.
Nancy Comiskey, a lecturer in the IU School of Journalism and a lifelong Hoosier, is still surprised at the hidden stories her students find in Southern Indiana.
The Magazine of Southern Indiana Winter/Spring 2014 Volume 4, Number 1 812 was conceived, reported, written, photographed, edited and designed by students in J360: Creating an Indiana Magazine at the Indiana University School of Journalism. Contents may not be reproduced without the written consent of the School. You can also find exclusive online stories at our website, 812magazine.com. If you’re interested in advertising in 812, or if you’d like copies to distribute at your place of business, please contact ads@ idsnews.com.
Note from the editor The allure of Southern Indiana can’t be beat — whether it’s a downy snowfall in winter or dogwood blossoms in spring. We aim to be your guide, so you can get the most of what our region has to offer in Hoosier charm, hospitality and natural beauty. The people and places that make up this issue of 812 are sure to inspire, so go out and explore! From the Country Gospel Music Church to a prize-winning broom-maker, these stories may outright surprise you. We delve into the lives behind historic gravestones and take you on a tour of our favorite tea rooms. Share in the recovery process of Henryville and its high school basketball team. Learn about bald eagles and how Southern Indiana played a role in one of
the greatest success stories in environmental history. Meet a talented group of musicians from New Albany who are on the brink of making it big. If you’re looking to spend time outside once the weather warms up, we’ve got you covered. Experience the history and beauty of T.C. Steele’s legacy or take a plein air painting class to create your own masterpiece. Visit one of our many state parks, attend a nature program and share in the lore of our naturalists. By the time you finish reading, we hope you’ll have learned more about our home state. And we hope you’ll get the opportunity to create your own memorable stories.
A celebration of Southern Indiana. Catch the next issue in stands May 30, 2014.
5 For inquiries about advertising in future editions of 812 magazine, contact IU Student Media at 812-855-0763 or email email@example.com.
Get out of town
Take a tour of Southern Indiana tea rooms. By Kathryn Moody
are for a spot of tea? If so, you aren’t alone. Supermarket sales of tea surpassed $2.25 billion in 2012, according to the Tea Association of the USA. And more people are opting to drink tea in places beyond their own homes. For this drink’s devotees, tea rooms have become the new watering holes. Tea rooms typically have limited hours and lighter food menus, focusing on sandwiches and dessert rather than full-on entrees. The experience is what matters here. 812 spoke with three tea room owners who bring local flair to this national trend.
The Wildcard: Café Batar
12649 Hwy 50 East, Seymour Season: Mid-March-December 14 Hours: 11-3 p.m. Thursday-Saturday No phones are allowed in Café Batar. Owner Barbara Tracy provides a relaxing, laid-back atmosphere void of the interruptions of daily life. Hidden among the towering trees and wandering turkeys of the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Café Batar is a serene haven. “A lot of people say it’s like going on a vacation when they come here,” Barbara says. What should you try? Barbara’s strawberry cream cake and raspberry tea are perennial favorites. For more unusual flavors, try mango peach or cranapple raspberry. Don’t forget about the gift and sweets shop, which features William Dean Chocolates, as seen in the “Hunger Games” films.
Want more? Check out the Parlor Music Museum, run by Barbara’s husband. It features vintage music boxes, pump organs, victrolas and nearly every issue of LIFE magazine.
Café Batar’s Cherry Dining Room is a guest favorite. /Photo courtesy of Dick Tracy
The Garden Room: Twigs and Sprigs Tearoom
8225 S, 90 W, Commiskey Season: Last week of March-Oct. 20. Hours: 11-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 12-4 p.m. Sunday If you’re looking to relax, head to Twigs and Sprigs. Owner Elizabeth George threads tranquility throughout, especially in the mural room. She and her mother hand painted its flowery walls, but the porch is still her favorite place to sit. Ceiling fans keep customers cool even during hot summer days. What should you try? From 2-4 p.m., an afternoon country tea is served. Eat your fill of small sandwiches and scones and don’t forget about dessert. Try a blackberry cobbler or bread pudding with bourbon sauce. Want more? Finish off your trip with a visit to the winery next door.
The Newcomer: Sweetea’s
225 S. Van Buren St., Nashville Open all year Hours: 9-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9-8 p.m. Saturday, 11-5 p.m. Sunday Owner Laura Boyer says people call her store “Starbucks for tea” because of its modern, sophisticated feel. They have Wi-Fi and offer more than 50 flavors of tea. Take a whiff of the tea leaves at the “Sniffing Bar” or try a free sample. What should you try? Orchid vanilla, sweet orange spice and sassafras are favorites. Bubble tea, using fruit bobas, is catching on. Looking for something even more unusual? Try the pu-ehr tea. It ferments for up to 35 years and has a bold, Scottish caramel toffee flavor. Most prefer it as a latte, Laura says. Want more? Bring the kiddies. A kid’s area is set up in the corner, tin tea sets and all.
W h at I’v e L e a r n e d
Hailey Stegemoller, dancer This teen doesn’t let age define her. By Rachel Wisinski
eyond typical teenage behaviors such as shopping at the mall with her friends, 13-year-old Hailey Stegemoller focuses on one thing – ballet. She enrolled in the Pre-College Ballet Program through the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington when she was 5. Since then, she has participated in the School of American Ballet’s summer program in New York, twice, on full merit scholarship. Now at the most advanced level of ballet at Jacobs, she shares with 812 how to stay en pointe.
Getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to gain experience.
I took part in summer intensive programs away from home to train more. We got to meet famous teachers and dancers from the New York City Ballet. There are new teachers, new people in your class you have to work with, new techniques you have to learn to use and adapt to. And being away from home is a different situation. It’s challenged my artistry to let go but still have strong technique and make it look effortless even though it’s not.
Everything is easier with a support system.
My friends in the studio at Jacobs are great for guidance. They help you become a better dancer because they push you. They can help you do corrections if they’re better on one step than you. We all know each other. Having ties of friendship is great because they’re always going to be there and help you through things.
Taking advantage of educational opportunities is key.
It’s great to have live music during class at Jacobs. Most schools use CDs, but this prepares us for performances, and we get used to a live audience. It’s also great to have a big stage because we’re able to move a lot and aren’t stuck in a small space.
Keeping a positive attitude can help you overcome challenges.
One of my biggest challenges was not getting the role of Clara for “The Nutcracker,” but you have to learn to deal with it and work toward the next one. Your chance will come some other time. It’s nice to get recognition because you know you’re improving and doing well. It gives you selfconfidence, so you push yourself further into technical training. I was chosen to be Cinderella for the PreCollege Program’s ballet last spring, and it showed me I have grown a lot, enough to get the main role in a ballet.
Ballet enriches life in other ways.
Ballet is a nice way to move and feel free. It’s a good stress reliever. I get into the studio, and everything outside class goes away. I’m able to move and be artistic. I’ve found my creative self through ballet, and I’m able to express myself through the steps and motions. I really enjoy diving at the IU Outdoor Pool, and the flexibility with ballet helps with diving. The agility helps it come more naturally.
Hailey Stegemoller, 13, participates at the most advanced level of the Pre-College Ballet Program at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. / Photo courtesy of Kelly Stegemoller
A Ta st e o f S o u t h e r n I n d i a n a
The buzz on honey Beekeeper Jason Morgan shares what makes Hoosier honey so sweet.
By Briana Petty
pring unfurls in Southern Indiana with patches of wildflowers and swarms of honeybees to pollinate them. Humans have been harvesting their liquid gold for thousands of years, and beekeeping itself dates back to ancient Egypt. Today, following the trend toward sustainable agriculture, more and more Hoosiers are looking for local honey. Jason Morgan, a member of the Southern Indiana Beekeepers Association, knows that beekeeping and honey slingin’ is all about timing. Honey season is from spring to fall with the first harvest or “sling” in late June. The forage, or food, the bees eat at different times of year determines the taste of the honey. Early in the season, when honeysuckle blossoms abound, the liquid will have a lighter color and taste. More complex notes arrive with the cooler weather, when plants such as goldenrod add an amber color and pungent flavor to the mix. Though he recommends trying all kinds of honey, Morgan likes to start newcomers with the early spring variety.
Want more? Check 812magazine.com for more honey facts.
A Southern Indiana beekeeper examines a frame of bees. /Photo courtesy of Jason Morgan
Knowledge about the honeybee’s habits and life cycle helps beekeepers get the most out of their broods. A good harvest means about 60 to 80 pounds of honey per hive, but it varies from year to year, and much depends on the bees surviving cold weather. “In the winter, you’re building up your bees to become a foraging force for the spring,” Morgan says. When the first locust bloom opens, the real work begins. The Southern Indiana Beekeepers
Association has about 60 regular members and hosts monthly meetings where they share ideas and techniques and give demonstrations. You can find them at farmers’ markets answering the questions of curious customers. But even with seasons of experience, Morgan believes there is always more to unearth. “Being able to apply techniques we read and learn about and then see results is just fascinating,” he says. “You learn something new every day you’re in the hives.”
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Roxann Waggoner toured nationally with a country dance band before becoming minister of music at the Country Gospel Music Church. / Photo by Sinikka Roinila
God’s Country When Roxann and Charlie Waggoner mixed their Southern twang with traditional gospel hymns, they struck a chord with an unlikely audience — Brown County tourists.
By Jackie Veling
fter the hymnbooks close and the instruments lie silent, a prayer circle forms along the walls. It snakes in and out of the redupholstered pews as searching fingers find the grasp of others. Soon the perimeter of the large room is outlined in linked hands. The pastor makes a call for requests. The first person asks the circle to pray for his gallbladder. Someone else mentions a woman with a baby on the way. Another asks that they pray for the people of Israel. As the time passes, the circle begins to take on a slight vibration, a result of the tight pull of limbs and the Parkinson’s disease suffered by many of the church’s oldest members. On and on the requests go — the tremors growing in intensity — and then finally, nothing. And in that silent lull that sits in between a beginning and an end, a woman, holding the hand of her son, breaks it with the first praise of the evening. “I’d like to say that it took us a few
years, but we finally found a church that is all about God,” she says and then pauses. “. . . Where we feel like family.” A chorus of murmured “Amen’s” breaks out among the members. And with that they bow their heads, and the pastor begins to pray — for the man’s gallbladder; for the baby on the way; for the people of Israel; and for the woman and her son who finally found the family that was all about God.
We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome
t’s a Thursday night in Gnaw Bone, and I’m trying hard to go unnoticed as I make my way, head down, through the gravel parking lot toward my destination — a proud, white, pearl of a church. I fail miserably. I’m greeted three separate times before I make it to the glass doors, and that’s not counting the friendly waves I received when I was still in my car. Looking back, I should have expected as much.
The Country Gospel Music Church, located directly off State Road 46, will celebrate its 20th anniversary this April, and the feeling of purpose hangs in the air as tangibly as morning mist. Once a tourist ministry, catering to thousands of nature lovers who visit the foliage-famed Brown County State Park, it has now become a community staple with a regular following of 60-plus official members who love music and love God. It hasn’t always been easy, but now a new dawn is upon the Country Gospel Music Church and the woman who sings for it.
When the morning comes, all the saints of God are gathering home
oxann Waggoner takes her place in front of the congregation, just as she has every Sunday morning since 1994. As she warms the strings of her guitar, she looks up and out into the one-room sanctuary. Children crawl under the pews, playing a game of tag, while parents and grandparents hover in the back, pouring coffee into Styrofoam cups. Some members stopped at McDonald’s on their way here. They sit together, eating with those who had similar ideas. It is a church turned living room. A bit past 9 a.m., the service starts. Roxann begins with “The Old Country Church.” Written in 1933, it was sung by Hank Williams, Little Jimmy Dickens and George Jones long before she took it up. Now, it’s the church’s theme song. Almost all 40 people there know it by heart. As she sings, “There’s a place near to me, where I’m longing to be…” her voice is low and authentic. Romilda Hamontre, who owned a musical theater for 16 years, does backup and piano. It’s a privilege to play next to Roxann, she tells me, who can sing “practically anything with that range.” Roxann even looks Southern gospel — the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” if only she had Farrah Fawcett’s hair. As minister of music at the Country Gospel Music Church, she has led the congregation in countless laments and praises through the years. Today, she sings seven hymns, six of them back-to-back, that are a mix of tradi-
A little gospel history The lyrics in this story are from the song “We’ll Understand It Better By and By,” written by Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933). Tindley is known as one of the founding fathers of American gospel music. tional and Southern gospel. Earlene Kimmel, a first-time visitor who is in the market for a new church, tells me she feels like she’s in Nashville, Tennessee. This is way more country songs than she has ever heard in any other church. Hamontre, who has been there five years, says that their music that Sunday was nothing special. “It’s just church,” she says. But church used to be different. As Roxann continues to sing, with Romilda on her left, her right side
“A ‘tourist ministry?’ It’s kind of out of the box, you know what I mean?” remains empty. That’s where Charlie used to stand.
