Saturday, April 08, 2006

Touring America's Heartland

This was a long day, spent travelling across Indiana from Fort Wayne to Danville. We left behind this view from our hotel window (I counted 5 church steeples within sight of our room), charged out in the frosty 30 degree weather, and made like tourists for awhile.

We first stopped as planned to see Johnny Appleseed's grave. We parked in the Coliseum parking lot and climbed a small knoll to the gravesite, walking between apple trees about to burst into bloom. We were doing just fine until a brisk wind blew over the hill and sent us burrowing into our jackets and scurrying down the hill. Spring has not quite reached this neck of the woods.

In fact, it had not occurred to me that we would see the countryside with the trees still naked and bare. I find myself curious about what kind of trees we are seeing. Their bark is similar to birch or maybe sycamores, but they are very tall. Occasionally you see a stand of pine trees and sometimes you see what I guess are Douglas firs, looking like overgrown Christmas trees. We drove through farm land and saw a lot of 3-story barns, many looking like the barest puff of wind would make them topple over. Others, like the following, would bring a smile as we passed by. We saw a couple of barns with decorated roofs, and one house with an elaborate pattern to its shingles.

As we drove along, Lana would look up the towns in a couple of tour guides we have along with us. We missed seeing the collection of outhouses that are one of the claims to fame for Huntington, Indiana. The road we were on bypassed the town before we knew it. When we read about the antique carousel that still operates in Logansport, we decided we would make an extra effort to see that particular attraction. Who doesn't love a carousel? The guidebook said it was open on Saturday afternoons, so we timed our visit to arrive at opening time.

When we got there, however, it was shut up tight and the sign said "closed for the season". We looked longingly through the windows and then turned to go. Just as we got back to our car, a couple of gentlemen drove up and approached us. It turns out that they are volunteers who help out at the carousel and they were about to set up for a birthday party. They cheerfully allowed us to go inside and take a closer look at the carousel animals. We didn't get to ride, but they ran the carousel for a few minutes and even turned on the music briefly, so we could get a better idea of its operation. It has been lovingly restored and the community joined in support of building a new building for it while the animals were in the process of being refinished. We got the grand tour from the men, who told us all about the restoration process, the fund raising efforts of the town, the various donations of time and materials by the citizens to get the project completed, how the carousel was dismantled and remantled in its new home, and how the mechanisms work. It was a fascinating 3/4 of a hour and we would have stayed if they had not had a job to do. They were most gracious and we had a fabulous time oohing and ahing.

From Logansport, we moved on toward Danville, arriving about 4PM. Only it was 3PM. The time zones change right at the Indiana and Illinois border. We had been hoping to get to the public library in time to copy a rare booklet on my Dunavan family that can only be found at the Danville Public Library. We had figured we would have to really hustle at the copy machine to get the 80 pages coped before they closed. It was nice to suddenly realize that we weren't too late after all. We got that job done and decided to make our first cemetery visit.

We had gotten some dire warnings from the librarian about the state of Niccum Cemetery, so we were a little worried that we might run into trouble tomorrow. It is still wet and muddy from all the rain of last week and she had us worried that we might have to hike in or rent a canoe to get there. (No way am I travelling 900 miles to see a cemetery and then leave without seeing that cemetery.) So, armed with our crude directions and a map, we decided to go see how bad it was going to be.

On the way we stopped at Atherton Cemetery and got some pictures of a few of my Wilcoxen kinfolk's graves. We wanted one cemetery under our belt before we met disappointment. With some trepidation, we turned down the narrow lane that leads you to Niccum Cemetery. It turns out that we can drive all the way there and as long as we are careful not to fall down and break something tomorrow, we should have no problems. I am looking forward to seeing the graves of my great-great grandparents Wilcoxen and my great-great-great grandparents Dunavan. We are hopeful we may even see a ghost, since Niccum Cemetery is reported to be haunted.

We will be up and at our project first thing tomorrow morning. We have three cemeteries to visit and we will tour the little towns where my grandfather Wilcoxen was born and where his grandparents lived.

Our ideas of fun may be a trifle offbeat, but we are having a blast. This was a good day.


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