I got to Indiana yesterday and camped at a State Park about forty miles northwest of Fort Wayne. Today, I set off to visit the St. Joseph County 4-H Fair to look for "Brian" and crew. It hasn't changed all that much from when I was a 4-H member fifty years ago. In fact, aside from a few new buildings, I'd say it hadn't changed at all.
I snapped a few photos of kids--both couples and gaggles of girls. They are pretty much just as I describe them in LNDtH and as I remember them from my youth. Cute! And serious. I passed a girl of about seventeen who wore a shirt that said, "The more I know people, the more I like my horse." Two 15 or 16 year old girls stood in front of the Sewing exhibit absolutely poring over the project book of the Grand Champion. Then they moved to the foods exhibit and stood in front of the championship exhibit for fifteen minutes discussing the recipes and merits of each one. Four girls in short-shorts stopped to buy sno-cones before getting tickets to ride the rides on the midway. And I swear the "Crazy Mouse" was the exact same ride that scared the shit out of me fifty years ago and it was the same bizarre old man who was running it! The salt water taffy booth was right where I expected it and as soon as I mentioned sitting in at the back door getting fed pieces of taffy, one of the guys said, "That was Mike." The booth has been in the same family since the 50s.
The commercial building was a bit of a let-down. It's smaller than I remembered and none of the local media stations broadcast from there anymore. And since I was there on Sunday, none of the horses had shown up yet. I did see a picture of the barrel races, though.
And I had an elephant ear with enough powdered sugar on it to induce a diabetic coma. Don't let anyone tell you that an elephant ear is the same as a funnel cake. a funnel cake is made with batter like pancakes. And elephant ear is made from dough like bread. I was in a sugar and starch induced lethargy for an hour after.
I progressed out of the fair and headed through Mishawaka to the specific area where I grew up and about which I write in LNDtH. Though the people and actions are all fiction, the setting is much as I described it. It has changed very little in fifty years. The house I grew up in was torn down in the sixties. The woods behind everyone's property along that road has grown out to the narrow blacktop where our home was. Every quarter mile or so along the road there is a warning sign that says "Narrow Shoulder." In other words, where the pavement ends, the drainage ditch begins. There are a few newer homes in what was mostly unoccupied territory, but the rest of the houses have been there for seventy to a hundred years and are showing their age. Compared to my home, I considered the houses I used as the setting for Brian and Joanne to have been mansions. They don't look as impressive now.
The church is still there, but the parsonage was torn down when they put the new highway in back in the nineties. The hill looks less impressive than it did when I was a kid, but the creek is still beautiful and undisturbed by the changes all around.
I'll be in Indiana most of July and looking forward to seeing some old friends and renewing acquaintances with a few people I haven't seen in fifty years. In all, the nostalgia of actually being here is likely to carry into some of the writing. I'm back home in Indiana.