Roughly 25 miles south of Indianapolis is the small city of Franklin where my mom spent her childhood. State Highway 135 passes through Greenwood, where my Grandma lives, and Whiteland, where my Aunt and her family live right inside the city limits, before entering Franklin.
The welcome sign is located directly across from my aunt’s neighborhood on the 135, which is the one main road that all three cities reside along. Within 10 minutes of driving along the highway, you’ve pretty much visited all three of these little cities.
It’s not until you turn off the major interstate and get on the backcountry roads that you see the vast expanse of farmlands that are signature to the central and southern regions of Indiana. The northern portion is more industrial with factories and production plants. The green hills seem to roll on forever until the corn fields pop up in shades of green, brown and yellow, depending on the time of season. Clusters of assorted trees such as oak, pine and willow are interspersed among the farms and houses. They reach taller than the houses and silos.
Every mile or so a farm or house will appear within a hundred feet of the bumpy, country road. My mom’s old house is located on farmland surrounded by fields. It used to have white aluminum siding but has since been painted a yellow that is lighter than harvested golden corn. Her dad rented the house for only $65 a month from an artist across the street who owned all the farming property.
A little farther down, the street curves and crosses a creek. We wanted to explore the area and pulled into the parking lot of a country corner store that is still open for businesses since the days when my mom would stop in to buy wax bottles filled with juice for no more than 10 cents. She would bite off the top and chew the bottle because the juice would seep into the wax. She said kids would chew it until the flavor was gone, just like gum. My dad and I bought a package of sunflower seeds and asked if we could climb down to the creek.
The man at the register warned us to watch out for rat snakes, but our sense of adventure drowned out any concern of danger. We slipped and slid down the brushy hill and reached the water with no snakebites.
My dad kept insisting I watch out for poison ivy, but I haven’t been itching yet.
I walked in up to my calves and it was cool enough to be refreshing from the heat and humidity. A couple of stray dogs heard us and started barking, eventually strutting toward us from the backyard of a nearby home. After a quick sniff they left us alone. A pair of kayakers paddled on by while we relaxed.
The sun began beating down on us so we climbed back up the hill toward the car where we immediately turned on the air-conditioning and regretfully headed back into the hustle-and-bustle of the town.