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June 15, 2007

Huber Winery One of State's Biggest

Jacob Peerman ’10 - My first impression of the Huber Winery in southern Indiana was, “There are so many things growing at this place.” As we drove through the entrance, there were rows of red raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and of course, rows of grape vines. I later came to find out that Huber has 600 acres and they are able to rent land from neighboring farms.

Within the fields, adults and children were walking on the grounds picking the fruits. The great thing about this place was that if we were tired of talking about wine we could visit the petting zoo, farmers market, or cheese shop. However, we stumbled out of the car and made our way to the wine barn. After talking to the help desk, I scheduled an interview with Ted Huber between 2:00 and 3:00. I asked for a map to Capriole farms. We did not want to drive aimlessly into the uncharted areas of Southern Indiana. (See Ross McKinney’s blob for this leg of the story). 

We arrived back at Huber Winery at 2:45. I was a little nervous that I would not have very much time with the wine maker. I was wrong. We spent about 2 hours 30 minutes with Ted Huber. I would later walk away with a passion for much more than just winemaking. 

We started in the main display room. The colors alone were amazing. There were bottles of wine that almost seemed to glow. As Ross began to film various things in the room, I began to think up intelligent questions to ask Ted. Not long after I began to think, Ted walks up and introduces himself. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “wow, I mean…uh…how did you get started?” (I should have blamed my nervousness on the heat). I was able to find some solid ground as Ted began to tell me his family story.

Ted Huber is the 6th generation of wine makers. His family has a rich German heritage, which comes out in some of their wines. The Huber family came to America in the late 1800’s from Baden-Baden Germany. They original started the farm as an Orchard. During Prohibition, the farm survived by growing both fruits and vegetables to sell to the local community.

Ted told us a couple family secrets. “I’m not going to lie,” he said. “We were bootleggers, and we made good money. But when the Feds come through, you didn’t want get caught.” He then asked us what we wanted to see. He gave no time limit, so we jumped at the opportunity. Judy Schad from Capriole told us to make Ted showed us the wine cellars. We proceeded to ask Mr. Huber if it would be possible to accommodate such a request.  All at once he became very excited and the next 45 min was spent in the underbelly of the operation.

Ted opened the ‘Employees Only’ door and I found myself walking down into what felt like the Huber dungeon. We talked about his passion for wine making and his family pride. I asked Ted if Indiana was a sweet wine state. “No,” he was quick to answer. “Why would someone want to pinhole Indiana to say that the people only drink sweet wines.” Huber’s biggest seller is a sweet wine. However, Huber explained “Our 2nd, 3rd , and 4th best sellers are dry wines.  At this point, I knew that this winemaker had a passion that went well beyond the tasty libation. “The reason that people like to drink wine is because there is a story behind the wine.” Ted told us that his grandmother made her wine from scratch. Ted makes a sweet wine today called Sweet Marcella to honor Grandma Marcella Huber. This is the only wine that is named after a family member. He exclaimed, “Blueberry wine has no story. It’s just blueberry.”

We were now in the bottling room. Another unique aspect of Huber Winery is that they are self-sufficient. 95 percent of what comes in from the field is used. The farm does not use any pesticides on the crops and all the equipment is sterilized with ozone. Nothing is wasted at the Huber farm. Even the unwanted alcohol is used to serialize hand tools.

Huber Orchard, Winery and Vineyard is a self sustaining farm. As Ted says, “It all comes back to agriculture. I have never made a great wine from bad grapes.”

We then wandered into the room that separates Huber Winery from every winery in the state. In 1998, Ted wrote the bill that allows him to distill his wine in order to make port wines. He was unhappy with the quality of alcohol that was being shipped in. Therefore, he decided to write the law so he can distill his wine on site. Dr. Bowen was able to taste the 180 proof raspberry spirits. His expression was “It goes down so smooth, and there is the raspberry.”

We left the vineyard as the sun was going down. This was the highlight of my summer. Before I left, I bought my father a gift certificate. I think that everyone deserves to experience this place. I was just one more person to add to the 500,000 who make the trip every year. I will be talking about this for a long time. 

In photos: Top right, Ted Huber explains the wine-making process. In center, Jacob Peerman interviews Huber. Lower right, the Huber still. On homepage, Huber in the retail sales and tasting room.

