“How did you wind up here?” A relatively new acquaintance asked me how I wound up in Indiana and, more specifically, on the Southside of Indianapolis. Having spent the bulk of my adult life as a soldier, I had wandered the world through four separate tours in Germany and nine different states. I met every definition of a vagabond. Of all the places that I could possible end up settling in, my friend wanted to know, was why and how is it that I came to be here? “It’s really a pretty simple story,” I said.
We were living in Germany back in the early nineties. The Army, in its infinite wisdom, decided that my final tour before retirement would be Fort Benjamin Harrison. “Fort Ben” was known as a pretty laid back place so I was more than pleased to get the assignment. We were also intending to retire to the Louisville, Kentucky area so we would not have far to move once I did retire. All in all, it was a pretty good deal for us. The only problem was I did not know the first thing about Indianapolis or Fort Ben.
Off I went in search of people who had been to Fort Ben. The all important question anybody wants to ask before moving was where was the best side of town to live? I asked I don’t know how many people but they all said without exception, “Move to the Southside.” The Southside is without doubt the best place to live they all told me. After about the fifth or sixth person to answer with the same rejoinder, I felt compelled to ask why (computers were not real common at that time so I couldn’t just pop on the web and get a quick answer). Here are the answers I typically did get:
“The Southside is kind of like its own small town.”
“The pace of daily life is slower down there.”
“The people on the Southside are real.” (What, and the northerners are not? Are they aliens?)
And the best answer was, “That’s where all the country folk are.” (I’m serious. Somebody actually told me that).
So, now I have this mental picture of a small town complete with Sheriff Andy and Deputy Fife (where’s Gomer?), the people don’t move very fast, they are apparently as real as anybody you’d find anywhere, and they’re all country folk. I was raised in the Texas Panhandle so it sounded just fine to me! My bride, being from Seattle and a bona-fide city girl was not so sure but, being the good sport that she is, she came along (I’m glad of that!)
We’ve been here now seventeen years and I could not imagine living anywhere else. I tell folks my heart is still back in Texas. You know, I think it is immigrating. The Southsiders are, by and large, good people, and they work hard at what they do. I like being around and among them. Most importantly, they are “real”.