Tag Archives: Road Trippin’ in the Hoosier State

Road Trippin’ in the Hoosier State: The James Earl Jones Home for Wayward Cats

Williams is a small dying town tucked away in the hills between Shoals and Bedford on State Road 450, a winding, twisting paved deer trail that follows the ridge lines and valley floors parallel to the White River.

There’s really not much there. I don’t know what keeps people there, maybe some kind of sinister psychic bondage. Maybe a lack of imagination. Maybe they’re all white supremacist doom preppers. It’s hard to say. There can’t be any jobs. There’s a bait shop and a dam. And an old red mill that turned out to be kind of special.

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This mill was plagued with cats. They came out from everywhere. At first, there weren’t any to be seen, but then they stalked out of the shadows like vampire acolytes worshiping the Great Beast in some bottom-billed drive-in movie horror double feature. They seemed to ooze out of the walls and rise up from the asphalt. It made my hair stand up on the back of my neck.

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I was standing at the fence watching the cats when an old man wearing wrap-around shades, his white hair slicked straight back from his forehead, limped out of the mill and stood there with his hands on his hips glaring at me. I guess he was glaring. I couldn’t see his eyes for the Stevie Wonder shades he was wearing.

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I nodded. “Hi,” I said. I like to defuse confrontations before they start.

He nodded, then limped down to the fence. He stuck his hand out to shake, but the wire fence was in the way. He laughed.

“I’m Tony,” I said. “Just passing by. Saw all the cats. I like cats, so I took some pictures.”

He smiled. “Jones,” he said. “You can call me Jim.” He seemed familiar to me for some reason. He reminded me of watching Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News when I was a kid in the ’70s.

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“Jim Jones,” I said, grinning. “James Jones his ownself. I read your book. From Here to Eternity. I don’t remember any of it. Sorry.” I laughed a little at my wit. I like kidding around with people I’ve just met.

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“No, no,” he said. “That wasn’t me.” He opened his mouth to say something, but I laughed and cut him off.

“James Earl Jones,” I said. “Darth fuckin’ Vader! You know how cool that is? I really liked you in that Conan movie. You looked a lot darker on screen, though. Do you have that disease Michael Jackson had, what was it called?” I snapped my fingers, trying to remember. “It had the same name as an old Alfred Hitchcock movie… Vertiligo!” I smiled.

He gritted his teeth, then his face relaxed. “Come on in,” he said. “It’s hot out. I have some Kool Aid.”

I nodded. “Sure.”

We waded through the cats and went inside the dusty old mill. He handed me a cup of grape Kool Aid. I took a sip and spit it out. It was that cheap Flavor Aid shit. I can’t stand that crap. It always gives me a headache.

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I apologized like a madman for spitting on his floor, but he didn’t seem to care. He just wandered off into the dark reaches of the mill shaking his head. I waded back through the cats to my car, already getting a headache.

On the ride back home, my chest grew tighter and tighter. My headache split through my skull like an ax and my hands shook. Great. Coming down with the flu on a beautiful day like this. And I didn’t have any more sick time left at work.

Ain’t life grand?

Road Trippin' in the Hoosier State: The Great GOP Cornfield Conference Massacre and Banquet

An atrocity occurred in a quiet, out of the way field nestled in Daviess County’s agricultural heart. You’ll never read of the obscenity in a history book. You’ll never see it on the Discovery or History Channel. And no one in government or the lamestream press will mention it in public because the modern Republican Party was born in blood and horror in a quiet cornfield a few miles north of Washington, Indiana.

Mundane words mask the worst horrors imaginable.

Homer Capehart started his career as a jukebox salesman. He developed the automatic record turner and sold it to Wurlitzer. After making his millions, he turned to politics. Roosevelt’s New Deal had broken the back of the GOP. For some reason desperate, unemployed people don’t vote for plutocrats who would have them starve in the gutter. Republicans knew those millions of dollars flowing into the pockets of poor people would better serve America by flowing into undocumented offshore accounts instead.

So in August, 1938, Capehart hosted a conference of Republican luminaries on his farm. The purpose was to develop a strategy to revitalize the party and defeat the New Deal. And enjoy some fine barbecue as they plotted.

The CSX line borders the field where the conference took place.

Beginning the evening of August 25, black funeral trains arrived carrying the dignitaries. By day, the trains sat silent under the sweltering sun, baking in the heat with black curtains drawn. The passengers could emerge only after the cleansing light had faded.

Area oldtimers still marvel at how fast the indigent population cleared out when the conference got underway. “They even cleaned out the county farm,” they say. Hoboes camped on a sandbar on the White River, a scant two miles from Capehart’s farm. The sandbar was only a mile from where freight trains on the B&O line pulled out of the trainyard on the west side of Washington. It was easy to catch express freights bound for St. Louis and points west. Orvel Wininger, 86, shakes his head at the memory. “After that conference,” he says, “we never saw another hobo on the B&O again. I don’t know how they did it, but they really cleaned out this town.”