Indiana's Artisan Cheesemaker Generous with Time

Ross McKinney '09 - Slowly, but surely, the truth settled in: we were lost.  Jacob Peerman, Dr. Richard Bowen, and I were on our quest to find Capriole Farm and Huber Winery, both in extreme southern Indiana.  Following a three-hour drive down I-65 and US-150, we relied on our Google map directions to deliver us to our destination.  Apparently the program did not really know where Capriole Farm was, but sent us to the nearby town, Greenville.  Twenty minutes later, as noon approached, we found ourselves surveying fruit trees and vineyards instead of goats. We had, without trying, found our way to Huber Vineyards. Unfortunately, Peerman’s appointment at the Winery was not until 2:00 PM

The ladies at the Winery’s information counter were kind enough to provide directions – and even repeated them for us. Back in the car, we set off again.  Naturally, as a car-full of men, we did not bother with writing the advice down.  Asking a charming fellow exhibiting a definite “Kentuckiana” drawl which direction was which, we somehow managed to find our way back to Greenville. After Dr. Bowen asked both a local liquor purveyor and a “Minit Market” employee (“Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Goat Factory!’), we were finally on the right track. 

We rolled up the lengthy driveway, not knowing what to expect after our four-hour trek from Wabash. Some buildings, including a house, several barns, and a flat-roofed block building were on the premises, but with no sign, no parking lot, and no traditional mercantile accoutrement.  We were eventually directed to the “storefront.”  The room, no larger than a Wabash dorm room, was decorated with copies of the tens of awards, stories, and publications in which Capriole has been featured. I was confident the trip would be worth the effort and time; Capriole is consistently the only Indiana cheese venue featured in the numerous books on world and national cheeses. 

Some time later, after waiting in the small room with a counter, the gardener asked if we were being helped where he then sought Judy Schad, the owner and proprietor of the cheesery. By then, one of the gainful employees had made a platter of some $60 worth of cheese for us to taste. She had no idea who we were; this was no special treatment. We were told of the three general types of cheeses offered: fresh, aged, and rind-washed.  Through the heavily accented English, we learned the names and types of the nine cheeses presented, including: fresh goat rounds (with and without herbs); O’Bannon – named for Indiana’s former governor – a fresh chevre aged in chesnut leaves that have been marinated in bourbon; Wabash Cannonball (close to our hearts), with a double rind of ash and white mold; and finally the Mont St. Francis, an aged, washed-rind cheese with an absolutely phenomenal taste and aroma.

Then, in a moment, the already-fruitful road trip ripened into what was to become an unforgettable experience – when Judy Schad entered the tasting room.

She initially seemed hurried, seemingly just stopping in to ensure our service was adequate. After introducing myself, she remembered that I had e-mailed her regarding my project and my trip intentions. My hope of meeting her, though her schedule was erratic and often led her abroad, was fulfilled beyond my broadest expectations. Her attention to the cheese struck me first. She immediately took the cutting knife and began instructing her intern on the correct method of slicing through the rind and the outside of the cheese.  The flavor was concentrated here and “it is crucial for everyone to experience it”, she explained. She sampled the cheese with us. She was obviously and unabashedly in love with it. She knew every single flavor and every single texture intricacy and nuance that composed the cheese. She continued to explain each batch is different and has its own character to offer. After speaking with us for some 30 minutes, she suddenly remembered that she had left her car running. Her focus on our questions, comments, and the cheese itself had entranced all of us, even Judy, in her 20th year as a cheesemaker.  

We then toured the cheesemaking facility, seeing the interns salting and portioning the cheese. We walked into the aging rooms and storage shelves seeing literally tens of thousands of dollars in goat cheese. The facility seemed like any other with multiple rooms, coolers and (noisy) fans, but the work and attitude performed in the rooms is clearly extraordinary.

Next, we walked to the barns, first to the wire pens that contained the six-week-old kids (goats). It was clear that Judy loves her herd as much as she does the final product. In all, we saw about a quarter of the total herd, including the nearly bursting does, about to birth after their five-month gestation period. The other 400 goats were grazing freely out in the woods of the farm. It would soon be time for them to be beckoned to the milking parlor. Capriole makes milk every three days: freshness and milk storage capacity determine the schedule.

