Farewell Fayette County & Environs

I’m help­ing my moth­er move from my ances­tral demesne this week. I feel lit­tle sor­row regard­ing the move from this par­tic­u­lar home, the third of three I lived in when I lived in Fayette Coun­ty; but a much deep­er sense of loss regard­ing cer­tain oth­er places that have sen­ti­men­tal val­ue to me. Of course, me being I, they almost all revolve around food.

For lunch today, Abra­ham and I stopped at J’s Dairy Inn, locat­ed in Lib­er­ty, IN. Since the pre­vail­ing wind is from the west, if you’re in Con­nersville and you spit, it’ll land in Union Coun­ty. In addi­tion to being the loca­tion of J’s, it is also home to White­wa­ter Memo­r­i­al State Park (the only lake I’ve ever swum across), and the pret­ti­est girls per capi­ta of any­where I’ve ever been. I used to stop in at J’s semi-reg­u­lar­ly dur­ing my high school days, and quite reg­u­lar­ly when I worked as sum­mer help doing warehousing/teamster work for E.W. Brock­man Com­pa­ny. When they’d place an order I’d basi­cal­ly deliv­er any and every paper good they’d use. The most deli­cious greasy-spoon burg­ers, crispest crin­kle-cut fries, and most gigan­tic milk­shakes around. You could dri­ve from Con­nersville to Lib­er­ty, eat at J’s and get back to work in just bare­ly under an hour.

Din­ner was from Lee’s Famous Recipe Chick­en. Just a reg­u­lar fast food joint. Can’t hold a can­dle to the St. Gabriel’s Fried Chick­en  din­ner at the Fayette Coun­ty Free Fair, but it was the best fried chick­en in town oth­er­wise, and to my taste-mem­o­ry, no oth­er fast food fried chick­en will ever be the same. We ate our chick­en din­ner at Robert’s Park, home to the afore­men­tioned fair, demo­li­tion der­bies, har­ness rac­ing (and ille­gal gam­bling), clas­sic car shows, and fre­quent cross-coun­try prac­tice des­ti­na­tion. In the pre-sea­son, we’d run past the dirt track, into the woods and go swim­ming in the White­wa­ter Riv­er.

Tomor­row will be Kunkel’s Dri­ve-in for lunch. Ten­der­loin bas­ket with heavy mus­tard and a vanil­la coke. The cute girls always worked at Dairy Queen, K-mart, or Kunkel’s in high school. I remem­ber sit­ting in the back of my dad’s van as a lit­tle kid and unwrap­ping the smell of deep fried pork, the lat­er taste of mus­tard crust­ed in the cor­ner of my mouth. Piz­za King for din­ner. Holi­est of holies. St. Louis-style pie. Do you pre­fer west­side or south­side? It mat­ters. I’m a south­side feller, the over­sized gooey choco­late chip cook­ies and table­top arcade games as a boy, and its liquor license as an adult. I spent more time at west­side though, where the teens hung out in my day. Dairy Twist for dessert, even if Abra­ham doesn’t eat his din­ner. I went there every evening one sum­mer for a large cher­ry milk­shake, try­ing to put on some weight, and nev­er had the con­fi­dence to ask out the girl who hand­ed them to me night after night. Didn’t put on any weight either. Fenc­ing in col­lege final­ly did that. Now, the fight is to keep it off. Just not this week.

I’ll still have the mem­o­ries of being perched on the hill at 514 Franklin Street, over­look­ing the whole city and feel­ing like a trip-step would send me sprawl­ing onto St. Gabriel’s steeple. But I won’t be dri­ving past that house any­more. I’ll still have mem­o­ries of the house on Stoney­brook Lane, the entire days spent in William’s Creek, swing­ing on grape vines, socks cov­ered in bur­docks, being forced to strip out­side and be cold-hosed off before even being allowed near the house. But I won’t be near that creek again. I’ll still have mem­o­ries of rolling up toward Rich­mond with the boys, 45 min­utes to the near­est movie the­ater, the back­road route, Pen­nville to Pot­ter­shop, late night truck stop stop for the Night Owl Spe­cial: a plat­ter of bis­cuits and gravy for $2.00. Now just a 10 minute stretch on I-70 as I bar­rel toward Indi­anapo­lis.

I’ve hat­ed on Con­nersville in my day. Even wrote a let­ter to the edi­tor once upon a time. But it’s a great place to raise a kid, and the grow­ing-up-to-hate-it-and-leav­ing is kind of nec­es­sary; if we didn’t drift away like dan­de­lion fluff, Con­nersville wouldn’t be Con­nersville. Water flows away from the spring to nour­ish oth­er areas.