Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The wonders of the shire (a.k.a. Nashville, Ind.)

We went to Nashville, Ind.,with friends Tuesday of our vacation.
We like to drive through the hills of Brown County. It was more spectacular for us this year, because the leaves were near their colorful peak.
The town doesn't change much from year to year.
I'm sure the shop owners come and go; their inventories vary slightly. But the old man stands in front of the Artists Colony Inn, singing and playing his guitar for donations. Inside the inn is posted a big sign saying he is not a scientist, neither is he on the lam. He is a a musical artist who chooses to live his life on the streets of Nashville, adding to the ambiance.
The inn welcomes artists wishing to spend the night. The famed T.C. Steele rented rooms there. A state historic site remembering his contribution is located nearby .
But the shops and their tiny yards fascinate me.
The shops are located in tiny houses on tiny yards of a bygone era. They remind me of my grandfather's house in Winamac, Ind., and they certainly remind me of Bag's End in J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings".
Each room (that is open to the public) is filled with various treasures as well as things that would on;y appear to a select few. That is probably the genius of Nashville: Artists sell their wares to anyone who would be interested. ("Don't like my work. That's OK. Thought you might want it in your home, that's all.") Shopkeepers likewise seem to look for items on eBay or through Google searches or wherever else that are not available anywhere else I've been.
I saw work by a 9-year-old artist with a list price of $50. I saw works that (in my not-so-humble-opinion) were not better than what you or I could do, if we took the time. Of course, if you live in rural Brown County, it undoubtedly seems as if time stands still. You would have to really seek the outside world -- it would never be thrust upon you.
There are also treats from our youth. Several places sell homemade fudge. We watched a lady working it on a marble table using a huge, two-fisted spatula. It threatened to run over the edge as it was setting us and at one point, it did, but magically, she took her flat spatula and managed to clean the top and side pretty well with one swoop.
I even found a store that sells the same kind of old-fashioned candy Mr. Allen used to sell in his gas station, just down the street from Westside School in my hometown.
They had the sugar buttons on strips of paper and even Nikl-Nips -- those wax bottles of flavored sugar water. I remember an adult telling us when were were small that "When I was a girl, that was the only chewing gum we had."
Those wax confections lose their flavor pretty quick, as I recall. I didn't venture to try one yesterday at Nashville.
The shops are also filled with music and other sounds ("Yes, the music you hear is for sale!" placards proclaimed.)
We bought my father-in-law a squirrel stick for his birthday. You fasten an ear of field corn on one end and it has a counter weight on the other. A pivot point in the middle attaches it to a tree or post. A video showed a squirrel jumping on the stick to get to the corn, making the stick twirl around, like an amusement ride.
The yards of the shops are filled with flowers and other greenery. I told Linda we should do that with our yard -- less grass to mow in the summer.
One shop overdid the ambiance: The aisles were choked with dried flowers (Linda thinks they were imitation) and the sidewalks outside the flower shop were choked with vegetation. I had to wonder what would happen in case of fire and why the local fire chief didn't warn the owner about the dangers.
So, we ate at the Artists Colony Inn. Our late lunch consisted of things like Reuben sandwich with sun fries (french fries made of sweet potatoes with a brown sugar sauce for dipping), broccoli cheese soup and onion rings.
The bill for four came to less than $50, not bad at all for sit down dining with a view of beautiful downtown Nashville, Ind., Linda and I thought.
No, it wasn't our first trip to Nashville -- Linda and I try to go every year. One year we stayed overnight at the Abe Martin Inn at Brown County State Park and went to the show at the Little Nashville Opry House. But we try to spend the day with friends when we go. Good friends, relaxing trip -- great combination.