I buy film impulsively with some project in mind. Then I never get to the project and eventually forget why I bought the film. I’ve done it enough that I now have about 15 rolls of film I need to shoot up. I’m working my way through this stock while I refine my home developing technique.
I own two rolls of 120 Kodak Tri-X that expired in June of 1981. I had a day off a couple weeks ago, and it was a warm spring day. So I spooled one roll of the Tri-X into my Yashica-12 and took it for a drive in the country. It was lovely to smell all the rural-Indiana spring smells. Along one country road the fields were awash in fragrant golden flowers. Another road smelled strongly of swine. That’s Indiana!
I stopped when I came upon the small town of Sheridan, and blew through the whole roll there.
In small town Indiana, everybody knows everybody and everybody’s lived there for ages. Even though the streets were largely deserted, a stranger like me stands out. These little towns are seldom popular destinations. The locals are sure to wonder why I’m making photographs there.
As I wrapped up the roll, I noticed one fellow stick his head out his door and give me a sidelong look. Several minutes later a woman pulled up to me in her car to ask what I was doing. Two minutes later, another car bearing two women pulled up to ask the same thing. They put on friendly faces, but that they asked at all told me I had worn out my welcome.
I’ve experienced this many times as I’ve photographed small Midwestern towns. I have a window of time before people let me know, at first subtly and then directly, that I’m noticed.
I’m a middle-aged, well-groomed white man. While I stand out because I am not known there, at least I look more or less like everyone else.
When I was in my 20s, with hair halfway down my back and wearing rock-concert T-shirts, I feel sure I would have received a distinctly unfriendly reception.
If my skin were brown but all else about me were the same as it is now, I’ll bet someone in Sheridan (or in any small, rural Midwestern town I’ve ever visited) would have called the sheriff.
It’s safe to be a middle-aged white man.
I developed the film that afternoon in L110, Dilution B, and scanned it the next day. This film was so fogged that the images were barely visible on the negatives. Yet my scanner cut through it and brought out usable, though very grainy, images. Here are the best of them.
I’m bringing another long-ago road trip over from my old HTML site. It was a lovely autumn drive on a series of Indiana and US highways. I was still shooting film on my road trips, using my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80. I was also still just making photographs of the road itself. Fortunately, this time there’s plenty of lovely autumn color to be seen.
The trees were startlingly colorful in the autumn of 2006, with arresting yellows, plentiful and vibrant oranges, and hot reds in their first appearance in years. I wanted to take a road trip when fall’s colors peaked, but that came and went in one day, it seemed, and I was stuck at work that day. There was still plenty of color left the following Saturday, October 28, though, so off I went.
I chose State Road 47, US 41, and US 36 as my route. SR 47 and I go back almost 20 years, when I was experimenting with ways to drive between college in Terre Haute and home in South Bend. My route until then was I-70 to I-465 to US 31, which alternated between boring and congested. I tried a bunch of back-highway routes until I found my favorite, which involved a long stretch of SR 47. I enjoyed several beautiful autumn drives along this road as it wound through Parke County by Turkey Run State Park, and then through some unexpected curves in the farmland of Montgomery and Boone Counties. US 41 and US 36 cut through some similarly lovely terrain, would bring me back to my Indianapolis home, and fit nicely into one day, so they were in. US 41 is fairly twisty through Parke County, and I had learned from a friend that US 36 is peppered with old alignments.
State Road 47 currently stretches from US 41 to Sheridan at SR 38. It originally ran northeasterly from US 41 to Crawfordsville. The state decided it was more northerly than easterly, and so gave it an odd number. While later extensions make SR 47 clearly more an east-west road, it keeps its odd number and its “North” and “South” signage.
At one time, SR 47 extended east from Sheridan to US 31 north of Westfield. Until recently, a bent sign partially hiding behind some overgrown trees tried to proclaim the distance to Sheridan, but the numbers had badly faded in the sun. Looking forlorn but very official, it seemed certainly to be a relic from the days the road was still a state highway. I wanted to take a photo of it on this trip, but I learned a valuable lesson: don’t delay in taking photos. That old sign had been replaced with a gleaming new sign unobstructed by vegetation. Oh well.
I started at the old eastern end of SR 47. Here it is, cleverly disguised as mild-mannered 236th St. in Hamilton County, looking westbound.
On Monday, back at work, someone stopped me in the break room and asked if that was me taking a picture from the median of US 31. I hid my surprise that anybody I knew actually saw me. I said yes. He was very puzzled, but I left it at that.
Old SR 47 is very narrow and flat along its five miles of farmland. It also has no shoulders. It had rained buckets the day before, making ponds out of most farm fields. That didn’t make for very picturesque scenes, and so it was hard to find a decent place to take a good photo. This photo shows one of the dry spots westbound along the route.
Sheridan arrived in no time. Here’s the beginning of SR 47, westbound, in Sheridan
This eastbound photo from across the street shows SR 47’s eastern end. Every small Indiana town is required by statute to have at least one Dairy Queen, by the way.
After SR 47 passes through Sheridan’s southern edge, its lanes widen. As it passes out of Hamilton and into Boone County, the road occasionally rises and falls gently, but remains straight until it intersects with US 421, the old Michigan Road.
