Day 547: Benton Harbor

Laetitia and her group headed east toward Lake Michigan and spent much of the day exploring Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Afterward they crossed the border into Michigan and drove north along the lakeshore to Benton Harbo, where they were spending the evening. There a bartender’s story about a very hairy fellow provided the limerick of the day.

A hirsute lad from Benton Harbor
Made a pass at a girl in an arbor
But he had so much hair
That she only would stare
So, thereafter, he went to a barber.

Day 546: Goshen Notion

After leaving Gas City, Laetitia and her group headed northward on the way to Goshen, near Indiana’s border with Michigan. They made stops for hiking and bird watching at Oabache and Chain o’Lakes State Parks. Goshen is an Amtrak stop and is in the middle of Amish country. Its Wal-Mart has a covered stable to accommodate its Amish customers.

When Laetitia walked into a local bar that afternoon, she found that the happy hour crowd had not yet begun to come in. She sat at the bar, ordered a gin and tonic, took a book from her bag, and began to read. The book was Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome’s humorous story about a boat trip on the Thames with two other men and a dog. At the beginning of the book, the protagonist imagines he is dying of a myriad of diseases whose symptoms are described in advertisements for patent medicines. The disease warning signs in the ads were vague and included such conditions as “a disinclination to work.”

As it turned out, the bartender had read the book, and he and Laetitia had a conversation that began with Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and Hadacol and drifted to a story about a local man named Jeremy, who fancied himself a Lothario. He imagined that door-to-door selling was a way to meet lonely housewives. Although Jeremy found a product that he could sell on commission, dressed for success, and diligently made his appointed rounds, his enterprise failed. The decline in one-earner households meant that he mostly found no one at home. However Laetitia found that his story provided her with a limerick.

Young Jeremy had a great notion
For meeting the ladies of Goshen
At their doors, he’d beguile
Them while dressed in high style
As he sold them restorative lotion.

Day 545: Gas City

Laetitia and her group headed northeast out of Brazil. Their first stop of the day was the Conner Prairie Pioneer Set. Afterward they visited the Indiana Transportation Museum and, late that afternoon, arrived in Gas City, their destination for the evening. Originally called Harrisburg after its first settler, Gas City acquired its present name and temporary boomtown status in the late nineteenth century, when natural gas was discovered in the area.

On arrival, Laetitia led the group on a walkabout, then she left them at their hotel with arrangements to meet before dinner. Book in hand, she went off to find a shady park bench. As she sat reading, an adolescent girl carrying a backpack approached and stopped to talk. After a bit of small talk, the topic drifted to living in Gas City. According to the girl, Maggie, it was a great place to live except for one thing. Outsiders like to make crude jokes about gas and the people who live here. Maggie said, “My uncle thinks he’s a comedian. He moved over to Marion to take a job, but he says he moved there because everybody knows the people who live here produce a lot of natural gas. Then he winks and laughs as though this rude joke is funny rather than offensive. I wish we could live somewhere else.” The topic moved to more pleasant subjects, and later, after the girl walked on, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day.

Young Maggie thought it was a pity
That her folks chose to live in Gas City
Where the townsfolk are known
To be flatulence prone
Or so goes a wag’s nitty-gritty.

Day 544: The Boy from Brazil

Laetitia and her group left Bean Blossom and made their way to McCormick’s Creek State Park, where they spent much of the day hiking and bird watching. Late that afternoon they arrived at Brazil, Indiana, the evening’s destination. This city of 8,000 got its somewhat unusual name in an interesting way. In the 1840s, the country of Brazil was making the transition from a colonial to a modern state and was much in the international news. A local Indiana farmer, enamored with his vision of this exotic South American place, chose it as a name for his farm. Later the town that grew there took the farm’s name as its own. Located on old U.S. Route 40 between Terra Haute and Indianapolis, the town is now bypassed by Interstate 70, except when traffic is temporarily routed through town during road construction. Other than its name, Brazil, Indiana, has no connection to South America, except for the Chatariz dos Contos(Fountain of the Contos), a replica of an eighteenth-century fountain that was a gift from a Brazilian city.

Laetitia sat at the bar during happy hour, watching a table of drunks. One of them seemed to be buying all of the rounds. Watching her watching them, the bartender told her that the man buying drinks was originally from Brazil. “He’s a salesman for an Indianapolis agricultural equipment company. He has a generous expense account, and when he comes to town he entertains his clients and his friends pretending to be clients. Just before leaving the bar to join her group for dinner, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day on a cocktail napkin.

A Hoosier who hailed from Brazil
Indulged his obsession to swill
Drinks ‘til he was boozy
And his clients woozy
When his sales firm was footing the bill.