The Bend of Slate

The Slate Creek winds down from Bradshaw Mountain along State Route 83 to Grundy, Virginia where it converges with the Levisa River and heads on into Kentucky to become the Big Sandy and then the Ohio River.

Screenshot 2018-04-06 14.33.05Just a few miles east of Grundy, situated along the shallow banks of the Slate Creek is the Bend of Slate, or as it is known to those who are from there, “The Bottom.” Between the 1940s and 1970s my father and his siblings were born and grew up in wide curve between a two-lane state road and the creek.

The curve was lined with small box houses, some of which were built onto and others that were later torn down and replaced with single or double wide trailers. Across the creek from the bottom was a one-lane road dotted with houses of a few families, some of whom you can still find there. At one end of The Bottom was “the restaurant,” official known as the Caudill’s Drive-In. My grandmother ran it for years – best hamburgers in the world I’m told.

The creek was not quite a stream or river. It could easily become swollen and forceful, quickly filling up backyards and basements. But most often it was the site of rock-skipping and swimming. Like the mountains, the river was part of the family.

The Bottom was home to a cast of unforgettable characters and the scene of a number of unbelievable stories of family, friendship, love, nonsense, and survival deep in the mountains of Central Appalachia.


Martha, W.J., Fred, Omalee, and I.D.

In the last few years, we have lost 2 of the 5 siblings my father’s family, Omalee and Fred. In an effort to hold on to and celebrate those memories I will be posting stories from time to time about the Bend of Slate. I will start with an essay by my first cousin Scott about our Granny. His daddy Fred, who left us last month, once said that Scott and Granny had a “special understanding.” Now I know what Fred meant.

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part II

It seems that I’ve been fooled. My first winter in Indiana, 2011-2012, was incredibly mild. Not only was there not one single large snowfall there was not much snow at all. Additionally, the temperature, while cold, was not consistently and continuously bitter. Oh, and I lived in an apartment with a garage. So, I never had to encounter snow directly: no shoveling, no sweeping, no cleaning off the car. All I had to do outside was walk the dog.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

Everyone I’ve talked with about the weather (which is nearly everyone) told me not “get used to it.” I am afraid I did.

This winter is different. There have not been any giant snows, but we have had more snow and the temperatures have been way (at least it seems to me) colder. Days and days of temperatures under 20 degrees. Wind. Constant, cold wind with wind chills repeatedly below -10. Oh, and I now have a driveway to shovel, a walk to sweep, and neighborhood streets to try to navigate safely.

I have prided myself on the fact that I can handle cold weather and drive in the snow. I was raised in the mountains! It does snow in the mountains and it does get cold. However, it doesn’t stay this cold for this long, the snow doesn’t hang around for weeks from one storm, and it doesn’t snow this often. And, there is no wind there, at least not constant, extremely cold, and sustained winds.

This has been much more of an adjustment than I am comfortable admitting. It is not in my nature (or raising) to concede weakness or discomfort. Every time I walk out into the piercing cold wind I cringe. I long for some mountain cover. The question – why do I live here crosses my mind. Regularly. If I missed home when it was warm here, I miss home 1000x more now.

Luckily, I had the chance to escape the Midwest winter briefly. I spent part of the last week in Puerto Rico, where it was sunny, warm, and, like Fort Wayne, windy; there the wind blows warm. It was a much needed break even though I worked most of the trip. But that trip taught me a very important lesson. I now know the key to surviving a Midwestern winter. Take a break.

I learned how to use the panorama feature on my phone in PR.

Seasons change and I have access to airplanes. So, my new vacation window is going to be January to March, just in time for a nice break from the Midwestern winter.

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part I

Snow is beautiful. I like it.

Indiana Snow

Sadly, though, snow does not come with sixty degree temperatures, dry roads, and warm winds. At least not in Indiana. The day I returned from my holiday break in Virginia it was eighteen degrees and felt like four degrees with twenty mile per hour winds.

These are not my ideal dog walking conditions.

Twice a day I bundle up in layers, strap on my boots, and walk The Queen. She prefers the field and brush behind the subdivision to the sidewalks. This makes for adventures wading through ankle-deep or more snow and enduring 20 mph winds in an open field. Other than the satisfaction of making the dog happy, the only thing that makes these required walks tolerable is the view. The Queen doesn’t mind regular stops for iPhone photography.

Model Dog

Eyeing some fresh deer tracks.

Walking Shoes

The proper form for mole digging.

The proper form for mole digging.

Wading Through the BrushSunset on the trees

The Queen watching the sunset.

The Queen watching the sunset.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind tall weeds.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind the tall weeds.

The view of the Indiana countryside also pretty. Pretty enough to make long commutes fun and slow. Slow? Yes, because you have to stop and take pictures. Seriously. I am that person pulled over on the shoulder, stopped in the middle of the road, and holding the camera up to the windshield or side window while in motion. I highly recommend it to everyone with a camera or smartphone.

