On a recent horseback ride out of Mazama trailhead, my friend and I met a congenial couple on the trail. They were curious about our ride and the horses, how far we went, and whether this was the trail to the suspension bridge. Aware that the Mazama Store was the last gas stop for a while, they also wondered where the first place to get a sandwich would be on their drive over the North Cascades. Obviously visitors, I asked where they hailed from: Indiana. I could not help but think about how little I know about Indiana, not dissimilar to their knowledge about Washington state.
I remembered the Gene Hackman movie “Hoosiers” inspired by a true story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that won the state championship in 1954 on a last-second shot. Unbeknownst to me was why Indianans are called Hoosiers. It turns out that a contractor named Hoosier, employed on the Louisville and Portland Canal, preferred to hire laborers from Indiana (hard workers?). The workers became known as Hoosier’s men; eventually, all Indianans were called Hoosiers.
Every state has its “fun facts.” Indiana is no different. Here are a few that intrigued me.
• Eight Nobel Prize Winners were born in Indiana.
• Indiana’s famous foods include sugar cream pie, Hoosier chili, and fried brain sandwich.
• Janet and Michael Jackson, John Mellencamp, and Axl Rose were born in Indiana.
• The first electrically lighted city in the world was Wabash, Indiana.
• Santa Claus, Indiana, receives hundreds of letters to guess who every year.
• It is illegal to catch a fish with your bare hands in Indiana.
The No. 1 manufacturing company in Indiana is Big Pharma Eli Lilly & Co., employing 10,000 people in the capital, Indianapolis. Other leading companies manufacture RV parts, Toyotas and Subarus, hip replacement parts, meat cutting machines, steel, GM and Rolls-Royce automobiles.
Indiana’s state bird is the cardinal, state flower the peony (I’m guessing they pronounce it pee-O-nee, not PEE-o-nee), state insect the firefly, and state tree the tulip tree — all favorites of mine. The state poem concludes: “Indiana is a garden/Where the seeds of peach have grown/Where each tree, and vine, and flower/Has a beauty all its own/Lovely are the fields and meadows/that reach out to hills that rise/Where the dreamy Wabash River/Wanders on … through paradise.”
It’s been nice getting to know you, Indiana. Any Hoosiers out there in Methow land?
We host visitors from all over the country and world in the Methow Valley. The natural beauty that abounds here is intoxicating and leaves a lasting impression. Turnabout is fair play if we take time to learn about the places our guests come from.