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Driving Through Indiana

Driving home through central and southern Indiana Sunday night, mostly through the countryside on roads less traveled:

Asphalt twisting and turning through rolling hillsides, trees and corn and soybeans and grass all shades of summer green, the slanting evening light soft and golden — Indiana’s prettier than you think; dozens of old barns, some looking as if they could fall down at any moment, some with old-fashioned tractors poking out, still serving the purpose for which they were built decades ago;

a guy in an orange shirt leaning alone against a guardrail on a hill above town, smoking a cigarette, waiting for nothing; an man with a white beard and glasses in the gas station, heads for the men’s room, the sign says out of order, we both look at the women’s door, smile, someone’s in there, so we wait;

shirtless kids jumping on a trampoline in a trailer’s sloping front yard that someone’s mowing, cars and miscellaneous junk stacked around; tractors plowing low fields that have been flooded and are now dried out, hoping to get a crop planted, some places still soaking wet; long rows of hay bales shrink wrapped in white plastic; large, immaculate houses built on the backside of nowhere — where do these people get groceries? where do they work?;

a gray veteran at the end of an exit ramp, eyes downcast, holding a sign — “homeless, hungry, please help,” and rows of cars streaming past him; country churches, some with empty parking lots, some full, and in a field next to one church, a guy sitting on stool next to his pickup, rifle propped on his lap, white targets at the other end of the field;

boats launching into a sparkling lake, a tiny roadside spit of beach with a family fishing; two enormous, decadent hotels — and one casino — rising out of the countryside in Larry Bird’s hometown; NASCAR on the radio is surprisingly entertaining, eight men calling the action around the track and in pit row, picking up from each other seamlessly, making me want to press on the gas and pass recklessly, but I don’t, coasting into my driveway just as the race ends.

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