31 October 2009

Happy Halloween

May your head never be used as a jack-o-lantern model,

May you never receive rocks for trick-or-treating,

May your pumpkin patch always be found most sincere,

And may the Great Pumpkin fill you with Halloween Cheer!

Happy Halloween!

30 October 2009

Hauntings: Local lore #2

The legend of Devil's Lake
Devil's Lake? I'm surprised at how many people have never heard of this little lake in our area; I happened to have grown up with it. When I was a kid and went fishing with my grandfather he often received permission to fish a number of places on private property. Devil's Lake was owned by an old friend just off of an old Indian trail a few miles from grandpa's farm.

Devil's Lake was really more like a bog or sinkhole. The land around it is gently rolling until about 150' from the lakeshore where it drops off considerably and was densely wooded all around. And it isn't particularly large like a lake, just maybe a large pond with a very swampy edge. As if the name wasn't foreboding enough, I remember Gramp's driving the truck to the point where the bank descended from which we had to walk the remaining way over old wood plank walks. The trees branched out across the walks and I remember well snakes rushing out from beneath the planks or sunning themselves on the walk or on the low hanging branches overhead. The farmer kept an old rowboat tied to the shore that we would have to empty of snakes prior to climbing in to shove off and fish. This was not my favorite fishing spot, but you could pull scads of bluegill out of the deep, deep waters (attempts have been made to measure the depths but to no avail).

Devil's Lake was the name given to it by the Indians. Legend states that a brave was one time resting along the shore under the shade of surrounding trees when he witnessed a monster rise out of the murky waters and devour a deer grazing at the edge of the lake. I'm glad that I didn't know the legend when I was a kid. Lake Manitou in Rochester has a similar legend surrounding it, but with a creature more like Nessy.

Unfortunately Devil's Lake has fallen victim to the suburbanization of our rural countryside. Not long before my grandfather passed away the owner of Devil's Lake stopped by the truckstop and asked him if he'd be interested in buying his farm. Gramps, not recognizing his old friend, said no only to find out the old guy died a few months later and the property sold. The farmhouse and barn were razed and a large modular was brought in. They graded out the bank of Devil's Lake, removed all the trees and added a sandy beach they could access from their walk-out basement.

Environmentally I think that the lake was probably a rarity. Now it's just someones private beach and the devilish ambiance is gone.

28 October 2009

Hauntings: local lore #1

Since we're coming up to Halloween, I thought I would give you a couple of local lore kinds of creepy stories to put you in the mood.

There is a fabled old house in town whose condition itself is enough to give one the jitters. The stories behind the house add to the mystery and intrigue. The story of this property extends back to 1857 when the property was purchased by a German man named Hoham. Hoham created the first lager brewery in Northern Indiana and had his own saloon in town from which he sold his product.

Giant brick vaults to hold the beer were constructed on the property with the old brewery building over the top of the vaults. Fresh water in the distilling process was pumped up from the river at the base of the hill the brewery sat upon. The story passed down from the son of Hoham, the original proprietor, to his granddaughter (a woman who only recently passed away) was that Hoham assisted runaway slaves find safe passage to Michigan, using the Michigan Road as their general route. The slaves were said to take safe harbor in the dark and damp brick vaults.

The brick vaults were still in good condition the last time they were accessed and photographed in the late 1950's. It is believed that they are still at least partially intact. As to the plausibility that Hoham was an agent in the Underground Railroad, we know that he was a Lincoln Republican, running for office in 1860. We also know that he had the financial means to provide safe passage, including a transport route he used to take beer to Michigan City-a major destination point for escaped slaves as an entry point to the safe state of Michigan. We also know that in the state's published findings of the Underground Railroad, our community featured prominently in having safe houses for escaped slaves. Add the corroborating testimony of Hoham's great granddaughter and it seems in all likelihood a true story.

But the mystery around the Hoham house doesn't end there. In the brewery's heyday this large brick house was constructed in about 1880. The Stick-style house is unique in its architectural style and is one of the most impressive homes built in our area during the 1800's. However, as the brewery burned and family moved elsewhere the property transferred in ownership and later became a speak-easy during prohibition times. The house, subjected to constant police raids, became known as "the Pines". And wouldn't you know it, but the infamous character recently featured in film, John Dillinger, was said to have lodged here. A large third floor ballroom accessed by a narrow staircase flanked by dual chimneys arching together overhead would seem like the perfect private respite for a tommy-gun toting bank robber. Dillinger's bank robbing spree had all of Indiana in a panic.