After that, gentle curves begin to appear, slight bends in the road. This photo isn’t as sharp as could be. When I walk out into the middle of a highway to take a photo, I keep my ears wide open for the sound of a car coming from behind me. This day was extremely windy, and the wind drowned out the sounds of oncoming cars. Not wanting to be squashed, I took this photo (and many others this day) in a hurry.
The next burg along the way is Thorntown, which is at the center of what was the 64,000 acre Thorntown Indian Reserve, where the Eel River Tribe of the Miamis lived. This reserve didn’t last long, just from 1818 to 1828. Thorntown gets its name from the Miami name for the place, Kawiakiungi, which means “place of thorns.”
Here’s what you see as you swing across the bridge and enter Thorntown from the east. SR 47 is just out of the picture on the left. At any moment, you expect it to start snowing, and Jimmy Stewart to come running through town shouting, “Merry Christmas you old broken-down Building and Loan!” I told a story about how, while we were still dating, my first wife got me out of a speeding ticket in Thorntown here.
Two miles outside Thorntown the road twists a bit through a wooded area. The road rises and falls a bit through this area as well. A sign near where I took this photo says that a town called Colfax lay five miles to the north. This photo points westbound.
As Boone County faded into the farms of Montgomery County, the fresh pavement ended. Driving is pleasant as the road rolls. Curved and straight sections alternate. (I am amused, looking back now, to see I had not yet learned to photograph a road while standing on the centerline. First, it leads to a more balanced composition. Second, I’m somewhat less likely to be hit by a car.)
As the road runs under I-74 and draws near to Crawfordsville, farmland is replaced with family homes. This curve showed some of the best fall colors of the trip so far.
In Crawfordsville, SR 47 multiplexes first with SR 32 and then with US 136. As SR 47 turns south on the edge of downtown, US136 goes its own way, but US 231 multiplexes in. Outside of downtown, SR 47 turns back west, leaving US 231 to its southerly path, and finally SR 32 takes a northwesterly fork, and SR 47 is all alone again. Because of some construction on SR 47, I was detoured down US 231 to SR 234, which intersects with SR 47 8 miles west of Crawfordsville. US 231 was unremarkable, but SR 234 was interesting — narrow and gently rolling through the farmland, with a drainage trench immediately off the road’s edge making stopping for photos impossible. At one point, the road gently curved so a bridge could span something perpendicularly.
As Turkey Run nears on SR 47, the road becomes more curvy and hilly, and the scenery becomes more lovely. This eastbound photo, a few miles east of Turkey Run, shows the long shadows of the late-morning autumn sun. (If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you might remember that this photo was in my blog’s masthead for years.)
Here’s a westbound shot from the same spot. This is a nice little hill.
Soon SR 47 reaches Turkey Run State Park. I visited it often, even camped here, while I lived in nearby Terre Haute in the early 1990s. In the years after this trip, my sons and came here to hike or canoe about once a year until they were grown. I blogged about it a couple times, such as here and here.
Just west of the entrance to Turkey Run, you drive past the treetops as a bridge spans a valley. A couple miles later, SR 47 ends at US 41.
Next: I followed US 41 south most of the way to Terre Haute. US 41 is so twisty it’s hard to believe it’s an Indiana highway.
Wealthy industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built an astounding 1,689 libraries around the United States — plus 660 in the UK, 125 in Canada, and 35 in other countries around the world — between 1883 and 1929.
The first Carnegie library I ever encountered was along the Michigan Road in Greensburg. But I didn’t know what I was looking at. I just thought it was a compact City Hall building.
I drove through again a few months later to find the City Hall sign gone, revealing what you see below. (The town built a new City Hall elsewhere.) I’d not heard of Andrew Carnegie’s libraries then. Seeing this sent me to the Internet to research. That’s when I learned that Carnegie’s efforts saw 167 libraries built in Indiana between 1901 and 1918.
Since I took these photos, this Carnegie Library has been converted into a private residence.
Interestingly, the Greensburg Carnegie library is nestled into this corner. The Michigan Road is on the left. All of the other Carnegie libraries I’ve found around the state are parallel with their streets.
This Carnegie “Pvblic Library” stands on the Michigan Road in tiny Kirklin. Notice the addition out back, which was built in 2001. I like how its style reasonably harmonizes, but I wish they’d taken greater care to match the brick.
It’s still the town’s library. Here’s another photo of the Kirklin library, just because I like this shot.
I found this Carnegie library on US 50 in downtown North Vernon. It is said to have been one of the last two Carnegie libraries built in Indiana. It was vacant for years, but was repurposed as North Vernon’s Town Hall in 2012.
You’ll find this Carnegie library on the square in Paoli, on the Dixie Highway in southern Indiana. (This is the same town that lost its 1880 iron bridge last month thanks to a woefully inexperienced semi driver.) This is the smallest Carnegie library I’ve found in Indiana. My memory is that this building was being used as a day care or preschool at the time I took this photo, but I hear the building is vacant today.
Here’s the Carnegie library in Sheridan, a small town north of Indianapolis. As best as I can tell, it’s vacant, but owned by an architect who is looking for a buyer who can put it to appropriate use. I really enjoy the look of this one.
Finally, here is the Carnegie library in Knightstown, east of Indianapolis on the National Road (US 40). It’s the only one I’ve found so far without a pitched roof. It appears to still be the town’s library.