In that land of perfect day…
oxann met Charlie Waggoner in 1966 when her uncle brought him home after he and Charlie finished serving in the army. Charlie was 19 years older. She remembers their early time together as just one of those “natural things.”
Charlie taught her to play the guitar. She sang to him. He called her “mama.” They wed before she reached 17. Her mother, as mothers do, told her it would never last, but what Roxann and Charlie Waggoner had found couldn’t easily be lost — nestled inside their love for each other was another passion that united them as nothing else could. Music, specifically Southern gospel, would carry them through the next 40 years of their life together, culminating in a small country church in Brown County that would see tourists in the thousands.
When the mists have rolled away, we will understand it better by and by
t was 1992 when they called it quits on the road. The Waggoners had been touring nationally with a country-dance band for several years, and they both knew that they had pushed it to its limit. Times were changing and touring jobs were going away, replaced by cheaper versions of entertainment like local bands and makeshift karaoke nights. It was time to look for something different. But they had no idea music would still be involved. Later that year, the Waggoners were asked to perform at a Baptist hog roast. Roxann remembers that it was a Saturday and one of the “big guys from the state” was there. Just a few days later they received a call from the director of missions for the South Central Baptist Association of Indiana, saying he was starting a tourist ministry and wanted the couple to come and play music. They would be perfect because of their “country roots,” he said. “We thought the guy was absolutely crazy,” Roxann remembers. “A ‘tourist ministry’? It’s kind of out of the box, you know what I mean?” He assured them it would just be a season, six weeks maybe, and then people from the county would take over. They would simply be there as missionaries — nothing permanent. That call set in motion a chain of events that linked the Waggoners to Brown County tourism in the most unlikely of ways.
Roxann says she hasn’t always been so religious, but unexpected twists and turns in her adult life changed that. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
Somber skies and howling tempests oft succeed a bright sunshine
hey held their first service at Ski World, a recreational complex in Nashville, where Roxann and Charlie also performed at the dinners on Friday and Saturday nights. Coming on before Lloyd Wood’s country western show, they used the opportunity to plug the church, telling the tourists that the service started at nine, giving them just enough time to check out of motels and campgrounds afterwards. Unlike the Waggoners who were decked out in their finest Western wear — cowboy boots, snap shirts and fringe — visitors didn’t need fancy clothes to attend. “Whatever you got, wear it,” Roxann would say. Tourists filed in, especially in the fall months. Altogether, the church has counted 5,500 tourists who have walked through their doors. Though they were well received by visitors, local churches weren’t as
accepting. Some brushed them off as just another tourist trap; others accused them of being a cult. Known then as the Brown County Country Music Church, they suspected it had
“I’m going to tell you something that I thought I would never ever tell anybody.” something to do with those two little words in the middle. “It was something different,” Roxann says. “It had country music in the name.” But vision kept them going. “We could tell the county really had a need,” she says. “Brown County is
the most unchurched county in the state of Indiana or was at the time we came here. They were more familiar with Elvis Presley than they were with Jesus.”
But He guides us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die
he traditions of Southern gospel date back to a single decision made by James David Vaughan of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, in May of 1910. Vaughan, who had just started a songbook publishing company, decided to finance all-male quartets that would tour the country, singing the music from his songbooks and promoting his business. The quartets, 16 in all, were very successful, but they were just the beginning. The Great Depression of the 1930s revealed a public desire for gospel, especially as country acts grew in popularity. With new technology, live performance gospel took over airwaves and television stations.
Years later, in 1964, the Gospel Music Association was founded, formalizing the genre’s presence in the American music scene. Today, the Christian/gospel music genre is still thriving. In 2012, it sold 22.9 million albums. In the Christian genre as a whole, gospel makes up almost 25 percent of the market share, falling second only to “adult contemporary.” You could say Roxann and Charlie Waggoner grew up in gospel’s golden age, but Roxann says she was never deeply religious until adulthood. “I’m not a Bible thumper, but I respect it a lot more than I used to,” she says. “I carry it with me a lot more than I used to.”
And we cannot understand all the ways God would lead us to that blessed promised land
octors found the tumor in 2000. It was the size of a grapefruit and attached to one of Roxann’s ovaries, stubborn and resilient, an omen that life would never be the same again, if it could continue at all. She had to have surgery immediately. When the doctor came out to talk to Charlie, he told him he had never seen so much cancer in one person in all his years as a surgeon. He warned him that he had to take a lot of her insides out, including her ovaries and parts of her colon. Tissue samples were sent to Louisville, Kentucky, for a confirmatory biopsy, but the doctor had no doubts. He set Roxann up with paperwork for chemotherapy and radiation. As she finished them in his office the Tuesday morning after Labor Day, Roxann says he walked in with the results. “I’m going to tell you something that I thought I would never ever tell anybody,” he said. “When it left here, it was all cancer. I’ve seen it a thousand times. When it went through the lab down there, there was none.” Roxann says she immediately knew the reason. “There was probably a thousand people praying for me from one coast to the other. It took one phone call, and that started it, and it just went everywhere.” Roxann, who will be 57 on her next
Charlie Waggoner met Roxann in 1966 and taught her to play guitar. They married when Roxann was 16. /Photo courtesy of Roxann Waggoner
birthday, has lived 13 years without a recurrence of the mysterious tumors. “I’m a walking miracle,” she says. But Roxann and Charlie weren’t finished with miracles yet.
Want of food and want of shelter, thirsty hills and barren lands
t was in 2007 that the little country church got its big-dollar break. Ski World was going downhill, and Roxann and Charlie knew they needed to look for something permanent. One member of the church knew a contractor who owned property in Gnaw Bone, a tiny town on State Road 46 east of Nashville, but the money for a building was beyond their reach. Not six months later they got a letter saying money had been anonymously deposited in their bank account. The amount was $75,000. “All you could do was thank God,” Roxann says. “I kept saying, ‘You’re
kidding!’ Charlie just kept asking, ‘Who was it?’ over and over again. He was a ‘I wanna know’ type of person.” With the little they had saved, it was just enough to begin the construction of a small, one-room country church, layered in hope and white vinyl siding, topped with a steeple like a birthday candle. The donor has never come forward, though Roxann has her suspicions. But those she will never tell.
We are tossed and driv’n on the restless sea of time
OPD, a disease of the lungs, took Charlie Waggoner on August 4, 2010, from the wife and church that loved him. He had been in hospice care and given six to twelve months. He lived exactly three. Roxann and I sit under a picnic shelter that was dedicated to him the October after he died. Today, the Country Gospel Music Church will
celebrate the third anniversary of that date, and as we talk, members scurry around, arranging camping chairs in circles and pulling out the cornhole boards. It’s mostly a happy occasion, but Roxann’s voice has a sad undertone. “Life goes on,” she says. “But I don’t think anybody ever gets over that. When I do music that we did together, I listen for little riffs he would do on the guitar. That’s really when I miss him.” But Roxann knows she has to push on. Charlie made her promise. When the two first got the news of his illness, they had conversations most couples never get the chance to. Embedded in them were things Charlie asked Roxann to do for him. The two never had children together, and Charlie was worried about her. He made Roxann promise to try and find somebody else when he was gone. “He said to me, ‘Don’t spend the rest of your life alone,’” she says. Last, he made her promise to never stop singing. When Charlie died on a Wednesday, Roxann showed up the next day at the church, ready to lead Thursday’s “jam session,” a weekly karaoke-style service, just like always. She knows he would have wanted
that, but she spent a lot of time afterwards wondering if she could ever carry on the same. She credits her resilience to her faith, and especially, her church family. “I feel closer to my brothers and sisters within the church than I do my actual brothers and sisters,” she says. “And I know that sounds odd. But I spend a lot more time with them and have shed a lot more tears with them and went through griefs a lot more with them than I have my family. So therefore, this is my family.”
We are trusting in the Lord, and according to God’s Word, We will understand it better by and by
ince Charlie died, the Country Gospel Music Church has gone through a transition. With a new pastor, Jim Ackerman, leading the way, the church hopes to build a more local base. Tourism dropped off significantly in Brown County when the Little Nashville Opry closed in 2009 after a devastating fire. He has made some changes that emphasize a Biblical message, and the church has grown from 20 members to 60-plus who come almost every Sunday. “The church is really getting
healthy,” Jim says. “It’s just like when you raise roses. If a branch is not blooming, you prune it back, and a good one will come up.” As Jim readies the grill for Charlie’s memorial and pulls items out of plastic bags, Roxann interrupts our interview. We had just gotten to the part when Jim joins the church. “You didn’t know what you were getting into, did you?” she says to him. “I’m getting her under control though,” Jim quips. “There ya go,” she says and smiles. But Jim has not rid the church of the music that gave it its name — a near impossibility by anyone’s standards. “Really that’s what the church is about,” says Romilda Hamontre. “You get your spiritual needs through the music.” When I ask Roxann if she considers herself and Charlie the founders of the church, she adamantly says no, explaining that they were just two musicians who were in from the beginning and hung with it. “I feel like a tool that was used in the way that I needed to be used,” she says. “I still feel like that today. It wasn’t just what I did, what he did, what we did collectively. It took a joint effort on everyone’s part.” The Country Gospel Music Church sits alongside State Road 46 in Gnaw Bone. In 2007, the church received an anonymous donation of $75,000 for its construction. The donor has never come forward. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
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“We get to work in the places people come to relax,” says park naturalist Sam Arthur. /Photo by Margaret Bakle
The Wild Life Naturalists share the challenges and joys of working in Southern Indiana’s parks. By Margaret Bakle and Callie Miller
black rat snake, coiled around a bowl of water in a glass tank, needs urgent attention. The snake has stopped eating, and blood leaks from its underside. Sam Arthur, an interpretive naturalist at McCormick’s Creek State Park, examines the snake to diagnose the problem. “We’ve had an issue with reptilian mites,” he explains. “They get on the snake kind of like how lice get on us.” He and another naturalist clean up the snake’s tank. They pick up the 3-footlong black rat and swipe a paper towel across the glass to remove the fluid that has seeped through the snake’s skin. But it’s the blood that Arthur and his partner are worried about. They’ll keep an eye on the snake over the next few days, logging its eating habits and symptoms in a thick binder, but they say the snake should be fine. This reptile lives in the Nature Center at the park. It’s not a pet and
doesn’t have a name, but the snake is important to Arthur because he uses it to educate park visitors. “This is part of what we do as interpreters,” he says. “We use the animals as a resource to protect the rest of the animals out in the wild.” Since the late 1800s, when the profession first took a name, a certain mystique has surrounded the park ranger. We see them as rugged outdoorsmen who work with the wildest parts of nature. They protect campers from bears and rescue lost hikers from ravines. In Indiana, our rangers are interpretive naturalists who share their knowledge to protect our state’s precious natural land and wildlife. Jon Kay, director of Traditional Arts Indiana, wants to capture that Hoosier mystique for future generations, which is why he’s working on an oral history project called “Ranger Lore.” He’s partnered with Indiana University’s Folklore Department, the Kentucky
Folklife Program and the Indiana State Park system to collect the untold stories of our naturalists. While there are stories about the history and natural beauty of Indiana’s parks, the role of park workers is missing. “There are holes in knowledge. There wasn’t anybody looking at park rangers — not in Indiana, not in the broader scheme — although people have talked about it for many years,” he says. As a folklorist and park enthusiast, Kay hopes “Ranger Lore” will fill this gap. “Often when we think about park rangers, we think of the quintessential ranger,” Kay says. “The idea of a ranger is a person dedicated to public service, whether it is an interpretive naturalist or a gate keeper.” While Kay works on his project, 812 decided to bring readers a sneak peek into the lives of three Southern Indiana naturalists. Sam Arthur, Jill Vance and Jim Eagleman share their tales from the trail. -C.M.
