Masson on Hoosiers

Dateline: Thu 15 Jul 2010

Doug Masson of Masson's Blog has a fine post on Hoosier values. He starts out by quoting from Raintree County, regarding our fabled pioneer spirit and contrariness, then moves to The Urbanophile, from Columbus, which contains a reflection on bedrock Hoosier values. ("thrift, hard work, faith, patriotism, community, hospitality, modesty, family, and yes, that uniquely Hoosier orneriness."

The link:

And some thoughts.

Norm Heikens, formerly of the Indianapolis Star and now of the Indianapolis Business Journal, wrote a wonderful and award-winning piece a few years ago on the state of the state; who we are and how we got that way. One anecdote I recall, that did not make it into the print version but was shared in the newsroom, was that many pioneer Hoosiers, coming up from the south, were suspicious of strangers -- especially anyone with money and culture.

Hence a person perceived as a swell or a gentlman -- this would be a person of ideas -- would be chased back over the Ohio River by our Hoosier great-great-grandfathers.

This larger point is made by the Urbanophile, who writes that his father was discouraged from getting a higher education (although he did); likewise a fellow high school classmate was told by a guidance counselor that he'd never make it in college, coming from such a small school -- better to be a welder instead.


I fear this is all too accurate a description, although certainly not across the board. But as a state, we tend to settle for mediocrity. As the late Harrison Ullmann put it, in one of his fantasy conversations with a fellow Hoosier: "Are we better than Kentucky, Harrison?" "Well, yes..." "Then we're OK." (Never mind that Michigan, Ohio and Illinois surpassed us, in whatever the measuring stick was: higher ed, drawing down federal dollars, income levels).

So what's your opinion? Are there true Hoosier values? How are we doing?

Thanks to Kelly Kennedy Bentley via her mom Sheila Suess Kennedy for posting the link to Masson on FB this morning.




Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Hoosier values (being no better than anyone else) are rooted in Appalachian values (mediocrity is best).

All sorts of academic studies bear this does long years of close personal observation by Ms. Cynical!

Logical, since Indiana was settled mostly with pioneers from them thar hills.

Da region is different, because those settlers were mostly immigrants lured by work opportunities in the mills.

2010-07-15 11:42:14

varangianguard [unverified] said:

The concept of dudes and gentlemen coming here from Kentucky seems pretty humorous today, at least to me. Times change, I guess. lol

2010-07-15 13:58:30

news junkie [Member] said:

It's Harrison Ullmann...anyway, I know that my parents really did not encourage me to go to college...searching for an MRS degree, my mom said. But neither of my parents liked school. I liked school and knew that if I wanted to do anything with my life, it would require a college degree. I was on the 13-year plan at IUPUI and, yes, it was definitely worth it.

2010-07-15 14:08:43

hendy [Member] said:

Don't expect younger people to understand it; these visages are often done with experience and travel.

Indiana has most of its major cities influenced by other states, with the possible exceptions of Bloomington/Columbus and Fort Wayne. Think about it: Evansville, New Albany/Clarksville/Jeffersonville, Lake and Porter County, South Bend, Richmond, Terre Haute. They all uniformly dislike Indy, so that's where your 'independent' view comes from. Indy is the donut counties+Madison County, and maybe Marion, too. There are no other metropolises worth mentioning.

The German immigrants of S Ohio came to S Indiana. N European immigrants went to N Indiana. Irish went where they could. African Americans migrated up from the deep South. Mi amigos Latino come from everywhere, but often Illinois.

Ullmann was usually right about things, except when he was exercising his misogyny. This is an empire of small principalities, not really a state. The culture is often humble, and MYOB. It's often quite religious in origin, and doesn't quite wreak of hypocrisy as OK and Arkansas does.

There's a born skeptic every 50 feet, and a hug every 100. The huge difference between rich and poor hurts Indiana. Rural Indiana is vastly different than urban Indiana-- just look at the county-by-county 2008 election maps. They speak volumes.

2010-07-15 18:35:33

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

We admire mediocrity, resist change, and are no more honest or less mendacious than anyone else. Though born in Indiana, raised here, and a resident, my work took me to live in Michigan, Connecticut, Iowa and Missouri. They were all good neighbors.

