Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Backyard leaves

Terribly tender leaves in my back yard
Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor
Kodak Ektar 100

The Huddleston Farmhouse


You’ll find Quaker influence up and down the National Road across Indiana, but most prominently in Wayne and Hendricks Counties. A prominent Quaker, John Huddleston, settled on this 78-acre site and built his home here, just west of Cambridge City, near the town of New Auburn in Wayne County. He built this house in 1841.

The Huddleston Farmhouse

In addition to being a home for his family (wife Susannah and 11 children), this house provided overnight lodging for National Road travelers. Guests slept on the first floor. The family’s kitchen, dining area, and parlor were on the second floor. The family’s bedrooms were on the third floor.

The Huddleston Farmhouse

This was also a working farm, with the outbuildings you’d expect to find in such a setting.

The Huddleston Farmhouse

I was most taken with the well house and this scene of the pump and barrel.

The Huddleston Farmhouse

Indiana Landmarks purchased the property in 1966; it has been their eastern regional office pretty much ever since. It’s open for tours Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings and by appointment. A farmer’s market is hosted here on Saturdays in July and August.

The Huddleston Farmhouse

I’ve yet to happen by when the farmhouse was open. We reached it this Saturday afternoon shortly after it had closed. Perhaps a special trip just to see its inside is in order.

1967 Pontiac Bonneville

1967 Pontiac Bonneville on the National Road
Canon PowerShot S95

Connecting through the ether


I miss radio, the kind where I could put on a pot of coffee on a rainy and quiet Sunday afternoon and be kept company by some pleasant music and a live disk jockey.

Time was, most towns had such a station. It played a variety of middle-of-the-road soft pop and standards. You could imagine the DJ humming along to the music he was playing, his own cup of coffee at his right hand. He’d open his mic as a song faded out and speak as if only you were in the audience. He’d tell you who sang that last song, read a PSA or a commercial, and then give a weather forecast, all in tones as rich and smooth as the coffee you were both sipping. There were recorded commercials, of course; never desired, but accepted as part of the implicit station-listener contract. But then it was back to the music and the light banter, just the DJ and you.

That kind of radio is all but extinct today. So many of the music stations on the dial where I live try hard to create some high-energy hip attitude, or play to a narrow music niche that shortly wears on me, or are simply overrun with commercials. And almost none of the stations are live anymore. When the DJ is live, you can almost sense that they’re breathing air at the same time you are. But a prerecorded (voicetracked, they call it in the biz) DJ is just another cold programming element, disconnected, lifeless. I might as well listen to Pandora or Spotify.

Me on the air

Me on the air

I feel privileged that I got to deliver that kind of radio once. In the early 1990s I worked weekends on a little AM station in Terre Haute, Indiana, one of a breed of “full service” stations that was already dying across the country. It was the station Terre Haute turned to for news, and then stuck around for the pleasant music and the personalities of the live DJs.

I worked Sundays mostly, but occasionally a Saturday. I’d go down into the studio and get out all my music as the playlist directed, stacking the tape cartridges on the counter, playing the songs one by one. It was mostly standards mixed with a little adult contemporary and a little popular jazz: Johnny Mathis, Dinah Washington, Fleetwood Mac, Les Paul and Mary Ford, James Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, the Carpenters, Artie Shaw, Neil Diamond … you get the idea.

The phone would ring. Not off the hook, but occasionally. Sometimes it was someone wanting me to announce their lost dog or asking when I’d have the next trivia contest. But several people in my audience were older and lived alone, and wanted just to talk to someone. I loved those calls. My favorite frequent caller was a woman, 87 years old (she reminded me every call), whose name I’ve not remembered for twenty years. Mildred, maybe, or Edith; a sturdy name, as you’d expect of a woman born shortly after 1900. She never stayed on the phone long, a couple minutes, just to tell me she enjoyed hearing such-and-such song and to share a memory it kindled. Perhaps she danced to it when it was new, or maybe she heard it several times on several stations as she and her husband, long deceased, took a cross-country road trip. She told me once she was so happy that a youngster like me, a fellow in his early 20s, was sharing this good old music. She felt the connection, and I loved having it reflected back to me.

I have only two shifts recorded from my time on that station, from one weekend in 1992, a Saturday midday followed by a Sunday morning. I wish I had more. I especially wish I had a couple hours “untelescoped,” that is, with the music not cut out. I’d love to hear the full station sound again, not just the songs, but the jingles that transitioned between songs, and the IDs. I can hear those IDs in my mind: a booming voice said, “Serving the community 24 hours a day, we’re Terre Haute’s number one news voice.” And then there was a downbeat, and polished, impossibly happy jingle singers sang “WBOW, Terre Haute.” And then I’d press the button to take ABC network news; it was exactly the top of the hour.

Here it is, the entire recording. 17 minutes and 40 seconds, with a 15-second gap between the two shifts. It starts abruptly, in the middle of a weather forecast. I feel sure you won’t stick through it all, but do listen for a minute, anyway. If you listen through, you’ll hear some snippets of that booming ID voice, and you’ll hear me trip over my tongue here and there. But I hope you can feel that friendliness, that pleasantness, that connection through the ether. I tried hard to create it.

I wish now that I had called some of those disk jockeys when I was younger, just to say hello, just to let them know in some indirect way that I was glad they were on the job. Weekend shifts can be kind of lonely. It’s just you, the music, the mixing board, and the microphone — and occasionally a voice on the other end of the phone that lets you know that you’ve connected with them in some way that day. That connection made it feel worthwhile.

Recommended reading


Here are the blog posts I liked most this week. Because YOU demanded it!

“Evil can take away life, but it can’t extinguish the truth — that much of our existence is a miracle, one I will never fully understand.” Jaye Watson on how she’s processed last week’s events in Paris. Read On 8 point bucks and Paris

Friend of the blog Derek Wong spent some time in Grand Rapids recently with his Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera, and got some wonderful black-and-white photographs. Read Wandering around Grand Rapids with a TLR

When you’re using the Bible to justify your human reasoning, you’re doing Christianity wrong. K. Rex Butts asks us instead to be transformed to live more like Jesus. Read When Our Reasoning Fails Us

The traditional department store has been dying painfully slowly for about 40 years now. Dr. Nick Gerlich tells about the latest nails in its coffin. Read Wrong Department

Sometimes it’s not you, it’s the camera


I get it: the point of saying, “It’s not the camera, it’s you,” is to get photographers off lusting over the latest gear, and get them out shooting with the gear they already have. But you know what? Sometimes it is the camera. Consider this photograph.

Bags of dirt

Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 FD S.C., Kodak Gold 200

I took it with my Canon TLb, a 35mm SLR. I used a 50mm f/1.8 lens and Kodak Gold 200 film. I probably shot this at something like f/2 at 1/500 second. The lens lets me focus as close as about one foot.

I made this photo a minute later with my Voigtländer Vito II, a 35mm viewfinder camera, on Kodak Gold 200. It can’t focus closer than about three feet, so I had to stand farther back from my subject compared to the Canon SLR. And its 1/300 second top shutter speed and f/3.5 maximum aperture meant vastly different depth of field.

Bags of dirt

Voigtländer Vito II, Kodak Gold 200

I know this subject isn’t really that interesting. But the point is: there may be some shots your camera can’t get that some other camera can.

know that any reasonable SLR will let me move in close and get that creamy background effect. But what interesting work can I do with the Vito II? The camera on my iPhone? An old box camera? Creativity happens within constraints. Pushing a limited tool to its limits is where surprising and outstanding work can happen.

And I might do some of that work were I not having so much fun shooting my SLRs!


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