Farewell Fayette County & Environs

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

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.