Sam Arthur explains how invasive plants have covered the floor of some areas of McCormick’s Creek State Park. / Photo by Margaret Bakle
Sam Arthur, 34
McCormick’s Creek State Park
“I’m very much in the 812.”
rthur grew up in hilly Southern Indiana and could not fathom living where the land lies flat. A Bedford native, he graduated from Ball State University with a degree in natural resources and environmental management. Today, he takes pride in working at Indiana’s first state park. I always wanted to be a musician. I played guitar. It was one of those weird moments where I realized that if I made music my career then I would have to rely on it, and that might take the fun out of it. I’ve always been an outdoors kind of guy. I realized, “I can do something with my personal interest and turn that into a profession.” We get to work in the places where people come to relax. There’s a certain relief that I feel coming through those gates every day. One of my favorite trails is Trail 7. What I like about it is that you start on top of the Canyon Rim. You aren’t at the highest point of the park, but you feel like you are. About halfway through the hike, you walk down beside the White River and then you come back up. You see topographic change and you see forest composition change throughout the year.
We work with the public. That’s the great thing that I love about my job, but it is also one of the hardest things. You start thinking back to the speech classes you had to take in high school and college. There’s nothing more intimidating than standing in a group of your peers and presenting a program or a speech. One interpreter says, “It’s okay to have butterflies before you have these public speaking engagements. You just have to make sure you get them flying in formation.” Lost hikers happen. You have parents whose children wander off, so that’s when you have to organize your resources. In every case I have been involved in, they do, inevitably, turn up and go, “Oh, I didn’t realize anything was wrong. I was out hiking on Trail 5.”
It’s interesting when you encounter wildlife. When you’re walking with visitors, and you run into reptiles and snakes on the trail, you use those opportunities to take fearful expressions and turn them around. Visitors, now they’re the real wildlife. In a state park you have all the same problems that you have in a small city. Every weekend. We have full campgrounds, pets causing a disturbance and all of those little things that add up. Let’s just say that I’m no longer surprised. This is home. It feels natural to be here, where you can’t see around the turns. I think that’s what makes Southern Indiana and its state parks different – the relief in the landscape. -M.B.
Historic timeline of soutHern indiana state naturalists
1889 The first conservation officers enforce fish and game laws.
1897 The Commissioner of Fisheries appoints deputies who earn $10 for each conviction. This ends in 1903 when the commissioner is concerned deputies will persuade people to break laws to get paid.
1927 A naturalist program is established at Turkey Run, McCormick’s Creek and Clifty Falls state parks.
1930s The first nature museum opens at Turkey Run. The exhibit includes “45 fossils, 5 stalactites, 2 mammoth teeth and 133 Indiana relics.”
1940s During WWII, naturalists work only at McCormick’s Creek and Turkey Run.
Jill Vance finds pine needles, persimmons and edible sumac near Lake Monroe. /Photos by Margaret Bakle
Jill Vance, 32
Monroe Lake State Recreation Areas
“I find it interesting that people get thrilled over seeing a deer when it’s a part of my everyday life.”
ance grew up in Auburn, but while attending Indiana University, she discovered the hilly landscape nearby. After graduating with a degree in environmental anthropology, Vance decided to stay here and become a naturalist. Since I was in third grade, I wanted to be an archeologist. I wanted to study the Aztecs in Central Mexico. I was fascinated with human sacrificial rights and thought it would be
so cool to study. I went to IU to go into archaelogy. Then I had a realization that what I wanted to do required bulldozing modern day Mexico City. So, I started looking around for something more practical. One of the worst things happened as I was leading a hike on Labor Day weekend. I had about 75 people behind me. All of a sudden I heard screaming from halfway down the line. Some people had stopped to look at a hole in the ground and were poking around in it. That hole was a yellow jacket nest, and the yellow jackets were not happy. They poured out and attached themselves to an 8-year-old girl. We could not get them off her clothes. We had to strip her down to her underwear. She was a good sport.
One of the funniest encounters was at McCormick’s Creek State Park. Some people were walking around the nature center for about 45 minutes. They had a baby in one of those backpack carriers. It wasn’t until they were on their way out that I realized that was not a baby. That was a monkey in the carrier — a little chimpanzee. I think it might have had clothes on, too. The most amazing animal encounter was at an Owl Prowl in mid-February. It was one of those magical experiences. We were calling for the owls in a parking lot, and six barred owls were up on both sides of a hill. They kept calling back and forth to us and to one another. Then they began flying back and forth above our heads. It was incredible. -M.B.
s 1950 The first naturalist training institute is held at McCormick’s Creek.
1973 Full-time naturalists offer more educational programming.
1974 The television program “Indiana Outdoors” begins.
1993 Brown County State Park organizes controversial deer hunts to control the deer population.
2003 The Interpretive Services includes 18 full-time naturalists and about 15 seasonal naturalists in 14 yearround centers.
Jim Eagleman, 64 Brown County State Park
“My index finger has grown from all the pointing I have to do.”
im Eagleman is a 38-year veteran with the Department of Natural Resources. Growing up on a farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Eagleman liked to hunt, fish and trap. After majoring in wildlife biology and earning a master’s degree in botany from DePauw University, Eagleman dedicated his life to educating park visitors, studying wildlife and occasionally dust mopping the Nature Center. My dad wanted me to be a vet. My heart wasn’t in it. I remember coming home one Thanksgiving, and I said I didn’t want to be a vet. My dad was pretty angry, so the funding ended, and I was on my own. I wanted to go into natural resources. I saw all the wildlife students coming back from their field station and I thought, “That’s what I want to do.” I had a deer come into my office one time. I had an apple on my desk. The deer must have smelled that and Jim Eagleman jokes that simply pointing out leaves, birds and wildlife is a big part of his job. /Photo by Margaret Bakle
walked into the office, ate my apple and then walked out. Encounters with people surprise you. I always get a kick out of watching families bring in the kids who could care less about getting out in nature. Schools assign leaf collections, so in come Mom and Dad with the tree book and the phone book with the leaves pressed in between. Johnny or Billy or Susie has to get a sugar maple. “Is this a sugar maple leaf?” they ask me. “Where’s the kid?” “Well he’s in the car.” “Well if it’s his report, have him come in and I’ll talk to him.” So reluctantly he comes in, pulls out his ear buds, and we talk about trees. He’s not connecting at all. I think we’re losing a battle with some of the youth. And that’s our challenge. The scariest part about starting out is being deemed the expert. There’s no possible way to know everything. You think, “Well I better know because that’s my job to know.” So you take it slow. You get comfortable with one area and move on to another area. You’ve seen a mushroom before or you know an insect behavior and you’re able to, not impress them, but instill in them this sense of wonder.
The most frightening thing was the first deer hunt. We had to find a way to limit the number of deer in the park, and we looked at all the options. It was decided that the best way to do it was to use public hunters who were skilled and credentialed. Locally, that was met with mixed feelings. Some were supportive and others weren’t. The night before the hunt, I got a call at about 2 a.m. The caller said, “Tomorrow, deer won’t be the only thing shot in the park.” I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was so worried. It just shook me. I thought my life and my family’s lives were all at risk because of some crazed lunatic. It was a prank call. But when you come in the next day, you’re looking over your shoulder. The vistas and the overlooks are our trademark. As the fog lifts and the rain stops and the sunlight comes out, they just explode with color. That would be the must-see of Brown County State Park. The most inspirational and captivating views come from these higher elevations. We can look out maybe 10 to 15 miles to the horizon. We hear people come south of Indianapolis and think they’re in another state because it’s so different. -C.M
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New Albany band Houndmouth relaxes before their show in Indianapolis. /Photo by Briana Petty
Almost F T
Houndmouth has appeared on Letterman and performed across the U.S. and U.K., but these Hoosier musicians remain true to their roots.
By Briana Petty and Sinikka Roinila
he inside of The Vogue nightclub in Indianapolis is dark and humming with activity. People peer down from the balconies and surround the stage, chatting and sipping beer. Lights cast a golden glow on the sea of waiting faces. A long, loud howl erupts from the crowd of 500, announcing Houndmouth’s arrival. The musicians smile as they walk onstage, greet the audience and take their place by their instruments. Organist Katie Toupin, dressed in a geometric-patterned dress, stands in contrast to the casual look of her bandmates. Lead singer and guitarist
Matt Myers, in grungy Nike sneakers and holey jeans, stores a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon near an amplifier. Drummer Shane Cody and bassist Zak Appleby both wear worn-in hats and t-shirts. Shane’s impressive beard is all but hidden behind the drum kit. The New Albany band dives right into their set, hammering out bouncing chords and riffs. The audience moves along, bobbing their heads. By the end of the show, they’ll be cupping their hands and yelling for an encore. Mallory Lemieux, a friend of Shane’s from college, drove 11 hours from Brooklyn to Indianapolis to watch
Famous Houndmouth perform. Luke Denton, who went to high school with Zak in Clarksville, crosses his fingers as he says they are “one song away” from a huge break. The bandmates poke fun at each other on-stage and give shout-outs to family members who have come to support them. They play through most of their debut album, “From the Hills Below the City,” and surprise the audience with tracks like the Beatles’ “Carry that Weight.” During one of Matt’s bluesy guitar solos, he jumps onto Shane’s kit, balancing precariously on the bass drum.
The show ends with the opening band, the Wheeler Brothers, joining Houndmouth for a joyful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” Family, friends and curious new fans greet the band after the show. People flock to the merchandise table to purchase albums, posters and tshirts. A man taps Matt on the shoulder. “Can I get your Herbie Hancock?” He obliges and searches for a Sharpie. The band will mingle with the crowd for a few more hours as the line at the merchandise table dwindles down. Though they’re exhausted, tomorrow it’s off to Chicago to do it
all over again. It’s just another day in the life of Houndmouth. ack in their hometown of New Albany, it’s easy to lose your sense of time. Rolling down Main Street is a journey of aesthetic contradiction. Tucked between exhausted brick buildings and momand-pop stores is renovated real estate like the shining new natatorium. Hopeful entrepreneurs watch their ventures sink or float in this Ohio River Valley town, but an assortment of boutiques and new restaurants suggest a sense of revival.
28 | bass
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
26 | drums
‘Halfway to Hardinsburg’
The New Albanian Pizzeria and Public House is packed, and the guys are smiling and sipping beer at a table in the center of the restaurant. Evidently, they aren’t tired of each other, even after traveling in a six-seater van during their fall tour. They avoid ordering the Houndmouth beer on tap – a bit too pretentious for them. Matt brags about the Starsky and Hutch t-shirt he scored at a thrift store across the river. The gamblin’ and law-breaking outlaws in their songs feel far away. Talking music is on everyone’s mind, but first thing’s first. “I hope we’re putting all this on the band tab,” says Zak, throwing a joking glance at their manager, Chris Thomas. He gives an approving nod. But wait, aren’t these rock stars? They had “made it,” right? “I mean, I still get ramen noodles at the grocery,” admits Shane. And they’re not quite sure what “making it” means to them anyway. Some think they’ve officially broken through. They’ve performed on David Letterman and Conan O’Brien’s
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
Reddit and Jason
shows and received free gear from Fender. The mayor of Louisville, where they have some of their most dedicated fans, named a holiday after them. They have sold more than 10,000 copies of their debut album. Houndmouth has toured in Europe and all over the United States, including major music festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Lollapalooza in Chicago and the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, where crowds
‘Halfway to Hardinsburg’
Alabama Shakes and rubbed elbows with some of their personal heroes, gleaning advice and finding camaraderie with other young musicians. Life on the road has given them a catalog of stories. Like the time they were invited to partake in some moonshine in Texas. Or the other time in Fargo, when a man climbed on top of their trailer and spit on Shane for no apparent reason. They’ve been cheered for, sung to and howled at by anxious fans in Lexington when they were late to their own show. Touring means long hours of driving, carrying equipment (no room for roadies in the van), sound checks, playing the set and moving to the next location. Since the band has little to no time to explore the cities on their tour, the crowd sets the tone for every performance. Austin wasn’t impressed with small talk. Madison was totally inebriated. Portland seemed pretty receptive. Their family and friends recall watching from the crowd at their
“Bands that are from a small town will say that they are from the next biggest city. I’ve never understood that.” reached over 5,000. David Fricke, a senior editor of Rolling Stone, wrote about Houndmouth after seeing them perform in Austin. “They are all singers,” he writes, “leading with individual character and harmonizing in saloon-choir empathy.” The band has toured with the Grammy-nominated
24 | organ
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
25 | guitar
My own hair dryer
hometown shows. “I remember crying at their first big show,” says Jessica Sweets, Zak’s fiancée. “It went from two of them playing in a bar, wishing for people to walk in, to some soldout shows.” But with the excitement of performing live and creating new fans comes a feeling of isolation and road-van fever. “They drove me crazy,” Katie says. It’s not easy being the only girl on board. She remembers the day Shane got 16 DVDs for five bucks at a gas station. “They were the worst horror movies ever made,” she says. She decided to retaliate. “I was so tired of the movies that I got ‘Legally Blonde,’ the girliest movie I could think of.” When they’re not watching movies in the van, they’re sketching out songs, playing video games or curling up with a good book. Friends and family follow Facebook posts and cherish brief telephone calls. Zak and Jessica are recently engaged and admit that it’s difficult to be apart for so long. But there is understanding. “Yes, it’s hard,” Jessica says,
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
‘Lucky astrology moon watch’
Matt says as he throws up his hands. “And, Grandma’s blind, man. She can’t even see,” Shane adds. Just as they gave up the winery scene, Matt heard that Shane was in town and interested in jamming. The two started playing together in November 2011 at the Green House, Shane’s childhood home that later became the recording space for Houndmouth’s EP. A few days later, Zak brought his bass. Katie was the last one to join in the sessions, rounding out their four-part harmonies and jumping on the keys. Soon after, they were putting songs online for friends. Music was a welcome release from their day jobs. Zak worked in a printer shop. Shane did audio for a venue in Louisville. Katie sold cosmetics for Mary Kay. Matt was looking for a new job the day they saw the first blog write-up about their music. Their full-length album would be released just seven months later in June of 2012. Eager to move forward with their music, the band jumped on the opportunity to make a career of it.