Then, just when we expected to be sent on our way after an already generous one and a half hours, Judy offered us beverages and a seat. We proceeded to discuss the highly-debated and often-contentious subject of raw milk products. The subject is one that has many legitimate concerns, as well as potential benefits. Raw-milk cheese must be aged for sixty days at a temperature not lower than 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally, as with any dairy product, the risk of bacteria is very real. Judy Schad treats her animals, the storage tanks, implements, and the workers as potential sources of disease and pathogens. She spends more than $5,000 dollars a year for non-required testing of her cheeses and animals. While the FDA is satisfied with far less, it is not enough to keep Judy confident that her products are safe. The debates and arguments are complicated, but Judy Schad is persuasive in arguing for the continued availability of raw-milk cheeses.

The conversation astounded me. A dedication to sustainable and efficient practices just makes sense to Judy Schad. Much of her world-class cheese is sold to cheesemongers and restaurants in cities such as New York and Chicago. Word of Capriole Farm makes its way across the Atlantic when Judy travels to Italy, France, and England to explore her desire for great cheese. Most of the world’s best cheeses come from individual farms and individual cheesemakers, who focus on quality and traditional cheese-making procedures. Judy Schad and her colleagues are not fixated on the “bottom line,” or on producing cheeses that end up being melted over burgers in some fast-food chain’s “value meals.”

Capriole Farm’s cheese is incredibly delicious - it is simply the best I have ever eaten, because Judy pours her heart, soul, and wit into it. The trip to Capriole will not soon be forgotten. It is true that my Capriole cheese-stocked refrigerator will help to sustain the memory, but I expect my lasting impressions to be of Judy Schad’s inspiration and dedication to her craft.

Spending a Few Hours With a Carriage Maker

Steve Egan ’09 - I met Samuel Stoltzfus Monday, June 11,, a carriage maker in Parke County just south of Crawfordsville. Stoltzfus is a pretty common name down there as they were one of the first Amish families to move into Parke County around 1991 from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I hadn’t realized it at the time but I had already met several of Samuel’s siblings; not a hard thing to do since he’s from a family of eight children all of whom live in Parke County. 

Samuel was 15 when his family arrived after having made the 600 mile trip from Lancaster, and his home and barn, which he inherited from his father, were some of the first Amish built structures in the county. Just next door to his home is the first Amish school in Parke County, a relatively simple structure, with two rooms and outdoor bathroom facilities, it houses grades 1 through 8, all the schooling Amish children will ever have. 

Samuel’s family made the move in 1991 because his father was able to get twice the land for the same price in Parke as in Lancaster. With developers moving in on Amish farms in Lancaster to build more and more subdivisions, making the move to Parke County or other areas around the country is becoming ever more popular. Both because the Amish are able to get so much money for their land and because they can get away from all the Englishers, their name for non-Amish folks. In the first year there were just 15 families that made the trip.  For much of the first several years help was always waiting when a new family would arrive, but now Samuel expressed his frustration with so many families moving to the county as he didn’t always know when they would arrive and so he couldn’t go to help them unload and move in. 

They’re such a tightly knit community, their dependence on each other and their mutual aid and support are reasons they’ve been able to thrive in new places like Parke County. 

Samuel like many other Amish in Parke County is pretty much self taught in his profession. Because they weren’t really old enough to work full time when they arrived and they were the first Amish there, Samuel and his siblings are all pretty much self-taught. His brother, a cheese maker, told me of a few recipes he had to guide him, but beyond that he learned by trial and error.

Samuel, like all of the Amish I’ve run into, was happy to talk with me and made me feel rightfully awkward by not doing any work while I was there. He knew I was there just to observe, but to him I was a guest and therefore deserved all of his attention while in his barn. I wished it hadn’t been so as it only made my presence there just that more awkward. He showed me around his shop where he usually starts work around 5am every morning but Sunday. During the winter months Samuel uses lights fueled by propane.  Most of his tools run off an air-compressor. 

Work for the Amish is a family affair. When I arrived Samuel’s father, who lives across the street, was bringing over a couple of wheels he had worked on for Samuel.