Lake County Courthouse, Crown Point....famed Dillinger landmark

I've often passed by the house on the hill, situated on a major street curve, and hope for the best. It has been in rough condition for as long as I can remember. Our preservation non-profit group had created a purchase agreement with the owners a few years back but they rescinded on the very last day. Some people think the place is haunted. It certainly has that ambiance. I just think it is a great piece of history unique to our community and tied into our national identity through the likes of Dillinger and the Underground Railroad. Hopefully it will find salvation soon before it becomes itself a ghost.

27 October 2009

a Cabin lurks beneath?

Lakeville Cabin?

I have had my eyes more attuned to spotting potential log cabin structures lurking beneath layers of asphalt, aluminum and sometimes vinyl siding. This bizarre sixth "sense" I have developed has come from two fairly recent discoveries of log buildings in Marshall County, both in West Township. One is sitting disassembled in a barn....dangerous prospect since I've been looking for one.

Cook Cabin, West Twp., Marshall County

I've also had plenty of opportunities to acquaint myself with log structures in watching the Boots-Myers Cabin near Argos, IN be taken down and reassembled at Pottawatomie Wildlife Park near Tippecanoe, IN and also the Linden Cabin be relocated from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the city of Portage. Recently I inspected one that is for sale locally.

Typical cabin structure with a single window right of door

Simple early settlement cabins were normally constructed of poplar logs in full or half-dove tail joinery at the corners. They were usually not larger than about 16'-20' long by 12'-18' deep. They normally had a loft accessed by a set of stairs with "winders" in one of the corners, usually opposite the side with the front door. Depending on their size they were typically one or two rooms; most of the early cabins I am familiar with locally had just the single first floor room. The front door would normally be centered, or near centered, with either a single window to one side or a pair flanking the doorway. There would also typically be a small window centered in each gable for the loft. Finally, the overall proportion is usually a give-away with a fairly small footprint juxtaposed with slightly taller than normal walls to accommodate the loft, but maintaining a fairly minimal slope to the roof. And, despite our romantic idea of a log cabin, were covered with wood siding as soon as the pioneer could afford it.

Boots-Myers Cabin undergoing restoration near Tippecanoe

So, given all of that mind numbing information, the last several trips to South Bend on the Historic Michigan Road (U.S. 31) through Lakeville sent my cabin-radar up as I studied this little mint green metal sided house. The "Lakeville Cabin" is nearly identical to the Boots-Myers Cabin, considered to be the oldest structure in Marshall County constructed about 1836 if I am correct. The cool thing is that if it is indeed a log structure hiding under that siding (minus the additions to the right & left) it may well be the only log cabin on the Historic Michigan Road......although I have been studying another structure north of Argos recently. The Michigan Road would have been constructed through Lakeville in about 1836, probably dating the cabin to about that time.

I'm anxious to make some contacts in Lakeville-the little place looks vacant. And I am still hoping for a cabin in the woods someday-that's all I ask. For more Historic Michigan Road information go to http://www.historicmichiganroad.org/


Partner in crime, blogger Jim Grey, reminded me of this cabin he shot in Ripley County along the Michigan Road. Oops. Well, now maybe we have two.

25 October 2009

Looking for a Hail Mary Pass

The kids were off for fall break so we were looking for things to do and knowing my football-maniac son is concerned that the College Football Hall of Fame is leaving Indiana for Georgia and he may never see it-we spent the afternoon in South Bend.

We've never been to the Hall. We've sat at the South Bend Chocolate Company and stared out at it and have walked passed it on a number of occasions, but never visited it. It actually is fairly well done and after visiting and watching the kids play on the turf behind it, made me realize South Bend is about to lose something pretty cool from their downtown.

There have been a number of critics of the College Football Hall of Fame, along with Coveleski stadium...most of those comments center on former mayor and former governor Joe Kernan. And while the attendance numbers just didn't rack up for the Hall, there is no denying it was good for the downtown, at least as a part of the city's downtown rejuvenation plans.

