There are three historical markers on the road from Lake Architectless to Fort Wayne. There are two markers that are actually in downtown Fort Wayne on the site of the first church and the site of the old fort that the town got its name from.
In its heyday Fort Wayne was a booming metropolis, but like many of the smaller bergs in its hey day it too fell prey to progress. Once the Erie Canal had no market value Fort Wayne began to decline. The Sunday after helping Sheriff Brownlee mom and dad decided to take us into Fort Wayne for a day of museums and wandering.
As a family we did this from time to time. Wandered over to the big city and wandered around that city for a ½ day. We would cut out of Lake Architectless right after church and hop in the car. Mom who almost always packed lunch would never pack a lunch on those days. A couple of times she did and we ate in the park that sits where the old Fort used to be, but most times we went to Dave’s Diner on the outskirts of town and had a country lunch. Country lunch is not anything that anyone outside of Indiana ever has. IT is a combination of Indiana treats that no one outside the state really understands.
You start with a standard hamburger bun. You then bread a piece of pork tenderloin that is two to three times larger than the hamburger bun. You then add mustard and three pickles placed on the left side of the bun and a tomato under the bun. The piece of lettuce should be bigger than the bun. Add to this a huge helping of mashed potatoes and gravy on the side and finish it with fresh Indiana ColeSlaw. Indiana Coleslaw is slightly different in that it of course, has corn in it.
This lunch would always lead us to want to take a nap but we normally left Dave’s and walked around town (slowly) for an hour or so.
We wandered around the general store for a bit and finally selected some candy each. Sheriff Brownlee walked us back to my father’s office to explain why we had candy I suspect or so maybe dad wouldn’t be suspicious.
My dad looked up for a second as the door opened and saw the Sheriff. For a second you could see that look of horror parents have when they see their children in the hands of the law. You could see the question roll across his face, what have the done.
“Jim,” my dad said acknowledging the Sheriff
“John, your boys helped me out today with a little out of town problem,” Sheriff Brownlee said as we stepped through the door and into my father’s office.
My father seemed to deflate and the fear left his face when he heard that. “Glad to hear they were of help,” he said “for the most part they are good boys.’ He finished.
“Yes they are.” The Sheriff said.
The Sheriff and dad started talking about the weather so my brother and I headed back out into the computer room. Adults talking about weather is nearly the most boring thing on earth.
For a second Buck looked like he was going to say something. It was as if the words had a mind of their own and were struggling to release into the world around them. Buck was fighting the good fight though, as the sheriff looked at him quizzically wondering if he would say something. Buck paused and then said “can I pay the ticket in cash?”
“Surely, take the ticket to the checkout counter of the general store and they will take care of you. Thank you very much for your prompt attention to this matter.” Sheriff Brownlee answered.
Deputy Harris pointed out the door towards the cash register of the General Store. For a member he actually stopped leaning to indicate that the hallway required a left turn. No words were used but the gesture caused him to lean away from the wall for a second.
Buck left the office and head to the front of the store to pay his fine. We wouldn’t see Buck again for a few days, but what happened then is a different story.
“Sure was a sad thing, them signs burning down.” Deputy Harris said.
“Sure enough was,” Sheriff Brownlee answered. “Boys,” the sheriff said looking at my brother and I, “The two of you were sure enough helpful. Why don’t you go out into the store and pick out a treat, tell Maggie it’s on the Sheriff’s tab.”
The Sheriff’s tab at the general store was legendary. You could get candy, milkshakes or if the Sheriff was in a really good mood an entire meal. People talked about that tab and the generosity of Sheriff Brownlee. Sometimes, people who couldn’t afford to eat got meals from the Sheriff on his tab.
Sheriff Brownlee saw us around the corner and gave us a nod to come into his office. “In fact Mr. Miller here are a couple of the fine upstanding young men in this community. They can tell you that no one in this community would ever burn down a sign of any kind. Boys Mr Miller here, you probably remember him from the meeting he talked at, feels that someone from our town burned down his signs. Do you boys know anything about that?”
My little brother was a baby literally in the ways of the world and answered “no sir I do not.” Barely after the words left the sheriffs mouth and echoed in the room. I on the other hand was older, wiser and had seen the 6 cars loaded with cans of gasoline leave town on the clear night in question. So unlike my younger naïve brother I knew I was lying when I said “No sir.” The sheriff smiled at both of us and then at Buck Miller. “Then there Mr. Miller you have it, straight from the pride of Lake Architectless our children, no one here burned down your sign. Now as for the matter of the fine…” The Sheriff paused for a moment.
“You are going to fine me for my signs burning down?” Buck miller asked incredulously.
“No sir I am not, nor would I ever do anything like that. It however, appear according to Billy” that was when we noticed Deputy Billy wasn’t in the room anymore. In fact he was standing at the other end of the hall with his ticket pad out. “Your vehicle is parked the wrong way on one way street. So either you parked illegally, or you drove down a one way street illegally.” The Sheriff smiled as Deputy Billy reentered the room and handed Buck a ticket.
