Sunday, May 26, 2013

Say Good-bye to Bloomington Part III: The County Next Door

Brown County, Indiana, adjacent to Monroe County (of which Bloomington is the seat), is an especially scenic, sylvan area known for its tall hills, burbling streams, and brilliant spring greens and autumn golds. An appreciable part of the county is the Yellowwood State Forest, and most of the rest is the adjoining 16,000 acre Brown County State Park. While these set-asides for nature may not compare to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons (the great passions of my later adult years), they are the second important nursery (after Martha's Vineyard) of my love of the outdoors.
In high school, I had a horse. He was named Timothy by the person I acquired him from (Phyllis Hartroft, Assistant Professor of Pathology at IU at the time), renamed Timm (being a teenager, I had to use the fancy spelling) by me when I bought him from her in 1966. Even  when they were hers, Phyllis encouraged me and my friends to ride her horses, so I had already known and loved Timm for some years. She not only encouraged us, she generously enabled us by pulling them in her horse trailer the 25 or so miles from her Bloomington acreage to Brown County State Park, where my friend Rachel Perry and I set up a tent in the horse camp over Labor Day weekend, 1965. Unaccountably, our parents allowed this unescorted adventure. Perhaps because we didn't have a car, they determined that the amount of trouble we could get into would be self-limiting. I am not so sure. In any case, the camp site (or, "sight" as I spelled it in my childish hand on the back of the photo) was not exactly appealing, but we weren't perturbed by the tent's proximity to the road, or the myriad trailers and tents within a few feet from our tent stakes, or the "horse-leavings" a'plenty: 
We did manage not to hurt ourselves or be abducted or to make the horses lame. We in fact had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful trails and scenery. In this photo a shiny, healthy Timm and I are posing in front of a typical limestone outcrop: 
On the back of one of the photos I've noted that we were on our way to the teensy map-dot of a town, Story, Indiana. I do not recall what the appeal of Story was in those days, perhaps it was the General Store. But today it is known far and wide for the Story Inn, a restaurant in the old store building, and bed-and-breakfast with several rustic, romantic log cabins to stay in.My girlfriend LCB (who was visiting her mother at the Old Stone House while I was in Bloomington this spring) and I enjoyed a leisurely casual lunch at the Inn.
People still arrive by horseback. This handsome fellow was parked in the horse lot next to the restaurant.
All that successfully studied old-fashionedness certainly feeds my nostalgia as well as my stomach!
Near Story is a rural intersection that has been graced by a stone directional head since 1851. It points the traveler east to Columbus, west to Fairfax (no longer in existence), north to Indianapolis, and south to Sparkesferie, probably a crossing service on the Muscatatuck River.
On the way to Story from Nashville, seat of Brown County, are other signs of old southern Indiana. Given that it is tornado country, it's rather remarkable they have survived the ages.
Some have weathered better than others.
Nashville's claim to fame in the 1960's, besides being the seat of Brown County, was as the home of the Brown County Artist's Colony (more about which in a later post). Although on the whole the art isn't so fabulous any more, the town's proximity to the state park and national forest has sustained it all these years. The pretty old Queen Anne and Victorian houses have become pleasantly "quaint" shops and restaurants, which also contributes to its viability.This is Madeline's "Gifts for Home and Happiness" in Nashville.
And across the street, the Nashville House Restaurant and its country store are truly unchanged since I was a child (apple butter, anyone?):
But the crown jewel is still Brown County State Park. Although not on horseback this April weekend, I was still fully able to appreciate the scenery.
Here I am very near the same spot 45 years ago, in another "say good-bye" weekend, as I was to leave for college in Chicago not two weeks later (photo by none other than friend LCB):
The photos were taken at the base of the lookout tower; note the limestone foundation and log upper story.
Even the picnic fireplaces are charming (and made of local limestone, of course).
Spring in Brown County. I DO still miss it.


  1. There is nothing quite like revisiting the places where we grew up and not being disappointed because it changed so much...:)

  2. Your beautiful photos make me want to return to America and do some more exploring.