After the cold wet day before, Wednesday arrived in full flower, with brilliant blue skies and a light warm breeze. We were on our way to Muncie, Indiana, to visit Earl and Martha. With our mental clocks, as well as our computer clocks, set to Eastern Daylight Time, we were on the road especially early with time to sightsee along the way.
We drove through downtown Richmond, noting that efforts have been made to attract pedestrians and shoppers -- flowers and shrubs are set in pleasant sidewalk spaces. Richmond is a county seat, with its massive buildings set just outside the downtown shopping area. We remembered our visit a year ago to the first town of the name Richmond, in Swaledale, Yorkshire.
Earlham College, a small liberal arts college established almost two Horses instead of a tractor hundred years ago by Quakers, is an attractive, tidy, red brick campus on the edge of town. Only a few students were to be seen, and a groundskeeper or two mowing and edging the lawns. We remembered a good friend Dana who chose Earlham, and wondered what became of her. Perhaps if we had gone to Earlham (a distinct possibility at the time) we would know. We wondered why some colleges have prospered enormously over the last fifty years, multiplying the numbers of students, faculty, and campus buildings, while others seem to have remained the same. Businesses find it hard to prosper in a stable environment; for them it's grow or die. Is it the same for colleges? Perhaps if the endowment continues to grow, and there are still students who can pay the higher tuition, the small liberal arts college can continue to serve its niche market.
This area of Eastern Indiana was settled by Quaker families back in the early nineteenth century. We passed through several tiny towns with signs to the Friends' Meeting House, and imagine these Quakers were also abolitionists who hurried the runaway slaves northward from the Ohio River to Canada along the Underground Railroad. The countryside seems unchanged, and many of the farmhouses north of Richmond are tall two-story buildings with 12-foot ceilings, nearly a hundred years old.
Suddenly we spotted, at the far end of a field, several bobbing heads: a farmer was plowing with horses. As he neared our parked car, we saw that the young farmer was using eight horses, four in front, four behind. He swung them around at the near end of the furrow, speaking a few words to them. We were a bit embarrassed about taking pictures, but he gave us a big wave at he departed, so we have our special farm photo. Later we saw another farmer, wearing the broad brimmed hat typical of Amish or Mennonite men, walking down the rows of a field scattering seed. It's like stepping back in time to see these farmers using the old methods.
What had brought us off onto these small back roads was a search for the Highest point in Indiana highest point in Indiana. Indiana is so flat, there just doesn't seem to be any highest point. But we turned this way and that and finally came to a sign leading back into a small muddy grove of trees. We decided the sign was good enough for our Cub Scout badge in Indiana Mountain Climbing, and took a photo to prove it.
In Muncie, cousins Earl and Martha treated us to a delicious lunch, including carrot soup, chicken salad, and two desserts: our absolute favorite, lemon sponge pudding, and a light and delicious Western gingerbread. We salute Martha's cooking! And of course there was lively conversation, keeping up with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Earl and Martha had to give up some of their most active birding trips, as they say they walk and climb a little too slowly to keep up. But they're still planning an expedition to the Alaska peninsula this summer, which sounds plenty active to us! Meanwhile, on the home front, Earl is busily trapping the neighborhood squirrels and relocating them across the White River, hoping he can keep his back yard feeders FOR BIRDS ONLY!! We're grateful for all the new relatives we've met through our family history studies.
We usually check into a hotel right after lunch, so it felt quite late pulling into Lima, Ohio at 6:00 p.m. Of course we had lost an hour switching to Daylight Savings Time. Along the drive from Muncie we passed through the towns of Como, Geneva, and Berne, founded by Swiss Mennonite settlers, and saw lots more farmers with horse-drawn plows, housewives with clothespins and outdoor clotheslines, buggies in the road, and old small barns protected by lightning rods. In one small town we found Limberlost, the location for Gene Stratton Porter's 1910-or-so novel, The Girl of the Limberlost. We imagined what it would be like if we could instantly transplant all the disaffected youth from our inner cities to these plain-living, hard-working country farmsteads. Of course it wouldn't work, but we imagined trying it anyhow!