For a behind-the-scenes video, visit 812magazine.com “but how many people get to live their dream?” ven though they grew up in the same hometown, riding bikes on the knobby hills of New Albany, it took time for Houndmouth to come together. Katie was 18 when she saw Matt playing guitar at a bar. She introduced Matt to her dad, who became his musical mentor. Eventually, Katie and Matt began performing acoustic cover songs at wineries. After three years of fading into background noise, they were ready for something else. It was frustrating to only receive a luke-warm response for their original songwriting. “It’s like putting up a gallery in your grandma’s house,”
minders of and
permanent re diana tattoos,
f their In d Matt show of Shane, Zak an ila. in Ro a kk ni Si state. /Photo by
The big break came in March of 2012 when they made a contact at Austin’s interactive arts festival, South by Southwest, a place where new bands and music business executives meet. A place where dreams are born. Geoff Travis, the founder of the indie record label Rough Trade, heard Houndmouth and made an offer. The label began in London in the ‘70s and represents major indie artists such as The Strokes, Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket. The band didn’t hesitate even though they’d turned other offers down. “From the first time we met Geoff Travis, it felt like family,” Matt says. Since signing with Rough Trade, they have learned some lessons about making music for a living. Number one: Don’t read the reviews. It is not worth the emotional torment. Shane recounts what their tour manager once said: “In the best case scenario, you’ll end up a huge jerk. Worst case scenario, you’ll become very insecure about what you do.” Number two: Stay true to yourself. The band doesn’t focus on album
tributes to thei
sales or moving to bigger venues. “We all have jobs and are doing what we love,” Katie explains. “I think it’s important to be humble in that way or it becomes tainted.”
sound is back to the basics as electronic music takes over the radio. Their sound is shaped in the Green House, where they feel at home. Images of Shane’s great-grandparents peer down from the walls, and the scent of old books hangs in the air. A few records lean against a wall: Simon and Garfunkle, Fleetwood Mac, James Brown. The band has slowly taken control of the house. Their instruments and amplifiers have replaced furniture. Ready to work, they unzip guitar cases, pour Jameson into three small ice-laced glasses and tap on Shane’s new snare drum – itching to break it in. Matt begins to write down lyrics on the white board from a song they’re working on for their next album. “I got what you need...” Matt croons. He stops them. Zak turns down his bass. Shane tries a new beat. They switch instruments and start again. It’s only in New Albany where this process begins. Everyone is involved in songwriting. While this collaborative effort brings forth more ideas, it can be a headache. One exercise they use involves small strips of paper. Each of them receives three: two for lines of a verse and one for a line of a chorus. But combining and critiquing ideas is not the hardest part of songwriting. Finding similar levels of energy and interest at the same time is tougher. “It’s frustrating when you are worn out. It’s tough because everyone has to be engaged at the same time,” Matt says. To add to this cocktail of struggles, Katie picked up piano only a year ago. “It was like beating my head against a wall. It took 30 minutes to figure out what an A-flat was,” Katie says. Matt recalls having to put on their “patient hats” at the time. Sometimes, songwriting looks like “a million lines on a piece of paper and you choose three,” Zak says. The lyrics are constructed as stories, from a miners’ strike in Ludlow to a pill-
“Whatever you do, please don’t compare us with Mumford and Sons.”
Number three: Don’t let people put you in a box. Their music has been described as “rootsy rock,” “folk” and “Americana.” They’ve been compared to The Band and Mumford & Sons. “Whatever you do,” Shane begs, “please do not compare us with Mumford and Sons. They don’t even have electric guitars!” Matt nods. But Zak believes these musical labels may benefit the band. After some debate, the consensus is they like “real music” and want to be recognized as such.
eal music to them is strippeddown rock, a low-fi sound that blends electric guitar and fourpart harmony, reminiscent of rock bands of the late ‘60s. Houndmouth’s
poppin’ gal in a casino. “I like taking ordinary life and making it extraordinary. I was always drawn to characters and settings,” Matt says. And like good card players, they keep some things to themselves. “Maybe it has a meaning to me, maybe it doesn’t.”
find a big mall. In another nearby river town, you’ll find a casino. These are just two of the economic opportunities that have passed by. Local businesses have struggled. Chris remem-
get bored. Katie admits that being on the road becomes a part of you. “We don’t have any other friends,” Shane says, half-joking. By the second day, he’s calling the three he just toured with for two months.
“I knew when I started listening they had something good going.”
don’t know if you guys are ready for this,” Zak says into a microphone. They start playing again. Their “get in where you can fit in” harmonies work themselves out. When Zak’s mother, Vicki Appleby, opens the door, the band stops playing to embrace one of their most loyal fans. “I knew when I started listening they had something good going,” Vicki says. When the band was on national TV, their parents gathered to watch. Now that they’re touring closer to home, the parents attend shows together. Houndmouth looks forward to playing hometown shows, but they admit there is extra pressure to do well. “We are very proud to be from a small town,” Katie says. “Bands that are from a small town will say they’re from the next biggest city. I’ve never understood that.” New Albany’s history is filled with ups and downs. Ten miles away, you’ll
bers seeing a new restaurant, one of the first to try to liven up downtown, open and close. Now, things are changing. “There is a revitalization of New Albany. I think Houndmouth is a part of that,” Chris says. Katie agrees. “It’s starting to get its own culture.” Part of this culture is community support. The region has rallied around the musicans, packing venues and naming an ale after them at a local brewery. Houndmouth recognizes the advantages of being from a town like New Albany. Zak recalls not even being acknowledged while walking down the street when he lived in Chicago. But even a haven can lead to restlessness. The first few days at home are spent catching up with family and friends. But soon, they’re starting to
itting around the table at the pizzaria, the discussion turns to the future. “I want to stop when it gets old, when I’m not enjoying it,” Zak says. Matt disagrees. He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop making music. Houndmouth is working on new material, some of it inspired by their time on the road. They are also working to remain levelheaded. “If nothing else happened with our band, I’d be happy,” Shane says. With Guinness in hand, the guys continue to discuss what it means to “make it.” The phrase has a sense of finality, but the band believes it’s more about sustainability: being able to turn your passion into a career. Houndmouth knows that nothing is certain. They just want to continue progressing musically and playing for their fans. Tonight at least, their biggest concerns aren’t album sales, venue size or guest appearances. The biggest dilemma this evening is who is buying the next round of drinks. And for now, that is enough. Organist Katie Toupin had no previous experience with piano before Houndmouth started rehearsing. /Photo by Briana Petty
Back home again Twenty-five years ago, a lone bald eagle landed on the shore of Lake Monroe and built his nest â€” the first in the state since 1897. One by one, the majestic raptors have returned from a centurylong exile that nearly led to extinction. By Kathryn Moody and Rachel Wisinski
29 812 Photo for illustration provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
ex Watters moves loose papers and small cardboard boxes from the back seat of his truck to make room for us. He’s a stocky man with a full white beard and a thinning head of hair. “You can’t tell I live in this thing, can you? Or that I’m a slob?” he says. “All those things are true.” A reservoir wildlife specialist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Rex is concerned with more pressing issues, such as managing a wetland. Clad in his DNR khaki shortsleeved shirt and forest-green cargo pants, he’s taking us to the wetlands at North Fork State Wildlife Refuge on the shores of Lake Monroe. Our goal is to spot our nation’s royal bird, the bald eagle. We set out on a gravel path through thickets of trees and tall growth. Our bodies bob from side to side, as if we’re on an amusement park safari ride. It doesn’t take long before we are welcomed to the first marsh by two dark, graceful bodies flying 20 feet above our heads, soaring over the treetops. Rex throws open the door, the truck having barely stopped, and smiles as he looks to the sky. “You’ve just been strafed by an eagle,” he says. We press our faces against the windows, eyes darting across the landscape. Three seconds and the bald eagles disappear. It was barely enough time to catch a glimpse. To think they had almost been eliminated forever.
orty years ago this spring, the nation began a monumental effort to save more than 2,000 endangered species across the country. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act, they came under federal protection. But sometimes the protection itself was not enough. Sometimes something bigger had to happen – a resurrection, shaped by human hands. In 1960, there were only 500 bald eagles in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. None had nested in Indiana since 1897. But 25 years ago, five years after the reintroduction effort began in the state, a male eagle built the first nest
at Lake Monroe. Today, about 175 breeding pairs exist in the state, and 7,000 live across the U.S. – a resurgence so complete that the bald eagle is considered one of the great success stories of the American conservation system. It wasn’t always such a sure thing. The first nests came up empty. Later, young eaglets froze or fell to their deaths. Indiana naturalists worried it might be too late for the eagle. But by today’s end, we’ll have seen their roost. We’ll have seen how they fly, Rex Watters peels an apple as he looks out over the marsh at the North Fork State Wildlife Refuge. /Photo by Kathryn Moody wings flat against the wind, undaunted bullets across an unbroas a glorious but largely harmless ken sky. How they chase each other on predator that attacked livestock only the thermal wind columns, alive and because farmland was encroaching unafraid. How men and women who on their hunting grounds. Congress have worked for the DNR for decades passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act in still clamber out of their trucks to 1940, noting the eagle was “threatened watch them glide beyond the trees. with extinction.” But by then, the bald eagle population was in freefall. World umans waged an unknowWar II introduced DDT, a chemical ing war on the nation’s weapon used against mosquitoes and symbolic bird. When the insects that, by slithering up the food eagle was first made a national icon pyramid from prey to predator, evenin 1782, the country may have had tually gathered in the eagles’ bloodmore than 100,000 nesting pairs. But streams. DDT laced eagle eggshells, by the mid-1800s, their vast numbers making them too fragile to survive. led many farmers to put bounties on Naturalists started counting the eagles, favoring the safety of their eagles in the 1960s and ’70s, and they lambs and chickens. Indiana farmers – including Rex – noticed something. also needed the eagle’s land to grow More eagles stopped by Lake Monroe crops, and they started cutting down than any other part of the state. “We forests and draining marshes – a onewandered around in late February, just two punch for raptor populations. In as water was starting to break the ice,” 1897, the last recorded eagle nest in Rex says. “We saw three eagles.” Southern Indiana fell empty. Maybe, they thought. Maybe here it Decades passed, and humans could be done. learned more about the eagle’s purpose
Members of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources band an eagle to determine accurate counts of nesting pairs. Today’s numbers exceed their initial expectations. /Photo courtesy of Indiana Department of Natural Resources
he truck, covered in dust, halts in front of a fallen limb. Rex is trying to take us through the eagle’s habitat, but the habitat has long since stopped being considerate of human visitors. Tree branches litter the route like speed bumps in a school parking lot. Rex knows this marsh well. He and three others manage all 320 acres of it. He calls the land his land. His trees, his wetland crops. His birds. But this branch is too big. Rex gets out of the car. Without fanfare, he takes an orange chainsaw from the trunk and hacks at the branches until he can toss them to the side of the poorly outlined road. He has to do this twice. Stop, get out and chop. “You guys brought your gloves, right?” he jokes. We have to stop for a third branch, but the hacking tower is in sight. So we get out of the truck to walk the rest of the way. What’s now a treacherous strip of
grass and dead leaves – an unmarked path in a coliseum of sycamores – was once a county road. The truck is parked on what used to be a bridge. In 1974, the DNR began to create marshlands in Southern Indiana near the newly established Lake Monroe, letting grass and trees mop up any old human trails. Without a guide like Rex, you wouldn’t know this was once a gravel road that led to the artificial nests that resuscitated a species. We’re going back to where it all began. The hacking tower at North Fork.
hough the Endangered Species Act was passed in the ’60s, the Indiana DNR did not receive funding until the early ’80s. A new law allowed citizens to donate a dollar or more on their taxes to the “Nongame Fund.” The fund generated money specifically for endangered species, Rex says. Within the first two years of the fund’s existence, the DNR
Eaglets were taken from Alaska and Wisconsin in order to bring back the population in Southern Indiana. /Photo courtesy of Indiana DNR
Eaglets were raised in hacking towers, where wildlife specialists would feed and care for the young birds until they were ready to begin nesting. /Photo courtesy of Indiana DNR
made enough money to begin reintroductions in 1985. The bald eagle was first. Today, it is the symbol of the Nongame Fund. Specialists decided on a five-year raise-and-release program from 1985 to 1989 to establish a healthy, selfsustaining eagle population in the area. The goal: five nests by the year 2000. The DNR first needed fake nests and fake perch poles – anything to encourage the eagles to adapt to their future home. Specialists enlisted help from a few unlikely environmental redeemers: telephone pole companies, helicopters and volunteers from the National Guard. Placing the perch poles required careful skill. Telephone poles hung from helicopters as members of the U.S. Army National Guard practiced “sling loading,” seeking the perfect places to drop the poles into the water. It became a game. The pole couldn’t be swinging too much, and it couldn’t be too high or too low. At 100 feet it wouldn’t stick into the bed of the lake. At 200 feet it would shatter.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources shared these quick facts about bald eagles.