I recommend the city look into some kind of combination sports-themed major restaurant/bar and possibly a sports equipment and clothing retailer (kayaks too!) with interactive training areas. Also work in a first class gym for people who need to work-out on the run. And work with Notre Dame to establish at least a small sports museum to get game-day visitors still coming downtown. The building is manageable enough in size to combine all of these adequately. No charge for these ideas Mayor Lucke.

But I do hope that they keep the green. It was remarkable to me how many people used it that weren't even going into the Hall. It's a great and unusual feature to have a partial football field in the middle of your downtown and fully accessible to the public. You've got to keep this!

We warmed up with hot coffee from the South Bend Chocolate Factory's downtown restaurant. Kudos to them too....probably as much a part of the downtown's turn-around as the Hall. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and downtown South Bend has all kinds of proof-it is leaps and bounds better than what I remember it being during the late 80's/early 90's. That's what visionary leaders can do for their communities.

Just ask Mayor Rea of Mishawaka.....and then go for a drive along the river near downtown. This massive public works undertaking (by a Republican nonetheless) has been years in the making under Bob Beuter with Rea as his planning director. Best wishes to downtown South Bend...losing the Hall will be a blow, but you've set enough in motion it should only be a minor setback. I do hope negotiations will keep Rockne put.....and how about Notre Dame beating Boston College?

Trivia.....did you know that President Teddy Roosevelt almost banned the game of football? Numerous deaths (what do you expect with just a thin piece of leather between your skull and several hundred pounds of mass bearing down on you?) were occurring across college campuses from the American sport so Teddy got serious and told the colleges to put stricter rules in place to end the bloodbath. The Gipper also was found in the Hall.

trash talk

Ever have someone say something to you that sounds so stupid you hardly know how to respond?

The family was at a public event today, possibly one of my projects I am most proud of in river city, and as we walked into the building I noticed a line of people stringing in so I held the door for them. I'm not mentioning this looking for accolades, courtesy and respect are some of those core values my folks instilled in me, I mention this only because the mayor of river city happened to be one of those for which I held the door. I shook his hand and said hello and he then asked "how you like those trash cans?"

I said..."uh, yeah, they look real nice" as I rolled my eyes.

I'm sure he was trying to get my goat, possibly over the protest, but what a stupid thing to say. So a constituent is upset over how trashy you've just made river city and you get all coy and say something stupid like that? Would you make comments like that to others who think you've messed up?

This vaguely reminded me of when I met with State Rep. Heim for coffee and he brushed off my comments on daylight savings time by saying how his constituents were really going to enjoy it because they could get in an extra round of golf. He was defeated a few months later.

As we were playing today with the kids out in the front lawn in a huge pile of leaves I looked down our street to an elderly lady's home. She is choosing to leave her giant tote in the public right-of-way in front of her home near the street because it is too much to haul around. It looks like crap, but do you blame her?

River city's totes look remarkably similar to Jeffersonville's....you know, the town whose city attorney had an overnight stay in a big green box. Time to take out the trash folks.

24 October 2009

11 and counting

11 years ago today on October 24, 1998

My wife and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary, which is technically today, last week with a weekend get-a-way to Galena, IL....really one of our favorite spots. I think this was our fourth visit and this year, while we missed the Halloween parade, was especially nice since a pottery tour was being held at the various rural kilns surrounding the historic town. We also had dinner by candlelight at our favorite restaurant...Vinny Vanuchi's.

Galena, Illinois

11 years. She was just flipping through our wedding album and commenting how young some of the people looked. I was waiting for her to say something about how I've aged. No doubt about it....feeling it especially today. But she didn't say anything about aging. In just 11 more years we'll be empty nesters. How does that happen?

Outside of Vinny's

We have a wedding to attend later today. What better way to celebrate our anniversary, right?
A slightly younger us

23 October 2009

things that make you grin

Several weeks ago I drove past these corn cribs for the first time. They are situated on a high ridge above the county road near Milford. The first time I drove by a great big grin developed on my face. I'm not sure why. They appear to be guarding the ridge like sentinels. But they also remind me of kitchen canisters. Now I look forward to rounding the bend and dipping with the road just before these guys appear to the south. And each time they make me grin.