Decades ago Irving Leibowitz, editor of the Indianapolis Times, wrote in his book "My Indiana" that the thing Hoosiers feared most was change. This is not a trait to be admired.

"Hoosier Values" is a cliche intended to make the ordinary less ordinary, by implying that Hoosierness somehow elevates us above our neighbors.

2010-07-15 18:46:53

jersey [unverified] said:

You know, folks back east work hard, have some values, enjoy their families, are patriotic, go to church...the market is not cornered right here in the great state of Indiana!!!

2010-07-15 19:02:10

hendy [Member] said:

Vonnegut was right.... we're all part of tribes, and there's a Hoosier tribe that's just as falsely narcissistic as any anywhere.

Like many places, people here are willing to accept a lot of problems, just to be left alone. When you're the Crossroads of America, there's a lot of people that move on thru.

Having lived in a number of places in Indiana, the US, and abroad, it's about the same anywhere. Note that I'm still here, and not in another, perhaps more exotic place. All of them have their ups and downs. There aren't any nirvanas, just places where you can do a bit better than others, depending on what quality of life means for you.

Indiana makes the best sweet corn and tomatoes on the planet, however. Others try, others fail.

2010-07-15 19:23:31

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

That Indiana was settled from the Appalachian south is a no-brainer.

Look at the settlement patterns.

The Ohio River was the main highway west. Ergo, the state was settled by Euro-Americans who flat-boated down the river and got off on the Indiana shore.

Well, sometimes they got off in Louisville, but (if they weren't slave owners) they quickly realized their mistake and high-tailed it north into Indiana.

2010-07-15 19:52:38

hendy [Member] said:

Were it so....

The Indiana Historical Society has interesting information about the area. Lots of interesting data on where we came from.

My family came partly from Ohio, and some were here in the 1820s when Indy was founded. They came from KY, PA, OH, and VA. Before that, Ireland, Scotland, England and there's one well-documented German in there, too.

About 1/4th came in after 1900. Another quarter before 1850. The rest were in the middle somewhere.

Long ago, my grandmother rode down Maple Rd on her horse to school. Maple Rd is now 38th St.

2010-07-15 20:23:10

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

(Disclaimer: Maybe it's partially because I'm physically disabled now and mobility is kind of hard for me to accomplish, but.....)

I've lived in Indiana for most of my life, though I have lived elsewhere(s).

I perceive that many Hoosiers seem to be - by nature - social isolationists. I have not personally experienced much of the "Hoosier Hospitality" and neighborly comraderie that is said to exist in abundance in Indiana.

Many other people who live here (or who visit here) tell me they sense the same about Hoosiers and Hoosierdom.

I do like our sweet corn, our late August tomatoes, the Butler Bulldogs, and our country roads at twilight. Oh, and John Mellencamp, too.

2010-07-16 00:28:00

hendy [Member] said:

WB, I hope the prognosis is positive. In lieu of that, tolerable.

I've wondered if the social isolationist has anything to do with 1) guilt 2) strong self-determination 3) fear 4) autistic-like social aloofness 5) strong skepticism of outsiders 6) something else. I've noticed it, too.

In the hollers of S Indiana live some really interesting hermit-like people. They're not much for company, and do some interesting and often very artistic things, ranging from sculpture to researching personal tomato hybrids. There is a red neck component that just lives for the next beer and deer hunt (bass fishing in the middle).

Among my African American friends, there are numerous subcultures. Of those that don't revolve around church life, there's strong music in Indiana, and some really interesting and progressive farmers.

My Irish cousins are bankers and business people, teachers, and excellent commuicators-- but my nexus is that I'm part Irish and can understand them deeply.

There are a disproportionate number of snorting nerds in Indiana, too. Go figure. I come from that gene pool, too.

2010-07-16 09:46:31

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"WB, I hope the prognosis is positive. In lieu of that, tolerable."
Thanks Hendy. The prognosis is not positive and sometimes doesn't seem tolerable. But I live one day at-a-time and try to keep my chin up and look for the good in each day.