It is pretty.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

An Indiana farmer's lovely old barn.

An Indiana farmer’s lovely old barn.

A Walk by the St. Joseph River

On a slow Saturday afternoon The Queen and I decided to enjoy the great spring weather with a drive. The Queen loves to ride, so we hopped in the Volvo, rolled down the windows, and cruised to Grabill to visit the Grabill Country Store.

En route home I stopped at the Riverside Gardens park on Schwartz Road, just off of Route 1, for an impromptu dog walk. Riverside Gardens has both paved and dirt paths, gazebos, and a walkway under the bridge crossing the St. Joseph to access the wide sidewalk trail back to Grabill. The stop was a good one. Pretty and enjoyable. If you have some time and daylight to burn Riverside is a great place to do it.




Wabash, Far Away

Wabash, Indiana was the first electrically lighted city in the world. There is an unusual fun fact to know and tell. It is also the county seat of Wabash County, Indiana, and, coincidentally, the Wabash River runs right through Wabash. Shocking, I know. Wabash is about an hour from FW and is, surprisingly, worth the drive.

Wabash has entertainment (music, museum, and theater), food (see below), and great architecture shown in the courthouse, downtown churches, and its downtown theater.

Wabash is also the home of the Charley Creek Inn and the restaurant Twenty.

Twenty is located in the lobby of the Inn. I had the occasion to dine at Twenty with eight colleagues (an awesome group of interesting and fun professionals). There were steaks, lamb, and even a vegetarian dish around the table and dessert was great! It is charming, the food is tasty, and the 1920’s era theme is fun. It is a great spot for a family dinner, birthday party, or a night out. It is also just down the way from The Honeywell Center, so, you can grab a nice dinner before a show.

Wabash is a quaint little spot worth seeing. Pretty.

Take a peek at a few scenes from scenic Wabash while listening to the Indiana state song, On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away. Enjoy.

Pretty Bridges

“When you need a friend, I’m sailing right behind.  Like a bridge over troubled water.”  Paul Simon.

The Queen likes to ride. She likes it so much that now she goes to the garage door rather than the front door when we prepare to go for a walk.  She is a bossy dog.  The problem is that there are only so many destinations appropriate for a 50 pound border collie.  So, in order to get The Queen the riding fix that she insists upon, we hit the road on Saturdays or after work on the weekdays for some sightseeing. And sometimes we just go for the ride itself. Yes, really, I do this for my dog.

One such adventure took us to see my first covered bridge.  We left home on a Saturday afternoon and cruised up (windows halfway down and sunroof open, that is how she rolls) to Spencerville, Indiana, frighteningly close to the Ohio line.  Spencerville is a brief stop on Route 1.  Just off of Route 1 – follow the sign – is the Spencerville Covered Bridge.

It was constructed and has been in use is 1873 and it spans the St. Joseph River.  It underwent a major renovation in 1981 and it is still used but only for tourist traffic.  The new road that bypasses it is within sight.

I have become quite the popular story teller at work.  At the office most of the employees gather at noon to dine and I regale folks with my weekend adventures.  Remember, I like to talk and I am the baby of my family – I am used to people listening to me and acting like what I say is worth hearing.  Apparently, in four months, when you know no one and care for only a dog, you can see things that some people haven’t managed to see in a decade or more.   I was telling of my visit to the Spencerville Covered Bridge when I was informed that there was another covered bridge nearby.  So, I set out to make a covered bridge comparison.

The North Manchester Covered Bridge, built for the third time (it burned twice) in 1872, spans the Eel River and is located in North Manchester, Indiana (also home of Manchester College).  N. Manchester is about 40 minutes west of FW.

The Spencerville bridge is a bit more scenic but that is because it is not used regularly and is remotely located. The N. Manchester Bridge is on Mill Road, which sees daily traffic and that alone is pretty neat.  But for the pedestrian, the N. Manchester bridge has a walkway on one side for folks crossing the bridge, also neat.

The bridges are both pretty.  They are well preserved and their age certainly increases the interest and attractiveness value.  They are like old red barns (which are plentiful in Northeast Indiana) – there is just something romantic (enter Clint Eastwood from Bridges of Madison County) and charming about them that makes them hard not to like or appreciate.

It is odd.  I have been all over the south and never seen a covered bridge, although they are there.  These bridges are not just a Midwest thing.   Although, if the purpose of the roof is to protect the bridge workings from weather they certainly served an important purpose in the Midwest.

The Queen was not nearly as impressed with the covered bridges.  But she did enjoy the ride.

A River Runs Through South Whitley

There is a little town near FW called South Whitley.  It is a super small, pretty little Main Street Town right on Route 14.  If you are there take a minute to stop and dine at the Brownstone Cafe. It is an excellent spot. Great salads, sandwiches, and a sinfully good dessert selection.

Also, just south of town is the Eel River.  It is pretty too.