Doc's love for Indiana

Doc and Grandma Bowen sharing Bremen's Lehman mints with President George Bush.
My wife likes to tell people, when reflecting on how we met, that "he told me that he was never leaving Indiana".  'Tis true.  She was heading to Colorado and I had my heels dug deep into this Hoosier soil.  For some reason I love this boring, beautiful, backward, people-caring, mostly flat, piece of heaven on earth.  I don't know if the feeling is reciprocated-but that's ok, eventually she'll come around.  I love Indiana.  For my 13th birthday I asked my mom to make my cake in the shape of Indiana.  I fly her flag as much and as proudly as I do the stars and stripes.  And I write about her all the time here on HH.  I've been in all but four states in this country and wouldn't trade the motherland for any of them.  So what's wrong with me, right?

Too much Doc Bowen in my life I think.

As I sat through his memorial service last week and began to process through comments that he made to me over the 11 years I called him grandpa, it was stated over and over again how much he loved this state.  And that's when it clicked with me.....I think I got this crazy love for being a Hoosier from Doc's influence in my life.  There's no other explanation.

Doc spoke so proudly of the communities, the parks, the landscape, the people of this state that one couldn't help but feel a bit star-struck in being a Hoosier.  His love for the state was palpable.  He pointed us to an Indiana to be proud of, to care for, and to want to call home.  I think about how we churn out our youth and rather than talk-up the qualities of home, we keep their roots loose from the soil and encourage them to move on as if this place isn't good enough.  Maybe it's time to rethink what is good.

I remember he felt a special fondness for New Harmony.  I understood why the first time I visited, and now I've been back a half-dozen times.  But he loved the whole state, as is evident from the 92 trees he personally selected and planted to represent Indiana's 92 counties on his property in Bremen.  And when he went to Washington he took a piece of his hometown with him to offer visitors a taste of Indiana.  He always had Lehman mints on hand.  The home he constructed in Bremen while he was still governor was created from a salvaged timber frame barn and had a massive field stone fireplace.  They called it "the lodge".  It felt as if it grew from ground it sat on and when you entered it, you were surrounded by heritage home-grown in Indiana.

The Bowen "Lodge"
If you were to ask me what set Doc apart from today's generation of politicians, this would have to be one of two things:  he loved the place he served.  I've never understood candidates who jump boundaries, or are newcomers at serving the place they hope to represent.  Their intentions seem suspect.  I think to truly represent a place, a people, you have to love it.  It has to be deep in your craw.  It has to be something you can't shake, rooted so deeply in your soul that serving just spills out.

That was Doc Bowen.  He couldn't help himself.  He loved Indiana too much.....and she loved him.

I like to think that this aspect of Doc's life left an indelible mark on me.  I certainly followed his passion for planting trees and touring our state.  I've been fortunate to have worked in nearly a hundred communities throughout Indiana getting to know many on an intitmate level.  It has been a huge privilege to work with folks from Fort Wayne to Dyer along the Lincoln Highway Byway and from Madison to Michigan City along the Michigan Road Byway.  Through all this I have met some of the finest Hoosiers in our state......and I can't help but join with them in making Indiana the best she can be.  To celebrate who we are.  To leave something for the next generation to be proud of.  That's what Doc did.  It should be what we all strive to do.


Jim said…
Great essay!

I, too, feel a deep love for this state. I don't completely understand it. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

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