Ever encounter that unexpected sense of happiness on a drive?

22 October 2009

the back door

Our home is blessed, or maybe cursed, to have two front doors and three back doors. And since, like many Hoosier homes, people use our back door rather than the front....our back door is really our front door. But use which back door people wonder?

When we moved into our home almost 11 years ago we were accustomed to using the back door to the far south, in part because it was closest to the kitchen, but also because the middle door was broken and falling of its hinges and led only into the laundry room. The far north door led to the basement. And so, just like our family, everyone who visited also became accustomed to using the far south door.

The middle door had an old concrete porch and steps that led to it. The porch cap was broken and pitched inward toward the house. It also had broken block underneath through which our dog gained access under the porch and became lodged pretty solidly under the old slab one summer. Fearing he would not get out we had a backhoe on its way to life the slab. As we hammered against the block our dog found the gumption to get out-like lightning. So, to prevent further entrapments we had the old porch removed. After which a portion of our foundation fell in when a train rumbled by.

Once we had a new porch put on (field stone and wood porch floor) the architect in me couldn't decide how to best finish the steps. During the long wait for me to make up my mind, concrete block made make-shift steps. We had a new, beautiful wood door installed and we switched locations for the laundry room. It would move to the smaller room that most people used to get into our house (southernmost door). The former laundry became a more formal entry. And in the mean time the door began to have issues and the wood porch floor rotted.

So, I repaired and painted the door blue and removed the wood deck and had a concrete top put on....not quite right, but ok. Finally this summer I had brick pavers put down for the terrace and limestone monoliths installed for steps. And then finally got wood columns (historic columns from a neighbor's porch) installed with cattle fencing placed over the top for an arbor, fastened to a wood frame made from a very old floor joist from somewhere in our house or barn. This was the plan several years ago when I planted bittersweet to grow up a trellis to cover the top of the arbor. Uh, the bittersweet reached grow-over capacity a few years ago.

And nearly all of the landscaping is in place and looks great this time of year. My old chair I use(d) after my runs last summer sits beneath the shade of the arbor which will look great with Christmas lights and greenery this winter. I'm pretty pleased although the steps need shimmed and I still have the water fountain to build. The only problem is.....NO ONE USES THIS DOOR.....they've all gotten used to coming to the other door and now walk in on our dirty laundry. In fact, we know it's someone new if we hear a knock at the real back/front door.

So, if you come for a visit, please use the blue door. It comes directly into my office now, but that's fine, there's a wing-back chair that you can pull up to my desk and we can talk over coffee.

Fall at Home

We haven't had that many sunny days this fall. Or temperate days for that matter to enjoy the color. So over the last few days when the sun finally broke through the clouds and it was warm enough to enjoy the outdoors I picked up the camera and started shooting.

Here are some pictures from Fall at our home......and I may be biased, but we live on the prettiest street in all of Indiana.

20 October 2009

Fall Tradition

We have this annual Harvest Party at my folks' house. The only difference this year was that it was incredibly cold. My niece's and my birthday are also celebrated during this and mom always makes a giant kettle of our famous truckstop chili. Good stuff.

And it was during this annual event that my brother and I decided to co-author a book entitled "Growing up Charismatic". My mom cringed. We think it will be a best seller.

15 October 2009

No seriously, whazzup?

OK, outside of my silent protest...which evidently really embarrassed my wife, at the same time I've been thanked by others...I have had other things going on. Seriously. Here's just a sampling of the great stuff I've had on my plate recently.

I've been doing a fair amount of research on granite carving and a guy named Novelli. This is all in part due to my working to put the Chief Menominee Memorial site on the National Register. This is an amazing thing that has come out of the rededication really. To think that the State of Indiana was actually the very first (and for a long time only) state in the union (or the Union for that matter) to have funded a memorial to a Native American back in 1907. Remarkable.

And I've been learning a lot about the fragile ecology of the Indiana Dunes and their political heroes-some of the same guys talked about on the Ken Burns series.

And then there is the early concrete block industry that I've recently immersed myself in studying. A remarkable concrete block church that took a great deal of skill in creating is located in Syracuse....and I'm trying to figure out if there is a link between that and a schoolhouse. If so, these would be some of the finest and earliest concrete block structures known.