While we were talking Samuel’s second oldest of his 5 children, all of whom are under 9 years old, meandered into the barn. She remained until I left. As she walked into the barn her father and she exchanged a few words in Pennsylvania Dutch and that was all it took for her to get to work on the carriage body that was the obvious project for the day. A girl that barely came up to my waist was now picking up a scraper and using it to remove old and broken reflectors. At first I wondered if her father could see and if she was supposed to be doing what she was, but when her father gave an approving nod in her direction I realized she wasn’t just messing around she was helping her dad get some work done, while he couldn’t. Samuel described his children as not quite old enough to help full time yet, but always within earshot to come and help. For his kids work was just another thing to play at, not to be feared or avoided. 

Before I left I asked Samuel to take a few pictures, assuring him that neither he nor his daughter would be in any of them. After retrieving the camera from my car I slowly stalked around the shop capturing images, holding the camera at my waist and looking at the screen for my next shot. Samuel had asked me questions throughout our talk, but they often seemed to be more of an effort to shift the focus away from himself rather than finding out more about me. Not to say that he sounded uninterested in his questioning, he did, but his last question was the most genuine. He asked about the camera in the way my experience has told me all Amish approach new technology; with a slight scorn so as to show that they have no real interest in it. 

He asked about the camera in the same way an Amish women had mentioned the internet in a conversation I had had several weeks earlier. He was surprised to see that I didn’t have to hold the camera to my eyes to take a picture. I noticed his concealed interest and showed Samuel and his daughter the camera.  It’s always surprising when the Amish reveal how little they really interact with the outside world. Samuel reminded me with his final question that the Amish really aren’t of this world.

In photos: Top left, wheels sit in Stoltfus' barn. The other photos are from an Amish auction.

June 14, 2007

My Night at the West Baden Luxury Resort

Matt Goodrich '09 - I entered the 3,000,000 cubic foot atrium of the grand luxury resort West Baden Springs and let the never-failing pull draw my eyes up to look into the stunningly beautiful dome. 

My amazement had an undercurrent of relief as the climate controlled room cooled me off from the blistering summer day outside. This was not my first trip to the majestic structure, but this time there was a new emotion coupling the familiar ones. That emotion was excitement, and lots of it. 

I was to be a guest at the “Eighth Wonder of the World” on this occasion, and boy was I ready. I had heard endless accounts about the glamour awaiting those who stayed a night at the resort yet this time I was going to experience it first hand. I immediately noticed a difference in the way that even I, a 20-year-old kid in a striped polo, was treated as I approached the help desk. It was remarkably easy to find a suitable place for me to conduct my interview of a leader in the reconstruction of the two resorts. I was not only allowed to set up a video camera in their library but I was able to tape anywhere in the resort I pleased. 

The staff never failed to smile and greet me and were always eager to assist me to ensure I was enjoying my stay. I already felt as if the staff really did care about my comfort but was very surprised later that day when I visited the bar for a drink of water. As I made conversation with the bartender, Marilyn, she came to recognize my name saying that I had been mentioned in a staff news letter as a student doing a history on the two resorts and was to be expected and  accommodated in any way possible. After hearing that I knew it was no show and really felt valuable.  That evening following check in, I sat in the astonishingly ornate atrium with one of our PIP advisors, Howard Hewitt, and made conversation with the hotel staff while awaiting our reservation at Sinclair’s.

We sat and watched the bustle and wide-eyed stares of the other guests for amusement and began to unwind. It was exactly as Marilyn had mentioned earlier that day when she said that people tend to really relax and “mellow out” during their time there. 

Finally the time for dinner rolled around and we made our way to encounter the fine dining at Sinclair’s high class restaurant (classy enough to require a dress code before entering). Not surprisingly, the service was terrific and our server knowledgeable. 

To try and describe the taste and quality of the food would be like attempting to explain a color to a blind person. Let me just say it was very, very, good. Somewhere in the middle of my incredible Osso Buco I couldn’t help but smile. I truly felt like I was experiencing  a piece of history. I was dining and staying in the world renown resort enjoyed by others such as Al Capone and Ed Ballard in its hey day of the Roaring Twenties. It was as if the Titanic had been raised and I was catching a ride. Needless to say, I slept quite well that night swathed in the furnishings of a luxury hotel room. 

