Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

An expensive little bug


I have enough experience with small engines to know that the sounds my push mower was making were terminal. I lack enough experience with small engines to know exactly what was wrong. It didn’t matter: the engine made a sudden, sickly “hwangggg!” sound and lurched to its final rest.

Push Mower with Tractor in the Background

RIP, mower in front

Thankfully, I also have a tractor, so I could still cut my grass last Friday evening. As I drove it around the yard, I stole glances up into my trees, which are just starting to bud and leaf. My yard is heavily wooded, trees reaching 60 feet or more into the sky, three or four dozen of them. They veil the house and keep it cool all summer. But on this early spring day, branches mostly bare, I looked up for signs of damage. I saw signs in so many trees. So many.

When I first mowed a couple weeks ago, I noticed a few trees missing bits of bark in large patches. I thought it odd; I grew concerned. So I researched it on the Internet. I learned that this is called “flecking,” and is caused by woodpeckers feeding on insects underneath. The number one delicacy for which woodpeckers fleck trees is the emerald ash borer, a green Asian beetle.


Flecked and tagged

These bugs bore under the bark of ash trees and lay eggs. The larvae feed on the layer under the bark that allows nutrients to flow through the tree. The tree starves and dies.

The ash borer probably entered North America in ash shipping boxes. Its natural predators don’t exist in the United States, so it has spread unchecked across 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. It threatens to wipe out the ash tree in North America.

I don’t know an ash from a poplar from an elm, but the arborist I brought in does. He told me that I have 21 ash trees, all badly infested with the borer. He told me they’ll all have to come out. He quoted a price equivalent to a modestly equipped new family car.

I drive a nine-year-old, paid-for family car because I’ve been saving to send my older son to Purdue in the fall. I’ve been living frugally for years in preparation, actually. But not frugally enough to solve this problem and pay for college without taking on debt.


Flecked way up high

After I finished mowing, I walked through my neighborhood looking for flecking in my neighbors’ trees. I saw distressed ash trees in every yard on my street and in most yards on other streets in my subdivision. The borer has borne down hard on my neighborhood.

My yard has more ash trees than any of them, though. And after looking closely at all 21 trees, I see some level of flecking in all but a few. My research suggests that this means the trees are too far gone to be saved. So now I must decide whether to remove the most damaged two or three trees every year for the next seven or eight years to distribute the cost — or ask for a steep discount to have the whole job done at once, perhaps over the winter when they’re not very busy.

My little house (crop)

Happy and healthy trees in 2011

I hope to move on from here within two to five years. I’d probably have to disclose this expensive problem to a buyer. It seems like biting the bullet and removing them all is the cleanest solution, if I can scrape together the cash. Paying for it will more than consume the equity I have in my home. In my neighborhood, home values haven’t recovered and may have continued to decline slowly after the housing bubble burst in 2008.

There’s no recovering from this. I’m just going to have to suck it up.

I now have enough experience with ash trees to know that mine are almost certainly terminal. I lack enough experience to know the best course of action. At least this makes unexpectedly needing to buy a new push mower seem like no big deal.

Recommended reading


Submitted for your review, a spray of blog posts that I liked this week.

It’s startling to see color photographs from before about World War II. It’s even more startling to see some from before World War I. Paul Giambarba shares some 1913 color photos of a young strawberry-blonde British girl. Read Autochrome Lumière 1903-1930

In another lifetime I might have been a graphic designer. I enjoy considering visual design. Kjell Reigstad, writing for The Daily Post at, considers blog visual design — how a blog’s design guides your eye to set context and lead you to content. Read The Principles of Design: Visual Hierarchy

Gerald Greenwood takes film photos in his native England. He’s been shooting street with his Olympus Trip 35, including some indoor available-light work, using black and white Kodak T-Max 400. His results are stunning. I must try that film in my Trip 35. Read London, 26 April 2015

Captured: Courthouse at Paoli


Courthouse at Paoli

Once in a while, one of my old posts gets shared on Facebook and picks up a bunch of views. So it went a couple weeks ago with a 2012 post about the great public square in Paoli, a Dixie Highway town in southern Indiana. Out of nowhere, it got about a thousand views over a few days.

That day I shot my Pentax ME with the 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens. It was my first time shooting that lens — and also Kodak Ektar 100, a film that disappointed me a little on this cloudy day for the muted colors it returned. Still, I like this shot a lot, as it captures this stunning courthouse so well. Since then I’ve come to appreciate Ektar’s good qualities, especially on a bright day with vividly colored subjects.


Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400

A walking tour of historic New Augusta, Indiana


In the 1850s, commerce and prosperity arrived by rail across the United States. Railroads boomed in these years, with thousands upon thousands of track miles being built. Wherever rails were laid, towns inevitably popped up.

