Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Greencastle, Indiana

Friends: As I suspected, Dwight did have a collection of license plates mounted on a wall in the smallest of the three out-buildings on his seventeen acre farm. He was happy to add the plates from Ohio and North Carolina I'd scavenged along the road to his montage going back over twenty years.

Even though he is just a recreational farmer, all of his buildings, and much of his property, is being put to productive use. He has a bio-diesel operation in one of his buildings, converting cooking oil he scavenges from his friend Jeff, a pizza parlor baron with nine restaurants in Bloomington and the surrounding area. I'd been eager to meet Jeff, Dwight's bicycle touring partner for a couple of months this past winter in Thailand, but he was attending a restaurant convention in Ann Arbor. He is quite an entrepreneur. He owns an 80-acre farm across the road from Dwight with a micro brewery and water buffaloes, the only water buffaloes in the county. He's able to make his own mozzarella cheese from the buffaloes.

Dwight's third building provides refuge for his chickens and ducks and guinea hens and also stores the wood he uses to heat his house. Dwight is largely self-sufficient. His farm provides 80% of his food needs. He has three freezers in his basement stocked with batches of beans and soups and produce. He has a good supply of frozen corn on the cob still in their husks. It was the highlight of our all home-grown dinner, sweet as if it had just been picked that day.

We took a post-dinner stroll about his property, through his fruit orchards and out to his "Communist Plot," a several acre garden he shares with any friends who care to join in. His black lab romped in the brush hunting for rabbits and mice. Two of Dwight's friends were happily planting in the late evening light. One had brought over several five gallon buckets of food scraps from a local organic restaurant for the chickens. When Dwight dumped them out for the chickens he quickly squashed the egg shells so the chickens wouldn't associate them with their own eggs. They quickly went for the egg shells before the lettuce and tomatoes and all else. Dwight wouldn't want his chickens to associate the shells with their own eggs, as they might be inclined to attack their eggs for the shells. When that happens, it is off with the head of the chicken and into the frying pan.

As always, Dwight kept me boggled at his energy and his expertise and his vast knowledge of so many subjects. He had just read Keith Richard's autobiography and gave a fascinating dissertation on it that makes me want to get my hands on the book as soon as I get back to Chicago. It is no wonder that Dwight was the most popular professor of Indiana University's business school until he retired two years ago, annually winning a $2,500 award.

Only three classes in the entire university received higher ratings from the students--two were courses on music, one rock and roll and the other on the blues, and the other was a class on human sexuality taught by the Kinsey Institute affiliated with the university. Dwight thrived on the teaching and may return on a part-time basis, provided it doesn't restrict his travels. Next up he hopes to make a couple month bicycle trip in Africa next winter. He sure makes me proud, having been his touring mentor. It is no stunt for him. He is a genuine connoisseur and has made a few converts himself, including his son and some of his students.

At present he's working on his memoirs. It won't be his first book. That was "Escape," about his escape from Mexico City's maximum security prison back in the '70s. Only one other person managed to escape from the prison--Pancho Villa. Timothy Bottoms played Dwight in the movie of his book. His memoirs will be equally fascinating, detailing his life as a life-long activist beginning as a member of the SDS, burning his draft card and hanging out in a hippie commune in New Mexico on property bought by Dennis Hopper from his "Easy Rider" earnings. His FBI file is 1,300 pages long. He's wanted in half a dozen countries. Besides Mexico, he's wanted in Taiwan and Norway for activities with the Sea Shepherd Society sinking ships. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd, devotes several pages of his autobiography to Dwight. It goes on and on.

I could have spent days with Dwight, but I have a flight to catch to Paris in less than a week, so headed out a little less than 24 hours after I arrived. We had hoped to take a ride into Bloomington, five miles away, but the weather was nasty, and besides a visit to a computer store for a device that would make the lap top he was sending me off with wi-fi compatible, he had a few fruit tree saplings to pick up, so we drove in. I was two days late for the Little 500 bike race immortalized by the best movie of all time--"Breaking Away." And I was a little early for a local election. One of the candidates had a bicycle on his campaign posters around town. I wished I could have voted for him.

At the computer store Dwight and a former student of his made Dwight's six-year old IBM laptop fully functional for me. That will certainly make my life easier, no longer having to be dependent on my roommate's computer and those of the library. It may be a bit too heavy to travel with beyond this final 200-mile stretch home, but who knows.

When I arrived in Bloomington, before I headed out to Dwight's farm I continued my Carnegie quest, tracking down Bloomington's former Carnegie Library, now the Monroe County Historical Society Museum. It is just around the corner from Bloomington's new library, built in 1970, a couple blocks from the town center and on the fringe of the sprawling IU campus. The Carnegie is distinguished enough to be on the National Registry of Historic Places, as should all the Carnegies.

I headed directly up highway 37 for twenty miles after leaving Dwight's to the Martinsville Carnegie. A 1990 addition allows it to still serve as a library. Its a white stone building with four pillars at its entrance and a dome. Having been an early Carnegie, built in 1906, it had a few extra flourishes, including "Carnegie" chiseled into its front facade along with "Public Library." Carnegie preferred not to brandish his name. The entry had eight wooden columns under the dome. The Carnegie portrait was one I had never seen, not the usual one of him holding a book in his lap, but of him standing behind a chair.

The Carnegie here in Greencastle, home of DePauw University, is on a block next to the post office and behind the Masonic Temple, large enough for a substantial extension, so it can still serve its intended function. It is another beauty. Now I head up route 231 for a half dozen or so more before reaching Chicago.

I was lucky last night to find an abandoned barn to camp in. The ground was soggy all around after an inch rain fall the night before. The wind whipped up in the night from the north bringing more rain and a plummet of the temperature.  It was 39 degrees when I set out this morning. With the cold I bought half gallon of chocolate milk and three pounds of macaroni salad at a bargain price, knowing I wouldn't have to down them right away.

Later, George

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