Onward, Young America

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I grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, a small university town in the northwestern part of the state. Neither of my parents is from the area, so I never got to know much beyond our town and its immediate surroundings.

When I was home last week for the holidays, however, I decided to go out driving. I picked my destinations on a random basis according to their names: Onward, Young America, Forest, and Russiaville (which, as I learned on Wikipedia, is pronounced Roo-sha-ville).

These tiny towns sprouted up along the railroad in the mid-19th century, and there’s not much left of them now. But it was still interesting to drive through and imagine what life was like for their inhabitants. Russiaville, just south of Kokomo, seemed like a prosperous community; Onward, with a lovely old boarded-up schoolhouse right near the center of the town, had clearly fallen on harder times.

Indiana countryside is flat and squarely partitioned into corn and soybean fields; it’s hardly what you’d call conventionally scenic. Yet even that had its meditative charm, the dusty fields, the occasional lonely brick farmhouse, a line of trees off in the distance¦

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