After a wonderful cup of coffee and blueberry danish form the Xanadu Coffee Shop and Ice Creamery I hit the road back home. I felt relaxed, joyful, and rejuvenated. One night of R&R can do little more. I took a deep breath realizing I had never felt as important or well taken care of as I did during my stay at West Baden.  I can’t wait to go back.

In photos: Top left, Matt on the circular porch overlooking the gardens. Center right, a night-time look at the incredible atrium dome. Bottom left, the gardens adjacent to the West Baden Hotel.

Internship Has Had Impact on Career Thoughts

Nathan Schrader '10 - As the internship is coming down to the final two weeks, I realized that in order to make my presentation complete, I needed a few more pictures and a little bit more information.

On my way to Madison, Indiana, I stopped by Columbus to take a few pictures of the Veteran's Memorial - very neat. It really showed the pride that Columbus takes in its people and country. I stopped in the Cummins headquarters downtown to get a good shot of a deconstructed engine artwork. I then made the rest of the trek to Madison.

The main goal of Madison was to visit Francis Costigan's house. It was amazing. He surely was a genius, way ahead of his time. The houses back then were taxed according to its width across the front, not the square footage. So, Costigan did what he could with this "shotgun house." (supposedly you could shoot a shotgun through the front door and not hit anything).

Costigan had a sliding front door to conserve space and curved walls to create closet space by leaving the door where it could be and bringing the wall out to create space behind it. Costigan also had a curved door like a few other houses, but it was 10.5 feet tall! Typical houses had double parlors with a wall in between them, but Costigan did not have room. However, he put in two fireplaces and mirrored the room with a central chandelier.

I next went down to the Ohio River to take a picture of the economically important body of water. It surely was more peaceful than it once was. One thing that stands out about Madison and southern Indiana is the gorgeous river valley. You are submerged within the trees and river. It's like this town is the only one around and no one can disturb you. It is truly a great getaway from a hectic world.

Taking such a trip and considering architecture as a possible career, I have learned some very unique things to do when creating buildings. The curved walls, doors, using water to reflect light into buildings, and so much more I can use in the future, even if it just means incorporating it into my own house when that time comes. But for now, I'll stick to looking at others'.

 

Indiana's Nature: Solitude, Sublimity, and Service

Zac Simpson '09 - Pine Hills Nature Preserve is one of Wabash’s greatest neighboring examples of wilderness. The preserve founded by the Nature Conservancy in 1961 is the first preserve in Indiana and one of the most unusual natural areas in Indiana. Clifty and Indian Creek have carved out what we have come to know as Devil’s Backbone, a primordial land bridge that is only six feet wide at times. I set out on the hike with high hopes and a video camera to capture the entire experience.

Three or four families out enjoying the wild and one Wabash Alumnus who returned from southern Indiana to hike Shades and Pine Hills greeted me as I sauntered through the natural array of Pine Hills. Although their presence was pleasing it was the times that I was alone but not by myself that were most enticing. Upon Devil’s Backbone with video camera still in hand I was reminded of an excerpt from an article that Professor Marc Hudson had written entitled Out of Time in Sugar Creek.

Etchings on the backbone carved with chisels and penknives by people resonated my feelings of a transient life. “These men all shared the same urge to inscribe, to mark things, to make a notch in time and stake a claim on yielding stone, to say to eternity that one existed and had the will and strength once to use a chisel.”

By the leave no trace ideal I did not stake my claim, but I was assured by the sublimity that it was an inch of my life well spent.

A few days later I transitioned from the romantic timelessness of Pine Hills to a different kind of nature with a different purpose. I went to Lieber State Recreation Area, Cagles Mill Lake, to familiarize myself with work in a now civilized wilderness. Two college students my age, Daniel Hofmann and Emily Parks, were my windows into service at Lieber’s visitor center/nature center.

These students meet and greet visitors, fielding their inquiries, feed and maintain animals in the nature center, and most enjoyable entertain and educate young children. I was lucky enough to join them at the recreation area’s pool for “aquatic home run derby”, a nature talk about the American Toad, and later speak with them about Smokey the Bear. All in all, the doing what you love work environment, family-oriented activities, and spirit of a place that has been civilized to accompany people left me with mixed feelings.

I ventured to Lieber SRA for the community atmosphere of the park and it was great, but my time on the trails was ponderous. Aside from a Boy Scout group and a few wild companions, the trail was solemn. I know that it is good for the trail to not be down trodden too much, but it urged me evermore to promote the enjoyment of nature for nature’s sake.