“I assumed they parked illegally sir” the deputy said as he took his place leaning against the wall. “A moving violation like wrong way down a one way street carries two points on the license.” He finished as he resumed his full lean.
Buck was screaming at Sheriff Brownlee, who was sitting at his desk (deputy Harris was leaning against the wall. I have known John Harris since I was 3 years old. I had never seen the man stand up straight. As far as I know his actual spine is curved which makes him lean on objects rather than stand up.)
“Someone burned down our signs.” We heard Buck say. My brother was coloring but he followed me out into the hall so we could hear well.
“Well now,” Sheriff Brownlee said. He was from Georgia and had moved to our fair town about 11 years ago. He had been Deputy Harris, before we had a deputy Harris and still had his slow southern drawl when he talked “as far as I can tell, we had a mysterious act of god occur. 8 lightning bolts loosed from the heavens and struck your signs burning them to the ground.”
“That just isn’t possible.” Buck said. “I would believe human hands had to be involved for 8 signs to be burned to the ground.”
“Well now Mr. Miller (Buck’s last name was Miller we found out) I am sure that my deputy and I, who have been trained by the Great State of Indiana in arson investigation techniques would have found any of them, Billy what are they called again?” Sheriff Brownlee turned to William, Billy Harris with a questioning look.
“Accelerants” Deputy Harris said.
“That’s it, thanks Billy.” Sheriff Brownlee was the only person who called William Harris Billy other than his mother. But Billy didn’t seem to mind at all. “We did not find any evidence of accelerants Mr. Miller at the scene of the horrible natural disaster. 8 lightning strikes in less than an hour is an act of god that we all feel horrible about sir. But it is an act of god. Now you can go to the state police and ask them to check the site, but Mr. Miller the land is being reclaimed by the farmer right now. I suspect the state police would refuse to do anything at this point because of that.”
Grind the corn with software
The mega software corporation erected the billboard just on the edge of town. We, the citizens of Lake Architectless had long banned the erecting of banners, billboards or the posting of lawn signs within the city limits. However, state law allowed farmers outside the city limits to rent the edges of their farms near the roads to billboard and signpost companies. At times it felt like our fair city was surrounded by billboards that weren’t facing the road, they were facing the center of town. Hundreds of signs advertising everything from condoms (which my brother and I only knew about because we asked my dad in the car if the Trojans on the board were the same ones who built the city of troy (we were reading about Troy in class – well I was and my brother kind of tagged along like he always did)) to a new one from Mega Software Corp. “You can grind more corn with a plan and software than a 4000 pound grindstone.”
It was a catchy board and if there had only been one it might have been ok. But in fact there were 6 of them all facing the town hall/general store. After the cheating in the last mayoral election the town wasn’t really in the mind for being “manipulated” by a sign posted by the side of the road. Who actually burned down all 6 of them could be debated but the sheriff was never able to find any evidence or arson, it simply seemed according to the Screaming Eagle that all six signs were struck by lightning within 30 minutes of each other. Buck was in the sheriff’s office (we were visiting dad on our usual Saturday event and heard the screaming, as the store room for the general store was also the jail cell (yes we only had one jail cell in the entire town) and Sheriff’s office.
Who makes 200 year old technology, anymore?
Is there a grindstone doctor in the house?
In the movies Mickey Rooney would always throw a barn raising party that would in the end save the school, save the town or even, sometimes save Andy himself. Judy Garland would appear and sing, which always raised a ton of money.
But when the grindstone at your mill breaks in the 20th century, how do you replace it?
Well you don’t run to the Ben Franklyn 5 and 10. You can’t go to the garden department at your local Wal-Mart or Kmart. In fact you really can’t go anywhere. The Millstone at the old “Wagoneer” corn mill had been hand made more than 100 years ago. Unfortunately during a test run for the mill closing the stone slipped and the existing crack, that had been “repaired” with a piece of metal bolted into the rock itself cracked the metal and the rest of the stone, resulting in two pieces of a millstone which isn’t as useful as a single millstone. This disaster coupled with the already looming thread of destiny shook our little town.
The problem started two years ago when a temporary solution was put in place that held the top grindstone in place. No one ever thought that the temporary solution would last more than 2 hours so when it did it was left there as a permanent temporary solution. The resulting weakness in the structure allowed over time the two stones to move a little further apart and the first damaged stone fell onto the undamaged base stone cracking it into two large pieces that each weight about 2000 pounds. Our mill was grindstone less.
Ground cornmeal can easily be manufactured. Like anything it is simply taking corn and feeding it into a machine. But stone ground corn, in an old mill from the 1800’s has a unique flavor and consistency that you can’t get with machined corn. And stone ground corn like not planning was in fact a staple of the life style of the people of Lake Architectless. It was an ominous sign.