The remains of underground tunnels are now used as drainage ditches.

Because the ghouls of the GOP couldn’t go out into the sunlight, Capehart hired contractors to build a network of underground tunnels that allowed the conference attendees to travel freely during daylight hours. The roofs of these tunnels had all collapsed by the 1950s. The remains of the tunnels are now used as agricultural drainage ditches.

Furrows made by bound bodies dragged into the kitchens are still visible.

Capehart erected four kitchen tents in this field. Huge charcoal pits burned day and night. Attendees feasted on the flesh of hoboes, tramps, indigents, and the poor for two awful days in the summer of 1938. Ten thousand conferees consumed an estimated 3500 homeless and destitute men, women, and children from hundreds of communities across six midwestern states. The drag marks made by these unfortunates as they were dragged into the kitchen tents for butchering deepened into furrows, and those furrows are still visible to this day.

I bent over and scooped this off the ground.

Over 75 years later, bone shards and gnawed fragments litter the ground at the site. They crunch underfoot as one inspects the grounds. A farm road leading deeper into the field is covered in fragments. Though the day was warm, I felt a chill as I snapped these photos. The horror of those two days has long faded, but the scars remain.

Road Trippin' in the Hoosier State: Slobbering Mushmouthed Damned Thing

this is the thing to which I referred in the title of this post

The thing pictured above damn near gave me PTSD. I don’t know what it is. I was on the job one night last fall. To open the feed bin lid, I usually duck between the bins to go around back to where the ropes are to pull open the lids. As I squeezed my bulk between the two bins on this particular night, I glanced up and came eyeball to eyeballs with this creature.

Oh, it was awful. It had eight or twelve or sixteen eyes, small and glittering, each one regarding me blandly, yet humorously, like it thought I was probably inconsequential, but I might– just might– provide brief amusement. It giggled and called my name. I bounced off each leg of both bins twice getting my ass out of there. Poultry farmers with a lot of time on their hands and a little musical talent tune the legs of their bins. I didn’t know that until this particular night. The opening notes of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” rang clearly as I jackrabbited away from this thing. I pinballed back and forth for what seemed like a very long time, but this creature only had time to brush a tentacle across the back of my neck before I was free.

It was seven feet tall and it had a hundred legs, each one of them with four or five double-jointed knees. Its feet were gnarled and twisted with knuckles the size of grapefruit and yellow talons caked with dried blood. It weighed 420 pounds and it ran the forty in just over three seconds. That’s really fast for those of you who had any doubts, even faster than my high school football coach’s grandmother, but she was only 6’5″ and 280.

When it opened its mouth and grinned at me, I could see all the way into its throat. Its tongue was gray and flabby and veined with some kind of black tarry crap that smelled like a rendering plant in July.

It giggled again and called my name. “Tonyyyyy….” it called. It sounded breathy and slobbery, like your creepy junior high friend when he talked about his porn stash.

“Nuh uh,” I said. “Nothin’ doin’.” I backed away. I’m no fool. I went around the long way to open the bin. No way was I getting within ten feet of that thing.

I don’t know what it was or what it was doing there. I went back to that farm a few weeks later, after the first frost, and it was gone. All I found to show it had even been there was part of a gnawed femur, possibly from a cow or some hapless hitchhiker.

Christ, that thing was repulsive.

Road Trippin' in the Hoosier State: No one knows what this thing is

The Jug Rock at Shoals, IN, is touted as the largest freestanding something or other table rock formation blah blah blah east of the Mississippi River. It’s a local landmark and the people are proud of it. They’ve gone so far as to make it the high school’s mascot. That’s right, a fifty-foot rock formation is the school’s mascot. Just google “Shoals Jug Rox.” You’ll see.

No one really knows what it is. There’s a crackpot theory floating around it’s the result of millennia of erosion, something to do with hard rock layers surrounded by softer limestone. That’s about as likely as the five minute universe or whatever new creationist theory is floating about out there on the conspiracy tubes.

No, I’m convinced this thing is a wendigo hibernating away the centuries until the next ice age awakens it. At the end of the last glaciation, it must have wandered too far south and became disoriented and groggy in the warmer climate. What we see as some sort of rock formation is merely thirty thousand years of accumulated secretions hardened into a crusty shell. An enterprising individual with a chisel and a mallet could find a very nasty surprise lurking underneath a few feet of fossilized grease.

This sleeping monster is a true calamity in waiting. It lived in a time of unimaginable cold when ice sheets two miles thick covered entire continents. An adult wendigo could chew on a fully grown mammoth in one hand while crushing a score of fire and spear wielding Neolithic tribesmen in the other. As a society, we’re just not prepared for such a walking disaster.

We should strike while the goddamned thing is sleeping. It should be bulldozed, paved over, and turned into a Chuck E. Cheese. At least then it’ll serve some useful purpose.