At last, I ventured near home to Anderson to visit Mounds State Park. The reception from the staff in the nature center was superb and the wonderfully interactive center matched their character. On the trails and near the mysterious and ancient earthworks believed to be created by Indians inhabitants some 1500 years ago for tribal ceremonies, I was reminded of the history of our interactions with wilderness. Our pioneering, Manifest Destiny helped to define wilderness, as before inhabitants in North America coexisted with the greater life community.

SR 232 cuts near the Great Mound, giving a glimpse from civilized life into an existence long ago and foreign to most. The occasional runner scurried along the trails as squirrels do with ipod in ears. It was sad to me that so many people were deaf to the sounds of nature, but I too was deaf. Overhead planes and nearby trains and automobiles muted much of the sublime experience. Though it was encouraging to see a conquering of wilderness, a mask of civilization such as the Great Mound, which was created in harmony with the earth and remains a shining glimpse into history and mystery.

June 08, 2007

Students, Faculty/Staff Wowed by French Lick Hotels

Howard Hewitt - West Baden, Ind. - Present Indiana, in its third year, gives students an opportunity to study some pretty unique locations and interesting things about the Hoosier state. Each year a couple of group trips or community service is planned around one of the Lilly Endowment-funded internships.

French Lick was the destination June 7 for the nine PIP'ers and the group's leadership team. But we really enhanced the trip by having the Experience Indiana program join us for the long ride south. In total, we had 30 members of the Wabash Community visit the historic French Lick Springs and West Baden hotels. See a photo album from the trip here.

The stunning hotels and day-long trip demand more than one point of view. So we've worked up a photo album and have two blog entries. Matt Goodrich is the intern doing the French Lick project. The Thursday trip was a repeat from him but exciting to see his fellow students react to the incredible hotels.

Matt Goodrich '09 -Having been to the two French Lick Hotels  before I knew why the trip to tour a couple of resorts in southern Indiana had become such an event. Both of the structures and the history that follows them are amazing. I was lucky to have the interesting perspective of one who is currently studying the structures. I found it intriguing to hear the tour guide’s speech compliment my own knowledge gained from various sources with information that elaborated on things I already knew with new facts. 

The enjoyment was nothing next to the entertainment I received from watching the reactions of all those who had never visited before. I had to resist the urge to let my jaw drop and stare so that I could catch everyone else’s expressions. I believe “wow” was the most common verbalization to the utter grandeur and splendor of West Baden’s Eighth Wonder of the World as the group passed into the atrium.  

Aside from these couple of personal joys, the trip was just as pleasing as the first. I was given the opportunity to experience a few new things this time that was not available the last trip. The first was being given the chance to dine at French Lick’s Grand Colonnade Dining Room. We all had the buffet but believe you me, this was no normal buffet. If you can imagine an endless supply of excellent quality foods with no lines then you won’t be surprised in the least when you arrive. With entrees and sides from at least three countries I took it upon myself to be an unofficial taste tester in order to report a full and complete review of the offered dining options. It was delectable. All of it. Having a soft spot for food (I believe that spot is somewhere in my middle), this was a fantastic addition to my experiences at the resorts. 

Down the road at West Baden I was allowed to pass into the guest only areas and travel the fourth floor. The rooms on this floor are rather nice and blow away any hotel accommodations I have ever previously experienced. This floor also has the first ring of balconies looking into the massive atrium. This new view gave me a brand new “wow” moment as I looked down into the intricately decorated space below. 

This trip was just as fun, if not more so, as my first and I most definitely look forward to returning soon. It is easy to see why so many feel such a strong connection to these resorts and do their best to recreate and maintain the magnificence they posses.  I must say that I’m beginning to become quite attached myself.

Hewitt - We had a big contingent of faculty and staff join the trip. They were equally 'wowed." Jeff Beck, Reference Librarian, works with with PIP project each summer. We asked him to share his experience.

Jeff Beck - Over the past three years of the Lilly Endowment sponsored Present/Experience Indiana Programs, the twin destinations of French Lick and West Baden Springs have extended their siren call enticingly. It seemed inevitable that the sites of springs of reputedly medicinal waters and of the “Eighth Wonder of the World” would draw a fleet of red Wabash vans onto their beckoning shores … eventually.

