24 September 2014

It is not the critic who counts

Hall of Champions, NCAA
This past week brought yet another stellar series by Ken Burns on PBS.  I have been, for some time, a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt.  When weighing the presidents I most admired, Ronald Reagan's star faded from this wide-eyed teenager/college student...a student of politics as much as architecture, as I began life outside of academia.  And the more I learned about TR, the more I saw myself living parallel with his brand of politics.

A number of my friends know this about me, so it came as no surprise last week when my more liberal friends chastised me on TR's imperialism and my conservative friends chastised me on his trust-busting and labor sympathizing roles.  I figure heck, if he managed to make everyone both love and hate him-he had to be all right.


I've never been an athlete.  I've never known the sting of defeat nor the elation of victory in an arena or on the field of play.  I have experienced it in the political arena.  And I have known it in both business and in any number of community endeavors over the last 20 years.  TR had a lot of noteworthy quotes, but one excerpt of a speech he gave in France in 1910, may be his most famous and is certainly my favorite.  I was pleased to see it encircling the rotunda of the NCAA Hall of Champions when we visited Indianapolis this summer.  This is the most quoted portion of the speech:


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

Several weeks ago an issue arose in our community that pit neighbor against neighbor.  Calmer heads were able to discuss this with a level of civility, but I was taken back by the depth and lack of civility that followed much of the dialogue found on social media outlets and in public meetings.  And what most concerned me was, if this rather small issue can tear at the fabric of our community, what happens when something big comes along?

I feel like we've become a people who find it easy to take a stand, welling up adversity with jarring and often inaccurate words rather than doing the hard work of making our community a better place, understanding issues, and then rolling up our sleeves to make something tangible instead of empty words hurled over the internet for our own satisfaction of reading them on a screen.  And yes, I realize the irony of typing that statement on a blog.  All the same, these critics have not entered the arena, and it would seem TR suggests they simply don't count.  This community needs more than critics on the sidelines, we need doers of deeds.

17 September 2014

Court is in Session

Boone County Courthouse rotunda, Lebanon, Indiana

I try to make a point of visiting county courthouses whenever I land in a county seat I had not previously been in.  Only in the last few years did I make a point of photographing them.  There's a bit of chance involved since you never know what the weather will be, or if the doors will be open.  Here are a few pictures from courthouses I've been in in the last year.  Two are of the Neoclassical trend in architecture at the turn of the century, while the third is of the Romanesque Revival style which became synonymous with courthouse architecture at the end of the 19th century.

Boone County Courthouse, built 1909-1911

Union County Courthouse, Liberty, Indiana

Union County Courthouse, 1890-1891

Union County Courtroom

Carroll County Courthouse, Delphi, Indiana

Carroll County Courthouse, rotunda floor

Carroll County Courthouse rotunda, 1916-1917

10 September 2014

Getting in touch with my "Plain" roots

Hochstetler Reunion at Old Samuel Hochstetler's Farm c. 1850, in 1913
 Earlier this year our preservation organization began discussing what we might do to participate in the state's upcoming bicentennial.  We landed on a concept that would include highlighting the history of one group, and their architecture, that hadn't previously been recorded in the nearly 200 years of our county.  That group is the Amish, who first began to settle here in 1850.  So, someone from the genealogical society set up a meeting with this group's local historian and sent me a message with the place and time.
Samuel Hochstetler barn, 1850
And then I realized that it was the farm of my ancestor, Samuel Hochstetler, that we would be visiting.  This man's son now live in the house with his family.  During our visit the man unrolled a photo I hadn't seen before, of the farmstead and extended Hochstetler family, from 1913.  A grandson, who also had an appreciation for their history, gave me a tour of the house and barn.  What a surreal feeling stepping into the house and barn built by my great, great, great grandfather over 150 years ago.
Jonas Yoder barn detail, 1852
Jonas Yoder farmhouse, c. 1880
We made a return trip to visit with the Amish historian.  This time we wanted to stop and document what remains of the "first families" farms of the Amish community.  There were four farms of the first four Amish families to settle in our county northeast of Bremen.  These are the Samuel Hochstetler, Jonas Yoder, John Borkholder, and Valentine Yoder family farms, along with their Amish school and cemetery.  Samuel's family was the first to arrive in 1850, though a scouting party of the church had come to Indiana in 1841.

At the grave of my great, great, great grandfather-Samuel Hochstetler
The historian also pointed out Samuel's grave-which I had not previously been able to locate because the inscription is long gone.  Of the four original farms, three of the c. 1855 barns remain and two of the original homes; both Samuel's house and barn survive, but the house has been added to.  A third house was the second built by Jonas Yoder, after a fire in about 1880.  That's a pretty good testament to preservation by the Amish community.

03 September 2014

Sumthin' 'bout a truck

On vacation in the rolling hills of Brown County State Park
I've nursed this little Mazda my wife got while in college along for many years, but when the mechanic told me "if you don't put a bullet in it, I will", I figured it was time to pull the trigger.  I've driven it longer than any other car in my life-for nearly 14 years, after it replaced an F-150 I bought when I settled down in River City.

And boy did I ever miss that truck.  More than the Mustang I had in college, did I ever miss that black, F-150 extended cab pick-up truck.  So in late March, when the Mazda was given its death sentence, I kept my eyes open for another truck.  But with the election and work, I never got around to really looking until the end of May.  And then I found it-another black, F-150 extended cab-4-wheel drive.  And I was hooked, though I tried not to let the salesman see it in my eyes as we walked past it and my head turned 180 degrees.

When we landed on a price, and they gave me a trade-in, sight-unseen, I figured I had made out all-right.  And when the Mazda broke down halfway between here and the dealership, and they offered to tow it in, I knew I had made out ok.

The truck looks quite at home here on the farm.  And she's already been everywhere man (reference to a Johnny Cash song):  Indy, Ft. Wayne, lil' Nashville, hauling a kayak to Sugar Creek, Lebanon-and points between.  All of a sudden transporting tables and chairs and my extension ladder to my dad's became so much easier.  And it seems more appropriate to be driving it up the hill behind the barn than the Mazda, may she rest in piece.