At just the right height, the pole would plunge into the muddy lakebed like a dagger. The hacking tower on land required some strategy as well. The tower ladders began 5 feet off the ground, so caretakers had to bring ladders to reach them. Steel sheets coated the bottoms of the poles to discourage climbers like raccoons. After the towers were set up, it was time to find eaglets to raise. No nesting pairs existed in Indiana, so DNR specialists took eaglets from Alaska and Wisconsin. Eagle nests typically carry two to three eaglets. From the Wisconsin nests, naturalists chose the eaglet most unlike his siblings. Too big or too small – either would do, so long as the ones left behind were similar to each other. This ensured an equal chance of survival for the siblings remaining. From the Alaskan nests, where populations were much stronger, naturalists would sometimes take them all. Eagles’ nests are huge – Volkswagens stuck in trees, Rex says. The nests are so big they can buckle branches or
• Lifespan – 30 years in the wild, up to 50 in captivity • Habitat – Trees near large bodies of water • Prey – Fish, small animals • Gestation period – about 35 days
topple timber. At 6 feet tall and roughly 170 pounds, DNR wildlife technician Al Parker could sit in one as he captured and banded eaglets. Adopted eaglets matured in the hack tower and would never knowingly associate with humans again. The cages on top of the towers were made with bars and one-way glass so human caretakers could see in, but the eaglets couldn’t see out. Naturalists fed the eaglets through a tube. The eaglets listened for the creaking of the wood ladders as humans climbed up to deliver meals. This creaking meant food would mysteriously appear in their cages. The eaglets were none the wiser. The eaglets grew and learned. The question was whether it would be enough. Whether, after they grew old enough to take care of themselves, they would still leave and never return – just as their ancestors had.
itnessing eagles’ habits never loses its appeal, John Castrale says. The nongame biologist for the DNR Divi-
• Wingspan – Females: between 7 and 7 ½ feet Males: between 6 and 6 ½ feet • Weight – Females: 10-12 pounds Males: 8-10 pounds
Eaglets wait for their mother to bring food to the nest near Southwestway Park and Cottonwood Lakes. /Photo courtesy of Indiana DNR
sion of Fish and Wildlife believes the regal colors and distinct features – the white head and tail, the yellow bill – are what give the eagles their majesty. “I’ve seen thousands and thousands in my career, and it’s always exciting.” Southern Indiana provides an ideal habitat for the birds, especially during the winter months, which are prime nesting season. “Eagles don’t have fishing poles, so they come south,” Rex says. This is where the lakes don’t freeze and food is more available. Bald eagles primarily feed on fish. Small dead animals in fields or on the roadside serve as the occasional snack. Jeff Riegel, Bird Country US director and leader of the Eagle Watch Weekend at Lake Monroe, says one of his favorite experiences was observing a raft of coots, crane-like birds, stuck on the ice. An eagle dove on the coots and tried eight to 10 times before it finally caught one. As the eagle took three or four flaps of its wings, another eagle came out of nowhere. It snatched the coot from the first eagle. Then the second eagle dropped it. The first picked it up again. Eventually, 13 eagles fought over one coot, which was dropped between 20 and 30 times.
Eagle Watch Weekend Jan. 24-26 marks the 14th annual Eagle Watch Weekend at Lake Monroe, an event that draws about 100 eager bald-eagle watchers. Jeff Riegel, Bird Country US director, has led the weekend’s events since its inception. Event participants stay at the Fourwinds Resort, where it is not unusual to sit at one of the waterside restaurants and see an eagle fly across Sometimes eagles don’t immediately find what they’re looking for in one location. They always wander off, John says. But they tend to return to the place they were hatched in order to create their own nests, a five-year cycle that’s self-sustainable. This wandering and returning is exactly what the naturalists were aiming for.
our years passed without a nest. Not unusual. The naturalists knew they’d have to wait the full five years of the program, because five years is when female eagles begin to seek their life partners.
the vista. “We want every single person there to see an eagle, and the last few years they have,” Jeff says. The norm is 30 to 40 sightings. On Saturday a group of eight to 12 expert birders head out with spotting scopes and call the visitors to take an up-close look. Jeff says the scopes’ fancy optics allow guests to see the eagles pretty clearly from a mile. Five years is when male eagles carry sticks through the crisp winter air to build a nest to attract the ladies. Once their heads and tails turn that distinctive white at age 5, nesting is not far off. In 1989, the last year of the program, a male decided Lake Monroe would be a good place to start a family, Rex says. Not far from the hack tower, behind a nearby observation platform, naturalists spotted the first nest. This male eagle would have to build two more nests before he managed to attract a female. He did, eventually. But she demanded he build a fourth nest across the lake, Rex says.
Courtship isn’t always easy. Neither is raising kids. The first winter, only one chick survived. Then, a windstorm blew the eaglet out of the nest. The next year a group of bikers scared the mother from her nest of eggs. Cold air moved in, and the mother did not return before the eggs froze. By 1991, the DNR created a volunteer program to watch over nesting sites and block nearby service roads. Volunteers guided people away to ensure the eaglets had a chance. Eagle chicks born that year made it to adulthood. Others followed. The DNR had aimed for five successful nests by 2000. Instead, there were 30.
ex tells stories about the eagles as if they are grandchildren with strange quirks. “We try not to anthropomorphize,” he says. But the stories are somehow universal. Rex remembers how a female “teenager” bullied her smaller brothers. She was also last to learn to fly. She would try but crash to the ground, and the hu-
man watchers would help her back to the hack tower. Eventually, if she saw people coming, she would gather her dignity and walk – not fly – back to the tower, right up the ladder and into the cage. Sometimes Rex watches them leave home. He once watched another “teenage” eagle climb, up and up the thermals, testing his glide and learning to soar. Wind is good for a soaring bird, Rex says. If there is wind, an eagle can fly effortlessly. This eagle climbed until he was swept east by a jet stream. “He’s got great vision. He’s seeing new stuff, you know,” Rex says. A teenager having a grand old time. But when darkness began to fall, the eagle decided it was time to go home for dinner. He came down from the sky, expecting to find the usual platform of provided food. He did not. “Pennsylvania?” Rex says, voicing the eagle’s confusion. “How’d I get in Pennsylvania?” That’s what you get for riding the wind. At one point, John says he got a taste of the freedom an eagle must experience daily. He was following a bald eagle in a helicopter, and both the
helicopter and the bird were caught in an updraft. “The bird was certainly more maneuverable in the updraft,” John says. “But I got a sense of maybe what it was like to be an eagle.” All these stories began at the hacking tower. Now decrepit and collapsing, its wood is a blackened fungus among a carpet of dead leaves. Bars from the cages, a timber wolf color, have fallen to the ground in piles. The remains will be here for as long as nature allows. “It will become one with the Earth in due time,” Rex says. “It has done what we asked and then some.”
ith no sign of another eagle on our journey to the hacking tower, we abandon it for one last chance. At a new marsh now, the gravel road nearly kisses the surface of the water. We spot no wildlife. Not in the water. Not in the air. All is still. We follow the twists of the road to the opposite side. The trees box us in. Birds soar above the treetops. Rex tells us these are turkey vultures – they fly with their wings in a V shape, whereas
Bald eagles, like this one flying over Lake Monroe, have become a symbol for conservation efforts. /Photo courtesy of Indiana DNR
Rex Watters looks up at one of the weathered hacking towers that the Indiana DNR used to revive the bald eagle population in Indiana. /Photo by Rachel Wisinski
eagles have a much flatter profile in flight. It can be difficult to distinguish birds from afar. Colors, wing patterns, flight patterns and flock formation all play a part in the process. Some birds even give Rex trouble. Mid-story, Rex throws the car in gear, and it wobbles along the road. “That’s one big bird,” he says. He spotted it in flight, saying it looked like the immature female eagle he and his crew let loose earlier in the year. Before he can know for sure, this one has been scared off, too. The eagles’ great size adds to their majesty. A symbol of nations that dates back to the Romans, Rex says, eagles represent the sort of strength humans seek to emulate. Free-spirited and strong, the eagle goes where it wants to go. “They are a symbol of independence, that oneness with nature,” he says. “A national symbol with local roots.” Now, they are even a symbol for the conservation effort, Jeff Riegel says. “If you don’t have success, it’s hard to keep motivated. The eagle is a success story.”
After our failed encounter, our trip isn’t looking successful. Then, Rex looks out the passenger’s window. Our necks strain to follow his gaze. “See the flatter profile?” Rex asks, pointing to sky. This new bird soars in circles that appear to be 10 to 15 feet in diameter, and its wings remain nearly horizontal. “It knows where the food is,” Rex says. We drive up the road to take a closer look. A turkey vulture pops up to the left of the other bird. We can easily compare the wingspans – the V versus the straight line. We stop and watch in silence. The more we watch, the more we know: definitely an eagle. The distance prevents us from seeing distinct whiteness on the head or tail. But we know. Rex knows. He reaches over and shakes one of our shoulders. “You did it! You saw your eagle!” The turkey vulture is black. But the wings of the eagle shimmer against the clear sky. The tips glow yellow, struck by the sun. It circles and circles, effortlessly, until it disappears. All we can do is watch, bound to the ground as the eagle takes back the sky.
Hazards Education director Laura Edmunds has seen many eagles undergo rehabilitation through the Indiana Raptor Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing birds of prey. She shared some dangers the raptors still face in the wild. 1. Human activity. They are often shot or struck by vehicles. 2. Eyesight impairment. Bald eagles need adequate eyesight to obtain food. When eyesight is poor, fish appear to shift like a rag dragged across the surface of the water. The eagle can’t catch the fish because it’s not where it appears. 3. Lead poisoning. Eagles eat dabblers, a kind of duck. Dabblers consume vegetation from lake bottom, which is laced with lead pellets from shotgun shells. By association, the eagle gets lead poisoning and requires a special drug to remove the poison.
Plan now for a fantastic spring!
35 620 W. Chumley Rd • 812-824-7458
The long rebound
After two years and a winless season, the Henryville Hornets struggle to make a comeback from the deadly tornado that flattened their town.
By Charles Scudder
he Henryville High School Hornets were down
by 40 with five minutes left to play when the coach on the other bench called back his starters and threw in the JV squad. The crowd started thinning as the Hornets’ mascot took off his yellow and black head. Head coach Dan Carmony sat on the bench, resting his chin on his fist. The game against the Silver Creek Dragons was the first of the season, and it was already a loss. Hornet fans are used to this scene. Two years ago, these walls weren’t standing. The gym was destroyed after an EF4 tornado ripped through the school, twisting steel and smashing glass, ripping hardwood and splintering the bleachers of the school gymnasium. The team and school still carry subconscious reminders of the storm’s scars. In the bleachers, students with painted faces wear black spirit shirts featuring a tornado and a hornet. When the Silver Creek students chant, “This is our house,” late in the game, the Henryville students respond, “FEMA built it.” The Hornets returned to the locker room with the final score of 33-84. Another loss. The 26th straight.