On Thursday, June 07, 2007, several dozen intrepid explorers from Wabash waited expectantly on the steps of the Chapel at 8 AM for wonders reminiscent of lost lands in mythology.  Just as most of the Argonauts were protected by the healing music of Jason’s lyre, we arrived at the French Lick Resort fortified by Einstein’s Bagels to resist the charms of the gambling table.  Indeed, a student of Greco-Roman mythology would find much familiar in the references to Pluto, Persephone, Neptune and related dwellers of realms dark and deep.  Various golden statuary and devilish friezes abounded. Even the familiar took surprising forms.  Using the ingenious technique of scagliola, artisans crafted richly textured columns of “marble” made of layers of plaster and dyed silk threads.  Only to the touch did the smooth surface reveal warmth unlike the coolness of true marble.

Following a rich buffet that appealed to vegetarians and omnivores alike, we departed for the short trip down the road to the wondrous West Baden Springs.  In a rivalry as heated as that of the Monon Bell (by the way, the Monon Railway served both resorts in their heyday), West Baden Springs Resort claimed unparalleled superiority over its lesser neighbor despite successive challenges of fire, bankruptcy, and neglect.  Of the sumptuous pleasure dome, words fail.  Perhaps it was the humble influence of the Jesuits which shielded the dome from the decay that doomed the other surrounding structures.  Or perhaps it would be best to leave this to Wabash’s Present Indiana expert on this locale, Matt Goodrich, to tell the story in good time.

In photos: Top left, PIP interns listen to tour guide talk about the grand atrium. On right, Matt Goodrich looks over the atrium from a fourth floor balcony. Center left, students crowd around the Pluto Springs well. Center right, the faculty/staff group in awe of the atrium. Lower left, the French Lick Hotel lobby has more than $600,000 in 24 karat gold trim work.

June 04, 2007

Three Incredible Days Living with the Monks

Matt Vest '08 - Last Wednesday morning I left for St. Meinrad, Indiana in southern Indiana for an experience that I will remember for some time.  I had the opportunity to observe, talk to, and live among the monks of the St. Meinrad arch abbey.  St. Meinrad is one of only nine arch abbeys in the entire world, and the architecture and scenery is all incredible.  However, I expected to see those aspects before I got to the arch abbey.  What I did not expect was the spiritual experience I would have spending three days with these incredible people.

I arrived Wednesday just after noon, and settled into my room at the guest house.  I then spent the afternoon talking with Father Anthony, the ‘public relations’ monk.  I also toured the grounds extensively and went to Vespers, the evening prayer time.  After Vespers, I traveled with several other college students and Father Jonathan to Jasper for dinner. It was very cool to get some other students impressions and views about Catholocism and St. Meinrad.

I got to bed early so that I could wake up the next morning and attend the morning Vigils and Lauds at 5:30 on Thursday. After a short break, I also attended mass and then ate a quick breakfast.  I spent the morning interviewing monks, one of which was a local from a very German family, then attended the noon prayer. After lunch, I traveled to the local parish to meet the priest, another St. Meinrad monk, and also met the arch abbot.  The evening began with another Vespers service, and then I had the unusual opportunity to eat dinner with the monks.  I got to go back into the cloister that is not open to the public, and sit through a silent meal that was very incredible. That evening I met with one more monk and then went to bed to prepare for another early morning.

The next morning I traveled to Monastery Immaculate Conception to attend mass with Father Anthony. I also ate breakfast with him and some of the sisters of the convent.  That morning I interviewed my final two monks, one of which is the leading expert in converting Latin Gregorian chant into English.  I finished up around noon and headed for Jasper, where I spent a couple hours touring the Dubois County Historical Society.  Several locals have put numerous volunteer hours into creating an exceptional museum detailing the history of the county and the surrounding area.  Then it was back to Wabash.

As I mentioned, I knew that the architecture and culture would be incredible, but the spiritual experience that I had was possibly more intense than anything else. Spending three days with some of the most holy men that I have ever met led to an experience that I won’t soon forget. Though I may not be Catholic, it is impossible to spend that much time with these incredible people and not feel some sort of spiritual significance. It was a very incredible experience, and one that I will not soon forget.