A rail line was built between Indianapolis and Lafayette in about 1850. It passed within a mile and a half of Augusta, a town founded in about 1832 on the Michigan Road northwest of Indianapolis. In 1852 the railroad placed a station on the rail line west of Augusta and named it for the nearby town. This snippet from an 1854 plat map shows both Augusta (far right) and Augusta Station (lower left).


Historic Indiana Maps, IUPUI University Library. See complete map here.

A town was platted at Augusta Station that same year. Locals called it both Augusta Station and Hosbrook. The post office eventually said no to both names, and so in 1878 the town was officially named New Augusta. This map, which dates to about the mid 1920s, shows that the town had grown in size to rival nearby Augusta.


Digital image © 2009 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. See complete map here.

I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that many in Augusta simply pulled up stakes and moved to the new town. It’s not a far-fetched story. Augusta had been built in about 1832 to capitalize on the brand new Michigan Road, an important north-south corridor connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. But railroads were such a compelling way to move people and goods that when they arrived, road traffic fell away. (Often, so did funds to maintain roads, which led to some roads being sold to private companies that charged tolls for their use. The Michigan Road was one such road. I assume the “New Agusta [sic] Free Gravel Road” shown on the map was “free” in that it wasn’t a toll road.)

New Augusta never exactly boomed, growing to 200-300 residents at its peak. At its centennial in 1955, the town boasted three grocery stores, a feed store, some specialty stores, and one small manufacturer. The town was fully absorbed into Indianapolis when the city and the county merged in 1970. Through the 1980s and 1990s, this once rural township filled in rapidly with housing subdivisions and an enormous industrial park. You can see both in the Google Earth image below.


Imagery © 2015 Google. Map data © 2015 Google.

I drive by New Augusta every day as I go to work, along both major roads that border it. If you didn’t know the town was there, you might never know of it. The only clues are a short row of late-1800s homes that front 71st Street.

I might never have known of New Augusta were it not for an old friend who attended a church there a long time ago. I lived in Terre Haute then, but attended church with her when I was in town.

And then several years later I wound up living just three miles away. New Augusta became a convenient venue for my hobby of taking pictures with old film cameras. Let me show you New Augusta as I’ve seen it through various camera lenses over the years.

New Augusta Station

Yashica MG-1, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2010

Augusta Station fronts the railroad tracks a short walk north of 71st Street. This depot was built in the early 1890s to replace an earlier one that burned down. It has been owned by the Purdy family and its descendants all these years. Purdy Street runs behind the station.

New Augusta Train Station

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

I don’t know what became of the Indianapolis and Lafayette Railroad, but these tracks remain and do get a little use. I hear engine whistles once in a while when I’m at home. Even though these tracks intersect several roads I use all the time, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been stopped by trains on these tracks over the past 20 years.

Tracks Diverging

Pentax ES II, SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.8, Arista 400 Premium, 2015

New Augusta’s business district lies just two blocks away, where 72nd Street intersects Dobson Street. All of New Augusta’s north-south streets are named for original residents. The east-west streets used to be, too. I assume they got their Indianapolis-style numbers when the city and county merged.

The brick building is an Odd Fellows building. It’s held all manner of businesses over the years, but currently houses a small Web/software company and offices for an attorney and an accountant. Every time I visit New Augusta, the cheerful red building seems to contain a different business.

New Augusta, Indiana

Yashica MG-1, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2010

I’m pretty sure the church I used to attend with my friend was in this building, which I believe once contained the New Augusta State Bank.


Pentax ES II, 50mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Arista Premium 400, 2015

The peace and quiet along New Augusta’s streets belie the busy suburban and industrial area that surrounds it.

New Augusta street 3

Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Many houses from the late 1800s survive and have been well cared for.

New Augusta street 2

Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

This L-plan Queen Anne is one of the houses that fronts 71st Street.

House in New Augusta

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

As you can see, all kinds of common Indiana architectural styles are represented in New Augusta.

House in New Augusta

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

This is my favorite house in town. It stands on New Augusta Road across from the train station. I photograph it pretty much every time I visit, and I’ve never seen signs that anybody lives here. But it does appear that work is being done on the house. Perhaps it’s undergoing a long restoration.

House in New Augusta

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

The centerpiece of New Augusta is the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church. It’s been part of this township since 1836, but moved to New Augusta in 1858.

Church sign

Argus A2B, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2011

This building was completed in 1880. Bells still ring on the hour, filling New Augusta with their gentle, sweet notes.

Salem Lutheran

Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Several additions have been made to the building over the years.

Church courtyard

Argus A2B, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2011

New Augusta is on the short list of places around Indianapolis where I’d like to live. I enjoy its peaceful, historic character. I can imagine taking evening strolls along its streets and saying hello to the neighbors as I pass by. It’s close to where I work and it’s close to good shopping, yet it’s miles away from anywhere.

Many of nearby Augusta’s buildings remain. One is among the oldest houses in Indianapolis: the Boardman House. See it here.

Monon bridge 1

Monon bridge
Pentax ME, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400


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