The biggest news in town on March 2, 2012, was that
then-Hornets basketball coach Perry Hunter was stepping down at the end of the year. Hunter had been at
the school for seven seasons, four of which yielded losing records. Two days earlier, the Hornets finished up a 9-12 season with a sectional loss to Paoli, 49-64. There was word of a storm on the way — tornadoes had flattened a little town in southern Illinois earlier that week — but life went on and students went to class like any other day. Henryville High School was dismissed 15 minutes early because of the bad weather, sending students scrambling to their lockers and onto the buses waiting outside. By 3 o’clock, most of the students had gone home, but Principal Troy Albert, along with 39 other students, teachers and staff, were still in the building. They hunkered down just outside the door to Albert’s office, away from windows and exterior walls. Then it hit. A behemoth of wind and debris, a third of a mile wide and spinning at 170 miles per hours, collided with the school, picking up school buses on its way and tossing them into buildings like an angry toddler throwing a tantrum. Nobody was inside the high school’s gymnasium, but security cameras were on. A single door in the back of the auditorium swings open and slams shut on its own accord, casting an eerie dark-blue glow on the court from the stormy sky outside. Seconds later, the lights in the gym flicker, then go out. For four seconds, the video is silent and dark. Suddenly, the roof buckles like waves on the sea, then peels back
slowly to reveal the anger of the tornado. It blows out the side of the structure, sending debris across the gymnasium, destroying lights and concrete and insulation, ripping, tearing, spinning debris across the parking lot nearby, sucking it up into the storm’s belly, throwing what was left of the roof around the gym, until the funnel finally passes, leaving the speakers that are still attached to the gym’s skeleton swaying softly in the post-storm air.
Henryville Hornets fans cheer as the boys’ basketball team takes the court for the first game of the 2013-14 season. The gym was destroyed in March 2012 when an EF4 tornado hit the school. /Photo by Charles Scudder.
“It was so massive,” says Bailey Reister, a junior forward on the Hornets squad. He could see it from his porch, nearly five miles away. “Dark, kind of like an abyss coming through your town, just coming to swallow everything in its path.” The tornado went on to kill 11 people in Indiana, two from Clark County, at least one of them in Henryville, making that spring the second-deadliest tornado season since 1950.
Sherman “Budroe” Sykes had burgers on the grill the
day all hell broke loose. His one-room diner off U.S. 31, just across from the high school, is one of the only places to grab a bite in town. He serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for the folks in Henryville. The place used to be called Budroe’s Family Restaurant. But after the storm launched a school bus into the middle
of the dining room, it was rechristened Budroe’s Bus Stop. Budroe heard the warning on the radio and sent everyone to the basement. When he got to the bottom step he felt the place shake and assumed it was all gone. When he came back up, he saw the bright yellow bus. He served two tours in Vietnam and says he had never seen anything like it. “Hope I don’t have to explain it,” he says. “It was hell.”
Today, Henryville is nearly cleared of the debris from March 2. Reminders are here and there — like the empty lots where buildings once stood, now being taken over by grass and weeds — but the town is working again. The gas stations by the interstate are bright and clean. Everything seems to have a new coat of paint. “Some of the people here worked their whole life to get something, and it was gone in three minutes,” Budroe says. “But you gotta look forward, don’t look back. And that’s what we do, mama.” The yellow and black school-bus décor of the diner fits with the yellow and black of the Henryville Hornets. Budroe’s proudly hangs Hornets gear alongside the photos from after the tornado. It’s where hungry fans go before and after games, Budroe says. Getting the restaurants and gas stations back up and running was one thing, but making sure the school was rebuilt took round-the-clock construction, a commitment to the town’s centerpiece. “Some places have a courthouse square,” Principal Albert says. “Ours is the school.”
Henryville sits at the crossroads of U.S. 31 and
Old Indiana 160. I-65 runs along the west side of town. It’s the kind of spot with more churches than places to eat.
Before the tornado, the town was best known as the birthplace of Colonel Harlan Sanders, whose fried-chicken recipe would make him a household name, and as the home of the Henryville Correctional Facility just north of town. When the two-year anniversary of the tornado rolls around this spring, 22 games will have been played in the new gym, one of the first structures rebuilt after the storm. The gaping hole in the school became a symbol of what the
“Some places have a courthouse square. Ours is the school.” storm left behind. The rebuilding of the gym showed the town’s resilience. But in a part of the state where community is synonymous with the local team, how much can Henryville heal without a win from the Hornets? Carmony says it’s more than wins and losses. The first game in the new gym, he says, was a victory in its own
right. The gym was finished two weeks into the school year while the team had practiced at nearby Silver Creek Elementary School. Media flocked to the school to cover the opening game, a 49-61 loss to New Albany’s Christian Academy. “By getting back to that routine,” Carmony says, “back to school at your regular school and having Friday and Saturday basketball games and homecoming, it gets the student body back into the rhythm.” Getting into that routine was the first time things felt normal since the storm, Albert says. He’s just now hanging artwork on the walls of his new office. He points out a large canvas print of New York City. “I think of all those stage plays at Times Square and how there’s so much chaos going on behind the scenes, but it goes off flawlessly,” he says. “It was like that here.”
Albert walked out of the school, led by a state trooper, through where a wall once stood. He remembers seeing cars flipped on their tops with their headlights still on. Getting back to the routine seemed a long way off. “You look at this building,” he says, “like, where are you going to work Monday?” Then, Albert got some good news. Construction crews told him they could have him in the new school as early as
Head coach Dan Carmony gives the Henryville Hornets final instructions before their first game of the season. “It won’t be perfect. First games are never perfect,” he says. “It’s a work in progress.” /Photo by Charles Scudder Opposite page: Sixyear-old Madelynn Evans plays in the debris in front of Henryville High School on March 2, 2012, after an EF4 tornado ripped through Henryville. /Photo by Chet Strange.
August — five months after the storm passed. “There were a lot of angels watching over us,” Albert says. Money from FEMA and the Red Cross helped the town recover.At high school basketball games around the state that spring, collection buckets were set up to rebuild Henryville’s gym and buy the Hornets new equipment. Country stars Lady Antebellum even pitched in, throwing a private benefit concert in Louisville for the Henryville senior prom. The new school opened in time for classes to start on Aug. 7. The gym was ready a few weeks later. It was hard to get used to at first, Bailey says. The old gym had brown floors and benches stained with history. Old team photos hung on the walls that are bare today. “I grew up here watching my cousin and all them play,” he says. “It was stunning to come in, but you miss the homeward feeling you get from it.” When Carmony came to Henryville that year the team was off to a rough start. The Hornets hadn’t been great, but they had averaged eight wins a season the last few years. The gym was named for Coach H. G. “Red” Furnish, who in the 1940s coached the Hornets to 43 straight wins. His teams won 72 percent of their games over 12 years. In 2010, under Perry Hunter, the Hornets made it to the sectional tournament finals. But graduating seniors and players
who moved away after the storm left the bare-boned team without many leaders. But they played with heart, Carmony says, and improved over the season. They never gave up, but they never seemed to get a win either. There were missed free-throws late in the season and the one that got away after a 13-0 lead out of the gate. They finished the season 0-20. You can chalk up a loss as a moral victory only so many times, Carmony says. But the boys kept coming to practice, kept showing up to games, kept pushing for a win. This season he wants the team to take what they learned last year and continue to grow. For the team, it means shooting better, 60 to 70 percent from the free-throw line. “I know looking at a winning season isn’t really the most reachable goal, but, I mean, I think six to seven wins is what I’d like to get at,” says Elijah Weeks, a sophomore guard on the team. “Then, eventually, my senior year, hopefully, get a winning season.”
Before the missed free throws and unforced
turnovers, before Silver Creek put in the JV squad to deliver the final few punches to the Henryville starters, before the fans chalked it up to just another loss, the gym comes alive. As the growing cheers leak into the quiet locker room, the players
get ready. Bailey has been watching Henryville play since he was a kid, and Silver Creek is their biggest rival. Now, before he takes the court, he gets chills just thinking about it. Elijah shakes the hands of each of his teammates, looking every one of them in the eye. “Come on, now. Let’s go get it,” he says. When the team is dressed, Carmony calls them together to go over some last-minute pointers. Watch the big guys. Don’t be afraid to get fouled. Play hard. Play smart. Play together. The band strikes up the Henryville fight song. “It won’t be perfect, first games are never perfect,” Carmony tells the team. “It’s a work in progress.” As the players run out onto the court, nearly 2,000 fans greet them. They are on their feet, yelling, clapping and cheering for the team that will probably lose. The scoreboard may not say the same at the end of the night, but for Carmony, a full gym is a victory. It means the community is getting back to normal, back to basketball games on Friday nights in the high school gym. In late December, in the last regular-season game of 2013, the Hornets get a 58-42 win. It’s the first victory after 31 straight losses. “There have been growing pains,” Carmony says, “but the upside is we’re back in here, the school’s coming back.”
Plein air artists mix their colors on palettes. This artistic style requires the agility to adapt to changing light conditions. / Photo by Briana Petty
A plein air painting of T. C. Steele’s House of the Singing Winds. Painted by Thom Robinson. /Photo by Briana Petty
In Plein Sight Painters past and present have captured the changing color and light of our landscape.
By Alexis Benveniste and Danielle Kam
ricia Wente dips her brush into her palette, lightly tapping it to remove excess paint. She stares into the deep forest behind her home in Bloomington, exhaling calmly and moving her hand across the canvas. She marvels at the scene before her, breathing in the
fresh Indiana air and working quickly to capture her surroundings. Tricia practices plein air painting, an artistic technique that originated in Europe in the 1800s. Directly translated from French, plein air means “in the open air.” Inspired by the newfound mobility, oil-painters began to abandon their
studios and venture into nature, adapting to the elements and using shifting light to guide their work. A well-known example of the plein air technique is Claude Monet’s “Rouen Cathedral” series. It features a nearly identical scene painted at various times of day with subtle shifts in shadow and temperature. Impres-
Jerry Smith of the Indiana Plein Air Painting Association shows his technique at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site. /Photo by Briana Petty
sionist artists such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro reveled in the freedom of painting outside the studio. Their paintings, which depicted gardens, beach scenes and sweeping landscapes, spread the plein air painting technique throughout Europe and eventually to the United States. Plein air painting is distinctive in both its challenges and its catharthic nature. “Plein Air painters work outside and work very quickly,” says Lyn Letsinger-Miller, author of the book The Artists of Brown County. “They were breaking away from the studios, to go out and paint a scene as the light hit it, because
it changed.” Letsinger-Miller’s book, originally published in 1994, captures the lives of the plein air painters who formed a thriving art colony in what is now the
Painting Association. The book Painting Indiana III: Heritage of Place by Rachel Berenson Perry features the group’s artwork and offers a glimpse into the past with never-before published works by The Hoosier Group. Painting Indiana and events like the bi-annual T.C. Steele Paint Out, are a testimony to the popularity of the artform today as artists continue to document our rolling hills with their brushstrokes. Still wondering what plein air painting is all about? Let us paint a picture for you.
Impressionists such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro reveled in the freedom of painting outside the studio. town of Nashville. The Hoosier Group began an outdoor painting tradition that is carried on today by organizations such as the Indiana Plein Air
T.C. Steele’s portrait of his wife, Selma, at the House of Singing Winds exemplifies his impressionistic style.