And following on the heels of that is my research on the Mock family of Kosciusko County. Two brothers who came to the area in about 1820 with two separate cemeteries named for them.

And then there is the whole lease-back program of the Indiana Dunes and a great group of international style homes on the shore designed by famed Chicago architect Louis Solomon.

And did you know that Indiana was the first state in the country to pass a law requiring eugenics? That's the purposeful act of sterilization of criminals and mentally ill. The law passed in 1907 and was deemed unconstitutional and was repealed in 1921. I learned some other interesting facts with this I'll have to post on.

And then there is this buddy of mine who I've been hanging out with and he's getting his business up and running again....and it is more cool to me to see that the "unfinished work" I wrote about last February (I think), God is really chiseling away at.

Then last Wednesday-there's this young guy I mentor and we strolled around this wetlands area just at dusk. He and I are working on "listening to God" by meditation and putting ourselves into environments where senses are heightened, such as nature...to see God in those things. It was pretty cool....deer within several feet and an owl overhead.

I've got this old friend-like my best bud from highschool days-and we've gotten together twice now in the last week for coffee to talk about what kind of community we want to leave to the generations to come after us. Nobody talks like that these days. It was so refreshing.

I went and saw The Informant last night with a friend. Matt Damon's put on like 100 lbs. But then after a woodchuck and a basket full of chicken wings last night-I felt like I had too.

We actually CANCELLED church last Sunday because we had "service" during a harvest party the night before. This was kind of a wild concept for a church of 300 people. But let me tell you...we've heard some great things coming out of the small gatherings with folks that don't typically go to church on Sunday. We had 17 here for brunch from our 20x class....about half weren't from our church. It was great......we should cancel church more often.

It's been frickin' cold. I believe that was snow mixed with rain this afternoon.

I had lunch with the the guy I refer to as the puppetmaster last week. Hatchets are buried-I think. It actually gave me a great chance to decompress and work through stuff that I had put out of mind some time ago.....I was more frank than what I had planned. But I've got nothing to lose.

One thing is becoming crystal clear as we work through some "visioning" for our church. Our strength is that we're relational. Our weakness may be the same.

A mouse ran through the kitchen this morning while I was standing in my pjs eating oatmeal.

I realized that I deeply enjoy classical music. And I really appreciate being able to listen to old broadcasts of the Prairie Home Companion radio show.

A couple guys and I helped to do some moving for our new county historical society museum expansion. I'm incredibly thankful to have had a part in that.

Glen Beck makes my blood boil. I can't believe Christians think that it is "christian-like" to listen to this guy.

My kids wanted/needed to do a leaf collection. I had a blast hunting leaves with them. My daughter wanted to create a Halloween tree.....that was some of the most fun I've had in a long time.

God gives us our resources to provide for others.....God provides for us.

Finally......I turn 41 on Saturday. I think it's time to move into the second part of my life with a heck of a lot of gusto.

14 October 2009

My silent protest

Have you wondered what I've been up to? I've been busy holding a silent protest in my front lawn. The garbage totes were delivered today and line main street here in River City.

They look beautiful against the golden fall foliage!

The other side says "Less Service". Folks have been blowing horns all morning in support....I think...??

04 October 2009

witness to a bloody sacrifice, and life

It is early....and I've been up since about 3:00 a.m. It started with our son calling out, then later, our daughter, then the boy again, then the daughter. Once it became quiet we heard something scurry down inside our wall. Then it was quiet again....then the dog became sick. After watching him eat grass outside and realizing I may be well advised to stay up with him, I made coffee and decided to start my morning.

So I went to my notes for the 20x class I'll be teaching in about five, my gosh can that be right, 5 hours. I previewed the Rob Bell Nooma video "You" last night and pulled a few questions from the material that we'll be using in class. I rarely journal anymore, at least pen on paper. The blog seems to fill this need I have to get thoughts out of my head. But, I picked up an old journal to make some notes in concerning the video and lesson and found some entries from 2001 from a winter retreat we took our youth group on. They dove-tailed nicely with the lesson.

