Friday, October 5, 2007

Southern Indiana Wanderings

Recently we traveled to southern Indiana's rolling hills, to Dubois County, an area with an abundance of German heritage, rich with farmlands, wood products and offering many a sportsman the perfect fishing or hunting opportunity. We had interests in satisfying more than one taste on this trip, among them were the scenery, the history and our taste buds. The small towns of Dubois County, specifically Ferdinand, Jasper and Huntingburg hold connections to Jerry's maternal ancestors, who came in the 1830s and 40s, plus we had information on some great places to eat. We found a lovely spot to park "Ferd" at the Glendale Fish and Wildlife Recreation Area at Dogwood Lake. Each evening the fish cleaning hut was packed with the anglers busily preparing their catch of the day for their families waiting at the campground.

One of our objectives for this visit was to have some highly recommended German food at the Schnitzelbank Restaurant in Jasper, a feast we thoroughly enjoyed. It was worth it to destroy our diet for the yummy Knackwurst, Weiner schnitzel and dumplings. We had to take the leftover potato pancake and sauerkraut home with us, of course.

Taking our usual look around the small town for the local spots, we came across the Dubois County Museum in Jasper. (2704 North Newton Street.) It was wonderful find! This is a museum that shouldn't be missed if you are traveling in southern Indiana. The displays are so well-documented and explanatory, overflowing with artifacts that provide examples to spark your imagination. Very quickly we found ourselves planning to come back to be sure we hadn't missed something. There were friendly and knowledgeable volunteers that kicked off our visit with information on the hows, whys, and whens of the community. The early settlers walked the Buffalo Trace from the Ohio River west to discover this county's bountiful forests and farmland. (Interesting fact: The settlers knew that the buffalo's trail was the best ground to follow because their hooves were so small that they had to find the most solid ground in order to not sink.)
It isn't difficult to imagine the attraction of the German immigrants to this area with its rolling hills and forest, similar to their native country. Dubois means "of the Woods", a name appropriate for the area said to be the Nation's Wood Capitol. Many will recognize the Jasper Desk Company name or maybe your family has an example of this well known furniture. This museum contains many curious pieces of the early craftsmen's tools. The antique farming implements and sawmill equipment also tell the story of the people who made a life here.

As Jerry was scouring the Civil War memorabilia and many other local historical items, I was compelled by the display on immigration. Here was the construction of the bunk as it would have been on a passenger ship carrying immigrants on their journey across the sea (see photo). Think of spending around six weeks with only this tiny space and with 2 or 3 hundred other passengers, sharing one water faucet to wash dishes or whatever. Look closely at the photo and you'll see items on the bunk, such as wooden shoes and a rat that poses among the belongings.

As we were soaking up the exhibits we noticed a young man taking photos with a camera much more sophisticated than my little pocket-sized 4mp digital Nikon. Soon we were talking to him about the antique wagons and wood-working tools. He then introduced himself as a photo journalist and asked if we would be receptive to him walking through the museum with us and taking photos for a piece in the Jasper Herald newspaper. Why not?!

In this photo Jerry and the "chief photographer for The Herald," David Pierini, share some historical perspectives amidst the forestry equipment in the museum. Of course we had to ask about this young man's background and why and how he was in Jasper. It turns out he is from Detroit and was drawn to Jasper ten years ago for a job with this particular newspaper due to its reputation for promoting photojournalism. He seemed satisfied and embedded in the community. It was nice to add another perspective to not only the museum itself, but to our experience in this little corner of the world. What better than to share a few spaces in time with a local journalist who has adopted this town as his home.

These few days in the hills of southern Indiana were another enjoyable episode in our journey-on-wheels. Seems as though no matter where we choose to spend our time there are interesting and exciting people and places.

1 comment:

  1. Yous guys are looking good - and very slim! We thoroughly enjoy reading about your adventures.


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