The Hoosier Group
n Owen County native, T.C. Steele studied art for five years at Munich’s Royal Academy in Germany, then returned to the United States and opened a studio in Indianapolis. Looking for a new direction, he discovered Brown County. The soon-to-be-wed Steele was well aware of the simple life that awaited him and his future bride, Selma. “One has to be very careful in Brown County not to put on style,” he wrote. “I think we will get along with the our new neighbors, though it must be admitted they are a curious people.” In the 1880s, Steele was joined by other outdoor painters who gathered in Southern Indiana to form what became known as the Hoosier Group. Hoosier native John Ottis Adams had joined Steele at the Royal Academy, where he met William Forsyth of Ohio. Richard
Gruelle was born in Kentucky and moved to Illinois to paint before joining the others in Nashville. Once the group settled in Brown County, their paintings took on a distinctive impressionist style. The artists painted the natural beauty of the hills and valleys, including the people who lived there. The Steeles settled in their home between Nashville and Bloomington, which became known as the Housing of Singing Winds. Selma was initially skeptical of life in Brown County, but she grew to love and appreciate the landscape where “you could see the complete horizon in an atmosphere of fantastic blue with pulsing clouds.” Still, she was horrified by the living conditions and lifestyles of local residents. She couldn’t comprehend why they chose to remain isolated, poor and illiterate when they were close to Bloomington, a college town. The neighbors, in turn, were curious about the Steeles and visited their home on Sundays. They complimented Steele’s paintings, though
they couldn’t understand why he spent so much time on them. But they returned every week for what came to be known as Sunday at the Steeles. In 1900, Brown County closely resembled what the rest of Indiana was like a half-century earlier. Many people still lived in log cabins. “It was like the artists got stuck back in time,” Letsinger-Miller says. “They could turn right around and get on a train and be in Indianapolis, Chicago or Cincinnati, the major art markets. So that’s why this particular area caught on.” These artists moved to this hardscrabble county where people thought what they were doing was pure nonsense, Letsinger-Miller says. “They made something that ended up being internationally known.” Today, the T.C. Steele State Historic Site houses over 50 of his paintings, and his studio is preserved so visitors can see where he worked. Located on 211 acres, the site includes guided tours, events and workshops that help keep the legacy of Steele and his fellow painters alive.
Painting with passion We asked an author, a teacher and an artist about what makes plein air art special.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller Lyn Letsinger-Miller is a 64-year-old author who currently resides in Nashville and is a member of the Brown County Art Gallery Foundation’s board of directors. In 1994 she wrote The Artists of Brown County, a book that chronicles the lives and art of Nashville’s famed Hoosier Group. How would you explain plein air painting? Plein air is sort of the slam-dunk of art, the fast break of art. It happens really quickly and sometimes you get a slam-dunk and sometimes it bounces off the rim. Where did you first hear about it and become intrigued? I was always interested in art and bought it as a very young person. I’d rather have original art as opposed to a print or something you would buy in a furniture store. For about the same amount of money, I could get something original. Which painters have inspired you? They all have. I live in Brown County, and they
show you a different way of looking at your environment. People drag around day to day. They don’t notice how beautiful things are. Everybody is looking for somewhere better to go or some exotic vacation place. But I think these artists, and the living ones that work today, show people to look out their window, take a walk in the woods and notice the sun coming up over the hills. All of a sudden, you realize, “Here’s this moment that is so beautiful.” Why has plein air painting stood the test of time? Because it’s beautiful, you want it in your home. It captures that day you walked in the woods. It’s as if you could freeze that moment and see it through
the eyes of someone with great skill. It’s a one-of-a kind-thing, a moment in time, and it has great beauty. What did you learn in the process of writing the book? These were principally plein air painters. The idea that they would go out, and it could be a hit or miss, and that they work so fast is amazing to me. When you’re standing up close to it, you know that there’s an image there, and when you step back, it all comes together.
Tricia Wente Tricia Wente, a 67-year-old plein air teacher and artist from Hamilton, Ohio, has loved plein air painting since she was a kid. She decided to become a teacher and share her passion with others. A member of the Bloomington Watercolor Society, Wente paints whenever she gets the chance. Why do you feel connected to plein air painting? Plein air is something I’ve done my entire life. I used to paint with my mom. My mom and her girlfriends called themselves the Palette Club, and I used to tag along when I was little.
Teacher and artist Tricia Wente shows some of her framing techniques. /Photo by Alexis Benveniste
What would you tell someone who wants to start plein air painting? Decide where you want to go, and pack as lightly as you can. The T.C. Steele Paint Outs are great, and they happen twice a year. Paint outs give aspiring painters a chance to break out their canvas and paints and work with a group of people with similar artistic passions. Where is your favorite place to paint? My husband and I took two long vaca-
tions and did all of Route 66. I’d say, “Oh I kind of like that over there!” He would pull over for 20 minutes, and I would get a little painting going. In the evening, I would look at the map to see where I had painted and I would write that on the back of the painting. Then, I’d alter it a bit if it needed it. The beauty of plein air is getting it all finished, if you can, outside. What made you decide to teach classes? It makes you focus. I’d been trained as a docent in West Virginia. I was standing at the Museum of Art there, talking about all these paintings. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I needed to be painting myself. Then it evolved into teaching.
Charlene Marsh practices plein air painting at a park near her home. /Photo courtesy of Charlene Marsh
Charlene Marsh Charlene Marsh, a painter and Muncie native, prides herself on her organic approach to plein air art. An avid hiker, Marsh connects her surroundings with her work. What would you say to someone who wants to try plein air painting? First, I would say you should have some grasp of the medium before you head out into the field. I would recommend some classes like drawing and color theory. Practice with the paint and do some painting in the studio to get some mastery of the medium. When you go out on location, you’re not only dealing with the paint medium, you’re dealing with hot and cold temperatures, rain, wind, bugs, sun and changing light.
Where do you find inspiration? I specialize in painting the deep forest. I don’t just drive around and park my car in the middle of the woods and paint. I get my inspiration from just being out in nature. Even if I’m not painting outside, I hike my trail every day — rain or shine, snow or sun or whatever. I’m always studying the colors, the shadows and the lights, thinking about what would make a good painting.
Want to try plein air painting? Go to 812magazine.com to see how . What do you love most about being a plein air painter? It’s a very pristine environment with no chemicals and toxins. I always think of the paintings as little holographs of the forest. I bring that energy into my living space. Trees resonate at the same vibrational frequency as the natural human body, so by being out in the forest and bringing that into our home, it connects our physical body to that natural vibrational frequency. Painting plugs one into that higher source. I’ll go out painting in 20-degree weather, and I’m freezing. I don’t care. I get into a trance where I just want to see the painting through. What is your favorite place to paint other than Yellowwood State Forest? There’s a creek nearby that I love. In the summer, the water gets really still and can dry up. In the winter and spring, it flows with waterfalls and ripples. The last couple of years, we’ve had a pretty bad drought and the creek was dry, so I
started painting the flowers around my property. I’m landscaping the property with the idea of where I’d want to paint and how I’d want to paint it. Why do you think plein air painting has remained popular for so long? In the early days, before the camera was invented, painting documented surroundings. So it has a historical significance. It’s a sense of place, to see what something was like on a particular day of a particular year. Plein air painting connects the artist with nature on an emotional level. It’s not as comfortable as when you’re sitting in your studio with a canvas and an easel and a cup of coffee. You’re going out in the elements and feeling the sun and the breeze, and all of that is going into the painting. I complete a painting on location and bring it out to the studio, but I don’t touch it or pick at it because I don’t want to clean it up. I want that raw energy that I felt on location.
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Brian Newton uses a 19th century kick winder to wrap wire around the broomcorn. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
Once a mechanical engineer, Brian Newton left his career behind to pursue his real passion: artisan broom-making. By Alli Friedman
rian Newton stands behind his
weathered broom-making machine, and puts the finishing touches on his final cabin broom of the day. He hangs it on a beam to dry beside the others and goes to greet two women visiting from Springfield, Illinois. He gets a lot of out-of-town visitors who come to explore his Nashville shop. Inside his store, the smells of broomcorn and cinnamon fill the air, and Brian wears a green, checkered shirt under bib overalls. The wooden shelves, antique equipment and scattered pieces of broomcorn are a nostalgic backdrop for the colorful brooms lining the walls. Walking into Broomcorn Johnny’s is like passing through a portal to a simpler time. But Brian wasn’t always a broommaker. In fact, he never thought he would be one. He never thought about any future plans, really. Whimsical, like his brooms, Brian is swept away by his passions and goes where life takes him. He didn’t grow up wanting to be a mechanical engineer either, but his early career led him in that direction. “Plans are kind of fun to think about, but most often they’re not real. They don’t work. Things never work out like we think they are going to work out. You kind of just have to bounce off things,” he says. In a time before people had vacuums, the broom-making industry was huge. Each town would have its own broom-maker. Eventually factories replaced them, and the craft was nearly lost. Today, Brian is one of about a dozen full-time artisan broom-makers in the United States. “There’s a huge difference when that’s all you do,” he says. “You’ve got to be extremely, extremely passionate about what you’re doing. You’ve got to be convinced. It’s a way of life. It’s not an easy thing.” The only way a broom-maker can stay competitive is to have superior
quality, superior customer service or something else, Brian says. He never counts how many brooms he makes in a day. He’d rather do a smaller number of brooms that he knows are good than a hundred that are just OK. Brian’s basic broom design was invented by the Shakers, a religious group that lived in New England and the Midwest in the mid-1800s. He produces brooms ranging from the standard one used for cleaning floors, small brooms for specialized purposes and artistic ones for display. His construction, hand stitching and coloring make his brooms distinctive from what you would find at a big-box store. He keeps a mass-produced broom in his shop to show people the differences in construction. Brian has four rows of hidden stitching on the inside of his brooms to keep them from falling apart. He guarantees them for 15 years. But customers have to do their part by dipping them in water every six months and hanging them up after using them so they don’t bend. Brian says people notice his commitment to quality. “They pick up on that. They feel it. They know I love what I do.”
wanted to be an engineer. I had a family and wife and kids, and I needed to make more money so I just kept doing more things and getting better jobs,” he says. Eventually, he worked for a company that designed and manufactured equipment to make medical devices. He was working 70 to 80 hours a week when he was hospitalized for cardiac arrest. He decided to quit his job. “I knew when I was getting out of the hospital, ‘Something has to change or this job’s going to kill me,’” he says. Brian’s mother called him when he left the hospital with exciting news: She had found 19th-century broom-making equipment in a barn in northern Indiana where she gave spinning lessons. He decided to take a look at the equipment. “It just so happened, that this was something I wanted to learn how to do,” he says. “Like I wanted to make banjos, and I made a banjo. I just kind of get curious about things.” After getting a divorce, Brian came back to Indiana to find a place to live and a broom-maker to show him the ropes. He shadowed two of them: a school psychologist who made brooms as a hobby and a retiree who did work at fairs and festivals. “I could see the creative outlet right off the bat. In my mind I was seeing things they weren’t doing or teaching me,” he says. “I wanted to do more. It finally got to the point where it’s all I wanted to do.” In 2012, he began making and selling brooms at fairs and festivals and won 2nd place in the Arcola National Craft Broom Competition. He was working in a vacant room at the Pioneer Village in Nashville that year, demonstrating broom-making and selling brooms, when he met his current fiancée, Liz Rubel, who was touring the village. Liz ordered a custom broom from him. “He always thinks about the person when he’s making the broom,” she says. “They are all one of a kind. He always made me feel special that way.” Brian sold his 30 acres of land in Shelby County and bought a house in
“They know I love what I do.”
Born in Parris Island, South Carolina, Brian spent
most of his early childhood in the Carolinas and Virginia, where his father was a career marine. He traveled often to Indiana, though, to visit his grandparents in Kokomo. When he was 11 and his father had retired, Brian and his family moved to a farm in the Elwood area. He joined the Air Force and began a career as a maintenance technician on fighter jets. He left the service after 10 years and moved to Arizona to attend school and explore the job market. He opened a custom motorcycle shop, which he closed after 10 years because he felt he had mastered the art and the work wasn’t as fun. He went to school full time in engineering at Arizona State University. “I kept chasing higher and higher paying jobs. I never decided one day I
Brian layers the broomcorn and spins each one into place to ensure his 15-year warranty. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
Colored brooms are one of Brian’s specialty. The recipe is secret, and the brooms sell out quickly. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
Multicolored brooms take more than two days to make. Each layer of colored broomcorn dries fully before they are sewn together. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
Brian hangs up his last broom for the day among the seven others waiting to be sewn together. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila Colored brooms hanging outside of Broomcorn Johnny’s shop disappear within the week. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
Nashville, a place he remembered from his childhood. He says people were warm and welcoming. He would sit and watch where people were shopping. He started talking to people who might have space for rent for a shop. In late November that year, he opened Broomcorn Johnny’s, named for the laborers known as Broomcorn Johnny’s and Jane’s who harvested broomcorn. Most of Brian’s brooms cost $45 or $50. But his creations range in price
from $5 for cake testers to $1,000 for wedding brooms. Both products are steeped in history. Before people had toothpicks, they would break straws off a broom to test the readiness of a cake. Brian offers his customers a “slice for life offer,” where they can send him a slice of a cake and he will send them another tester. As for the second, newlyweds would jump over wedding brooms to symbolize their new life together. The tradition began when slaves were banned from participating
in legal wedding ceremonies. They would lay a broom down and step over it to show they were married. One time, a priest came into Broomcorn Johnny’s and asked if Brian could make an aspergillum, which priests use to sprinkle holy water. An aspergillum is about a foot long and has fine tips so it can hold a lot of water. Brian made it and gave it to him for free. In turn, the priest took off his rosary bracelet and gave it to Brian, who now wears it around his wrist. When other priests come in, he stops whatever he is doing to make an aspergillum without charging them. Brian also mixes his own dyes and says the key is not only knowing what colors to mix, but how they chemically react with each other. He wouldn’t have understood the relationships between colors and how to mix the dyes in a certain way had he not had the scientific background, he says. The colors he creates look so natural that people often ask him if they grow that way.
