April 3, 2016

Mark Hunter Shares a Summer of Indiana

Last summer my wife and I began planning a humor book, Hoosier Hysterical: How the West Became the Midwest Without Moving At All. Indiana’s 2016 bicentennial, after all, doesn’t come along every century.

While researching the book we visited a lot of fun places, but our favorites were monuments and natural areas. An example is the main square of Indianapolis, which was laid out so the governor’s mansion would be right in the center of a grand city.

No governor ever lived there. It was just too busy. Eventually the mansion was torn down and replaced by Monument Circle. There you’ll find, among other statues, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument—the first in the nation dedicated to the “common” soldier and sailor.

You can’t toss a chunk of Indiana limestone without hitting a monument, which is usually made of Indiana limestone. We’re a place of historically historic places, such as the original State Capitol, Corydon. In addition to the Old Capitol Building, there stands the preserved trunk of an old elm tree. It turns out the air conditioning didn’t work well in 1816, so state delegates headed outside to write the Indiana Constitution under something that only then became known as the Constitutional Elm.

Among my other favorite memorials is one honoring George Rogers Clark, whose military exploits secured the Northwest Territory for the new United States. Further south, near the Ohio River (and the Christmas-themed town of Santa Claus), is the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. There Abe lived—in his boyhood, obviously—the same year Indiana became a state. There his mother died of milk sickness, while little Abe was kicked in the head by a horse and for a time thought dead, and became so upset after shooting a wild turkey that he never hunted again. Not on the same day. Still, it’s no wonder he moved on to Illinois.

It’s Indiana’s state parks that are closest to my heart. There’s something about being outdoors that’s so … outdoorsy. There are many recreational areas, with the goal of having at least one park within an hour’s drive of any Hoosier—at least, any Hoosier who happens to be in Indiana.

The first was McCormick’s Creek State Park, dedicated July 4, 1916, as part of Indiana’s centennial celebration. It was named after John Wesley McCormick, whose son settled in the middle of White River State Park (it wasn’t a park then), becoming the first resident of what would someday be Indianapolis. The first naturalist program in the entire country began at McCormick Creek, in 1927. 

Our parks show off natural environments, like the cliffs and falls of Clifty Falls (I see what they did, there), and the kettle lakes of my favorite, Chain O’ Lakes State Park. But later they expanded to take in historical locations like Mounds State Park, which no, isn’t related to the candy bar (unless that’s where the Native Americans dumped their wrappers?) One of the signs of civilization is when people don’t have to live in tents and cook over fires, but do it voluntarily.

If you plan to recreate in Indiana—and who doesn’t?—there’s lots of other stuff to do. We have fairs and festivals all over, from spring through autumn. There’s cross country skiing in winter, which goes to show Hoosiers try to give crazy people something to do. Big cities to small towns, zoos, water parks, wineries, and you can’t swing an historical artifact without hitting a museum in Indiana, although they frown on swinging the artifacts, so don’t.

All four of my published fiction works are set in Indiana: Storm Chaser, its sequel The Notorious Ian Grant, and a related story collection Storm Chaser Shorts all in northeastern Indiana, while The No-Campfire Girls is set at a southern Indiana summer camp. In addition to Hoosier Hysteria, our other two non-fiction books are about local history: Images of America: Albion and Noble County and Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department. Only my humor collection, Slightly Off the Mark, isn’t set here—although Indiana often gets a mention.

One random commenter will get a copy of our new book, Hoosier Hysterical: How the West Became the Midwest Without Moving At All, when it’s released in May.

Mark lives in small town Indiana with his wife, Emily, their dog, Baewulf, and their cowardly python, Lucius. His night job is as a 911 dispatcher, and he’s also a volunteer firefighter and photography. In his non-existent free time, he writes fiction, nonfiction, and fan fiction. He’s also known for really bad puns.
Connect to Mark and all his work, including purchase information, here:  www.markhunter.com
(Info provided by author) 



  1. I cant help but wonder how the prevalence of limestone affects the people who live in a place. Do they feel cemented in place? One of my consistent feelings whenever I've travelled through Indiana was the feeling that nobody was planning to ever leave. I'm sure Old Abe wasn't happy about doing so. Of course, he was born in Kentucky, which may explain his footloose ways. Seriously, why don't Indianans brag more on Benjamin Harrison? He was a good enough guy even if he did end up losing to an Ohioan.

  2. Indiana sounds like a beautiful place!
    I look forward to visiting the state one day.
    Your books sound good too.
    Good luck and God's blessings.

  3. Nice piece, Mark. I, too, write a series set in Indiana (and blogged here about the state last year). Indiana is much under-rated. And thanks for highlighting my favorite of the many beautiful state parks - I've spent many a lovely say hiking at McCormick's Creek. It's especially lovely in snow!

  4. This was such a fun read! Your humor shows through and I'll just bet it's thick in your books. It is amazing what we can learn about our own hometowns or states if we but look. Secrets and not so secret information abounds. Is the term milk sickness something you conjured or is that a real condition? I had never heard it before. With the humorous way you express yourself, when I first read it, I attributed it to your sense of delight.

  5. I can just see it all. Great post, and loved the monuments and history. Keep on, keepin' on. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

  6. Finally! Someone has addressed my first-grade confusion. Why west was east of us (Idaho). That simply didn't make sense to a six-year-old. LOL.

    Nice article, Mark. Best of luck to you.

  7. Ken, a lot of people talk about leaving, and fifty years later talk about how they never want to leave--except during winter. Maybe the limestone just gives us that sense of having a solid bedrock beneath us. As for Lincoln, I suspect his father was one of those people you hear about from back then, we started feeling crowded as soon as his nearest neighbor got within five miles.

    Pam, it certainly is a beautiful place! It even has its moments during winter.

    Sheila, I remember your blog! I spend most of my state park time at Chain O' Lakes (the closest) and Pokagon (where my wife works at the saddle barn), but every one I've been too has great attractions.

    Mary, milk sickness is a real thing, the result of cows eating the white snake root plant. Thankfully very rare today! Although I try to stick to making fun of real things in this particular book, you're right that I wouldn't be above making that kind of thing up elsewhere.

    Doris, I will indeed keep on keeping on! I have dozens of writing projects or ideas ahead of me.

    Thanks, Jacquie! I felt the same way as a youngin' ... we were the west once? And we're still called the midwest, even though we're east of so much? I started getting interested when I got old enough to realize we were once the far west frontier!

  8. You certainly do love your state, Mark!

  9. William, I do indeed! My theory is, if you don't like the place you're staying, you should be going on about the place you move to!

  10. Loved this. You are in your usual form. Of course, I Tweeted.

  11. Looking forward to your new book! I'll be there in June. Hope to get to see you this time around.

  12. Thanks, Mari!

    I hope so, Sundry--it seems like something's going on whenever you're in the area!


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