I am a Hoosier.
But what is a Hoosier? I mean beyond the furniture piece, I mean.
If you have ever watched a happy couple shouting with glee while sitting on a hard wooden bleacher in a run down field house. But instead of laughing you find a clear spot on the bench and shout right along with them, then you know what it is to be Hoosier. If you’ve understand what it means to appreciate and seek state fairs that include Holstein and sows and deep fried anything on a stick. Well, then you you just might appreciate what being a Hoosier is all about. If you actually swell up a bit with real pride when someone calls you a Hick. If you hear Jim Neighbors sing and smile. Or see Tony Stewart drive fast and turn left and your second thought is he’s from my home state. If you just KNOW that the worlds biggest Christmas tree is indeed dead center of the state and why in the world don’t YOU know that too? That all cities should have the central street named Meridian because that just makes sense. If the number 31 means more than just the number following 30. Much more…. Then you might just be on the cusp of understanding what being a Hoosier means.
But not even just that. The smell of the open air even in the city center. The strawberry festivals and the Pernod fairs. Monon bike trails and little league baseball. Cheering for the minor league series because you couldn’t care any less for the bigs if you tried. What for? The Indians are hosting and tickets are going fast. Museums upon museums that just scream quality and culture. A library that is a marvel to behold.
If you’re now living in another state like I do, and still feel your pulse quicken when you hear the news report say that Eli Lilly did something else newsworthy or Rose Hulman has another sports figure in its care. Or hear that Mario is bringing a new team member up to join his team and you’ll see him on Memorial Day. What could be better? And then just as quickly blanch when the election shows that once again, Indiana is painted red while surrounded by blue…. Again.
I’ve lived in many states since leaving Indiana. It’s been harder and harder the longer I’ve been gone to stay in touch. Most of my memories tend to center around childhood activities and sports teams because those two things are strongest on my mind and on my television. Of course it comes with its own set of challenges. Living in a rival state can bring immediate scorn from rabid fans for the other team. “.. Oh…. You’re a PACER fan, huh?…” “… The COLTS? Seriously?…” Long pause while they process an insult directed at me rather than the team but clearly not meant to show pride in their own team, but simple disgust for mine. Y’see, sports are low hanging fruit. If you really want to insult a Hoosier. Don’t start with the teams. We are accustomed to post season let downs. They no longer crush us but instead define and unite us. The recent victories: Colts in 2006, Fever in 2012…. Those keep us hopeful and loyal. But not even just for the victories. For the losses where our defense showed up and made a game of it. Yeah. Those are the times we are most proud. Where is YOUR pride?
I cannot tell you how many sports fans of other states and cities will quickly shout down and boo their own team if they fail to advance and then quickly turn on an Indiana team just to be nasty. My opinion.
But lets leave the teams for a bit and talk a little about the less controversial things of Indiana. The world outside of Indianapolis. Sure, folks in Indianapolis tend to forget that there are places outside of Indy beyond Bloomington, Terre Haute and Fort Wayne. But it’s not for the expected reasons you might think. Central Indiana folk do not look at surrounding (and it IS surrounding as Indy is dead center of the state; crossroads of America… Remember?) areas and talk about backwards thinking and small town mentality. Indianapolis itself has a small town mentality. That happens to be one of its strengths. We look at our surrounding towns and villages and cities and think that they are peopled with salt of the earth Hoosiers. They are places where you will find mysterious lives that cradle everyone from Amish buggy drivers to RV dealerships. They are the places that give us the worlds greatest basketball players and most celebrated singers. And don’t think for minute that Michael wasn’t chided in the media quite as much as he was just because he was weird. It’s because he was a Hoosier. Again. My opinion.
I remember how Indianapolis was the only city I knew where the black folk lived on the north side and the white lived on the south. I used to ride my bicycle from my house in the northwest burbs to city center as a matter of course. And was quite safe doing so even at the tender age of 13. Try THAT in a city of your choice today. Indy was safe.
Indy was quiet. And I suppose it still is by and large.
We had working farms across the ditch from my house up until I was a teen. Where I live now it is also quiet and all I can think is how much the rolling clouds and windy days remind me of my youth and home. Though Indiana has few if any mountains more than a couple of kilometers tall, this state I’m in now has it’s share. Indiana is known for its flatness. Both it’s geography and it’s residents spoken accents. That flat landscape tends to allow weather to fly through the state as any apostle of Bob Gregory can attest. Many states try to say that if you don’t like the weather stick around a bit. It’ll change. I doesn’t care if you think it came from your state. Indiana coined it first because we MEAN it here.
No. Indiana isn’t all good. It birthed a KKK grand dragon and still has terrible poverty in the near east side and most of the west side of the states crown city. The crime rates are high and farmland is slowly disappearing.
But the state still feels small while it yet grows. And that helps keep us humble. While other cities and states build high and beat their chest in false bravado, Indy remains a plugger. Humble is a flavor pie few other states can admit to recognizing the taste.
And quite honestly I love Indiana for it. And for being my home no matter where I go. No matter where I lay my head. Indiana will always be home.