Brian says Nashville is an oasis of imagination and artist-
ry. “Like minds tend to gather around like minds. It’s safer, nurturing, and we kind of understand each other.” Broomcorn Johnny’s works well in Nashville because of the large turnover
The tips of broomcorn create a nest for dirt to be pulled up into. /Photo by Sinikka Roinila
of customers. In a typical small town, he wouldn’t have the same success because, at some point, everyone would have a broom. “They’re coming here looking for art. They’re coming here looking for unusual things. And they’re willing to spend money for it,” he says. Brian often brings in Ollie, the miniature schnauzer he rescued, to entertain customers by dancing around for treats. Ollie and Brian are similar, Liz says. “Ollie is very purposeful and so is Brian. Just even going for a walk with Ollie, he’s on a mission, and that’s kind of how Brian is, too.” His brooms are sold in his Nashville store and online, and people hear about him through his Facebook page. He uses Google analytics to track what people visit on his website. He’s been contacted by people from as far as Ireland, Germany and England. He’s working with a company in England that wants to buy a large quantity of the colored brooms. Julia Pearson, the director of the Brown County Historical Society, is happy to see the broom-making craft return to the area. Historically, there was a broom factory in nearby Helmsburg. “It’s neat that he is doing one of the old crafts that Brown County was noted for at one time, and his art brooms are just a nice mingling of
that heritage and craftsmanship,” she says. Julia says Brian is a mellow and reflective person who appreciates the time and effort that go into something well made.
At the end of my visit,
Brian gave me the opportunity to make my own broom. I watched him as he wrapped the wire around the broom-
“You’ve got to be convinced. It’s a way of life. It’s not an easy thing.” corn using a “kick winder,” the broommaking machine that dates back to 1890. It’s his favorite piece of equipment because he has the most control when using it. He appreciates antique machines more than modernized ones because of the mechanical capability and because he’s a romantic, he says. Sometimes, especially during the winter, Brian thinks about the history
of the people who made these brooms. He imagines the families that used them, and it connects him to them, he says. On a shelf above the kick winder he keeps a “recipe book” of all the different types of brooms he has ever made and his ideas for new brooms. I stood over the kick winder as he handed me a bundle of broomcorn and told me to separate it into three piles. I placed the first bundle on the kick winder’s handle and pushed down on the pedal with my right foot to wrap the wire around the broomcorn. He uses a tuner to test the frequency of the wire on the broom. His quality control comes from keeping the wire at the same frequency for each broom. When I wrapped the wire around the broomcorn, it snapped twice because I pulled it too tight. Luckily, Brian fixed it. Brian’s future seems similar to his past. He doesn’t know what direction he is headed but will go wherever the road takes him. Brian and Liz plan to have a traditional wedding, and as part of their ceremony, they will jump over the broom. Brian doesn’t know if he wants to expand the store or if he wants to do mainly art brooms and have a studio and a gallery. “One day what will happen is, I’ll just have an epiphany. The light will come on and I’ll say ‘OK, that’s what I want to do.’”
STONE Every gravestone has a story.
By Jacob Klopfenstein and Katie Mettler
hether it’s large or small, wood or granite, elaborate or plain, a gravestone is a window into the story of the person below, a story that began long before the finality of death. A story about a life. Some tombstones are weatherworn and indecipherable. Others bear a glossy seal to protect the dignified marble beneath. But even cold, hard stones deteriorate with time, as do memories of the lives they commemorate. If you take time to read the
inscriptions and study the formations, you might see cemeteries as a place to celebrate life, not mourn death. So join us as we visit the lives of three Hoosiers whose distinctive gravestones mark their final resting place. We’ll go to the middle of a country road in Amity, find a stone carver in a forest of 11,000 headstones in Bedford’s Green Hill Cemetery, liberate Jackson County’s notorious Reno Gang, and discover the beauty, wonder and reverence of our storied cemeteries.
Thousands of graves stand in rows at Bedford’s Green Hill Cemetery. /Photo by Jacob Klopfenstein
Forever fenced in After the Reno Gang died, they were buried in the Seymour City Cemetery. Their plot is far away from the rest of the graves, their headstones surrounded by a gate, as if the community still fears the treacherous brothers.
he story of the infamous gang ringleaders sounds as if it came right out of the Wild West. Frank, William and Simeon Reno grew up in Rockford, a small town two miles
north of Seymour. As children, the boys studied the Bible for long hours between school and work on the family farm. But they rebelled and began cheating travelers along the farm road
where they lived. The brothers soon moved on to theft, including stealing horses. Later, they were suspected of arson when several local businesses caught fire. As the Civil War began, they became “bounty jumpers,” collecting the money federal officers gave to those who signed up for the military. But as soon as they pocketed the money, the brothers bolted. Joined by other bounty jumpers, they formed a gang and hid in the burned-out buildings of Rockford. On October 6, 1866, the gang carried out the first train robbery in U.S. history, stopping a car from the Ohio and Mississippi railroad and stealing $13,000, worth more than $200,000 today. Afterward, the gang was forced to split up and run. John fled to Missouri and robbed a courthouse. Frank stayed in Indiana and robbed treasuries. A private detective agency caught the gang’s trail and ambushed several members during another attempted train robbery. After a shootout, some of the captive gang members were being moved on a train when a group of hooded vigilantes hijacked the train and lynched the prisoners. As the Reno Gang began to crumble, Frank, William and Simeon were caught. On October 6, 1868, exactly two years after the first train robbery, the ringleaders were taken into custody. The brothers were imprisoned far from home in the New Albany jail, which angered the citizens of Seymour and Jackson County. On December 12, 1868, 50 members of the local Vigilance Committee stormed the jail and lynched the three brothers who had reigned terror on their town. The three Reno brothers are buried side-byside in the Seymour City Cemetery. /Photo by Jacob Klopfenstein
Above: Nancy Kerlin Barnett’s gravestone is poured atop her burial plot, her name barely visible after nearly two centuries of wear. Right: Barnett is buried in the middle of a county road in Amity. /Photos by Katie Mettler
The grave in the middle of the road
Before she was buried atop the hill overlooking Sugar Creek, before her descendants stood guard with shotguns when the county tried to move her, before her final resting place became known as the grave in the middle of the road, Nancy Kerlin Barnett was a pioneer.
orn in 1793, she married William Barnett, a descendant of Pocahontas and son of a Revolutionary War soldier. The couple tended the family farm and had 11 children, one every two years. According to historic records, Nancy loved the outdoors and spent much of her free time napping or resting on the grassy point beside Sugar Creek. Before her death, she told her family it was there, beneath the canopy of protective trees, in the silence of God’s country, she wanted to rest forever. When she died in 1831, her children fulfilled her final request. Soon others joined her on the hill, and by the early 1900s there were more than a dozen gravestones overlooking Sugar Creek. But as traffic in the area increased, the county tried to excavate and relocate all the graves. All but one. When workers arrived, tools in hand, to move the small cemetery, they found Nancy’s grandson Daniel Doty guarding her grave with a shotgun. They let her be and built the
road around the gravestone. But the road soon needed to expand from one lane to two, so the county came knocking again. This time, Ott Willard, a distant relative of Nancy, was waiting. “The first man that puts a spade in that grave gets his head blown off,” he told the excavators. They let her be, again. With nowhere else to go, the county just split the road in two, parting at Nancy’s head before rejoining again at her feet. In the 1980s, members of Nancy’s distant family traveled from across the country to dedicate a memorial on her grassy hill. The Grave in the Middle of the Road has become a tourist destination, and though the Johnson County Historical Society has a stack of files filled with newspaper clippings, family trees and photos of her grave, there’s not a single portrait of Nancy herself. So much legend, so much determination, all because a woman asked to rest forever on her favorite hill by her favorite creek.
The stonecarver’s bench Louis Jackson Baker was a hard worker who was devoted to his young family.
e was born in Bedford, the limestone capital of the world, in 1894 and lived his whole life in the town. He was a stonecutter’s apprentice at the John A. Rowe Mill. By all accounts, he was an industrious, energetic and promising young man with a bright and cheery disposition. He married Ethel Fountain of Mitchell on May 25, 1916, and they had a son, Charles Louis, about a year later. Louis was devoted to his family, according to his obituary. He was also devoted to his home and garden, which the neighbors envied. But only 18 months after he married Ethel and four months after his son entered the world, Louis Baker departed
it. Typhoid fever attacked him and within three weeks, he was gone. The 23-year-old had just completed his apprenticeship a few days earlier and had applied to join the Stone Cutters’ Union. Many of the men at Rowe Mill later became master carvers with national reputations for crafting tree stumps and trunks out of limestone. These ornate, detailed tree monuments pepper Green Hill’s rows of stone. It’s almost as if you’re walking through a gray forest. Baker’s brother-in-law worked as a foreman at the mill, and he and several others who knew Baker decided to do something different for their beloved
colleague and friend. Baker’s gravestone is a re-creation of his workbench as it looked on the day he died. The cornice he was working on lies on the bench along with carving tools, stone slabs and bent nails. Louis was, as always, hard at work before he died. His friends carved the entire monument from one piece of stone, weighing over a ton. Etched into the tools is Baker’s name, just where it appeared on the real tools. Four-month-old Charles Louis never got to know his father. But Louis Baker’s story lives today in what is now one of Green Hill Cemetery’s most beloved works of art.
Louis Jackson Baker’s colleagues carved his gravestone from a single block of stone. /Photo by Jacob Klopfenstein
The 812 List Are the cast members of “Parks and Recreation” sitting in a Southern Indiana town? /Photo courtesy of NBC
Why Pawnee is an 812 town
Discover the striking similarities. By Jackie Veling The fictional town of Pawnee, featured in the hit NBC show “Parks and Recreation,” is located 90 miles from Indianapolis, but the show never says in what direction. We know it can’t be east or west, since 90 miles would put the quirky town in Illinois or Ohio. That leaves Pawnee with two options: rising high or dipping low. Is Pawnee based on one of our own Southern Indiana towns? We sure think so. Here are eight pieces of evidence that point south.
The Pawnee Harvest Festival helps put the department back on its feet. Visit Indiana, the state’s official travel planning source, offers a festival tour solely for the southern part of the state, where green tractors and local musical acts echo the feel of Pawnee.
Postage stamp parks. When deputy parks
director Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, creates a new park, it’s so small it can only fit one bench. Denise Johnson, executive director for Evansville Parks and Rec, knows this situation well. “I call them our postage stamp parks,” she says. “They’re about the size of an inner-city lot that a house would sit on.”
Burial grounds. First
settled by Native Americans, Pawnee proudly hosts the “Wamapoke” burial grounds. Southern Indiana has its own famous burial site at Angel Mounds in Evansville.
an unfilled construction hole, is central to the first season. The Blue Grass Fish and Wildlife Area, made up of reclaimed strip mines, features 28 pits of its own. The park is located in Elberfeld, a small town in Warrick County. “It gives us a geographical edge,” says Keith McDaniel, assistant superintendent for Warrick County Parks and Rec. “And the mountain bikers love it!”
Li’l Sebastian, Pawnee’s
beloved miniature horse, is a show favorite. Mini Gaits Farm, Little King Farm and Twilight Dream Miniatures are just a few of the mini-horse breeders located in the 812 region.
Department shutdown. The show’s
third season focuses on the shutdown of the department due to a budget deficit. We know the feeling. Towns like Jeffersonville had over $300,000 cut from their Parks and Rec budget in 2013.
Remember Lilith, Pawnee’s oldest raccoon and most infamous pest? Southern Indiana also has a high raccoon population that keeps pest control booming. We have a lot more public land than the northern part of the state (think state parks and the Hoosier National Forest). In ideal conditions, it’s possible to have one raccoon per acre.
Pawnee was founded in 1817, a consequential year for Southern Indiana. Jennings County, Sullivan County and the town of Petersburg were all founded in 1817.
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