One of the lesson questions was "do you, as a Christian, feel like you are part of a movement that's putting a broken world back together?" No. Not at all. Honestly, I feel like I am all alone out there with no moral support. In fact, it often feels like the biggest hindrance in putting the world back together are the people in the church. There is too much hate that is spewed out in the name of righteousness when it really is seeded in bigotry, pride and a desire to control. If we are the ambassadors of restoration for a broken world I can't see that we're being effective at all.

How about this one "do people generally see Christians as people who serve or who forcefully try to rule?" Well, except for small pockets being the exception to the "rule" I think this answer is obvious given the unfortunate public face of Christianity today. Would you use the term "servant of others" to describe the face of your church....how about outside the church? Let me ask this of you non-church goers....would you use that term to describe the church on the corner? Where did we go wrong?

The last question I plan to use this morning is this..."if others could watch how you spend your time, money, what you love and who you love would they see that Jesus has risen from the dead?" Let me set the stage for this question.

In Acts 1 Christ says just before He ascends to heaven that we would be His witnesses to the world. The disciples gathered there, staring into the sky, were indeed witnesses to His resurrection. For a period of forty days this teacher they followed and watched crucified, walked and ate with them teaching them about the kingdom.

So, are you a witness? You see anyone, whether a Christian or not, can tell you that you need Jesus. They can throw all kinds of scripture at you and maybe even be a bit of a Bible scholar. They can try to get you "saved" and maybe even hope that the Holy Spirit will bring you to conviction because of it. Anyone can evangelize, but that doesn't make them a witness.

A witness is someone who exemplifies by their life and word that Jesus is raised from the dead because He is real and living in their life. Christ has created effective change that causes them to display servanthood. A witness can't help but be a witness.....he is because of what he has seen in his life.

So, I'll go back to the last question I posed from the lesson. Based on your life, would people understand that you are a witness of Jesus being raised from the dead? I scratched out percentages based on different areas of my life and using the law of averages I came up with 50% of the time. That's terrible.

God, make us a people that by our lives give witness to your sacrificial act because you desire restoration to this broken world. Truly all of creation begs desperately for the hope that You have already provided. Change your church to be witnesses of that hope through sacrificial acts of service to bring healing to all creation.

01 October 2009

Creation and greed

I've had a post rattling around in my head since the beginning of the week but have lacked the "finishing touch" to write it. And maybe that is because it doesn't have a finishing point. The idea has continued to develop due to programs I've been watching and people I have been talking with....and it won't end here....it simply can't. It is too big.
I finished reading Job this week. Toward the end of the book, after Job and his friends have had their say, God speaks to Job "from the whirlwind" and says to "brace yourself like a man". Then God lets loose on him. God begins an inquisition of Job unlike anything else seen in Scripture.

Imagine this thunderous voice of God telling you to prepare yourself for what He is about to say....bellowing out from a whirlwind nonetheless. What does God say?

Where were you when the foundation of the earth was laid?

Where were you when I told the sea it could only come this far?

When I adorned the earth with clouds?

Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?

Have you entered the storehouses of snow?

Do you send lightning bolts on their way?

Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?

This cross-examination goes on by God for a few chapters and Job readily admits he is not worthy to dare even answer. God clearly shows here that He is the Creator and that His Creation superseded human kind.

Have you been watching the series by Ken Burns on the National Parks? I tried counting up in my head the number of National Parks I have visited, even from my youth, and have come up with a handful. Yellowstone, the Tetons, Acadia, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Glacier stand out in my mind. I think I was most surprised, and maybe I shouldn't have been, to learn that these were hotly debated political battles raged upon pristine landscapes by greedy men.

And then I became familiar this week with a similar story involving our Indiana Dunes and the political deception and corporate greed that filtered into the debate that led to the loss of the lion's share of the dunes, particularly those most ecologically important.

It seems that the scar to Creation is due to the sinful nature of man. My wife read me a timely passage from Rob Bell's book Sex God which says "How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator." The Apostle Paul states in Romans 8:22 "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."

Why? In watching the National Parks series it becomes clear that particularly in these United States we reduce everything to a dollarable figure. There is nothing sacred that isn't weighed against its commercial value. And while I am discussing creation, I believe this is also true of our history and even those things not physical, but innate to us including our integrity. Yes, even integrity has a price which is most evident in the explosions of corporate and political fraud today.

Well, I promise to not make this a 6 part series like Burns, but I do intend to dig deeper soon.