One of the highlights of my day is to read the fascinating and often entertaining posts and comments on this blog. As I have written many times, thanks Ruth. Your hard work on this blog is appreciated.

It's good to know there are people out there who use their brains for something other than figuring out how to matriculate the latest technological gadget on the market.

Hendy, I agree with all of your conclusions about Hoosiers. I'm half-Irish and, before I lost my health, was considered to be sort of an oddity by other Hoosiers because I am an outspoken and opinionated liberal (still am - smile), joke a lot, laugh a lot, and I'm passionate about a lot of things including music and the arts. I'm also spiritual, but not "religious."

Get away from Marion County and I find that many (most?) Hoosier males are passionate about mainly two things: (1). Making their vehicles obnoxiously loud and (2). the Colts (as long as they're winning).

Now in case anyone concludes that I am some kind of stuffshirt elitist....both of my parents came from the mountains of Appalachia. A lot of hillbilly blood runs through my veins. And I'm proud of it. As my hillbilly grandpa used to say with a twinkle in his eye:

"You Hoosier hog-callers don't know nothin' about the good life. Hauling around slop buckets on your flat land. I can't stay around here long (to visit). Got to get back up to the hills fast as I'm able."

2010-07-16 14:06:43

ruthholl [Member] said:

These are all great comments, and I am grateful to each of you. Thanks to News Junkie for correcting the spelling on Harrison Ullmann's name.
I swear there is a master's thesis here...
When we looked for land to buy in Owen County, my friend Dick Hopper (retired from the Star) used to explain, "These are anarchists down here..." and so they were. Lived like a lot of you describe.
And yes, we are three states in one: Da Region, Central Indiana, has Hendy has described it, and the southern part, with its hard core Bible-thumpin' ways.
Again, you are all the best. Thank you WB; you made my day.

2010-07-16 18:41:11

hendy [Member] said:

I see you haven't been south of, say, Troy Av.

I've been in Bloomington for about a year now, enjoying the hills and trees of my youth in Jasper. Some things I've learned:

- Kin Hubbard was smarter than the entire Indiana House of Representatives, and throw in most of the Senate, and the Daniels administration.

- A 125cc motorcycle will not flatten the hills, even in 2nd gear.

- While people resist change, they do actually grow. And they drink like my grandparent's generation, some of them.

- Most are unfailingly polite, and genuinely (as opposed to obediently) so. Courtesies down here make Indy look like the facetious rat race that it is.

- Down the way from my place, today, are several thousand sprint race car fans. RVs, the scent of nitrous oxide exhaust, and all. Further down towards Springville are thousands at a motorcycle boogie sponsored by ABATE. 38 Special and Gallagher, the comic, are supposed to be there. My friend said that they should replace the 'show us your breasts' signs with 'show us your teeth'. Who said Hoosiers were humorless?

- There is a passion about fairness, and giving without thought of recompense or 'karma'. Gleaners, SVdP, SA, and tons of organizations exist to give without thought of reward. i like that.

- I could hear the 500 track from my place on Kessler. I can hear the sprint dirt track from my new place. So it goes. Indentured servitude to the oil companies.....

Get well soon. Sage is in short supply.

2010-07-16 18:44:35

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

The question raised it, how long does geneology or heritage carry forward?

So what, where we came from and who our forebearers were? (I have never fathomed the interest in geneology, since who we are is largely a matter of what our parents and we amde of ourselves.)

What do Euro origins in the 18th century or flatboat immigrants have to do with who or what Hoosiers are today? Customs and mores do not carry forward intact, but are the result of everyday vicissitudes and opportunities. If I am particularly good at chopping wood, it is because my father was, and encouraged me in that endeavor...not because my Scots ancestors got very good at knocking down forests to build whiskey barrels.

We are what we are because of the now and not because of the long ago.

2010-07-17 07:33:46

hendy [Member] said:

I've always wondered if we were just accidently born into these bodies. The bodies have DNA, and that DNA and gene pool give me my strength, a brain type, and an inherited blood clotting disorder.

Where I was born shaped me, and where my neighbors were born shaped them. The rest, I think, is likely an accident.

I see people fighting their ancestor's wars. I'm supposed to be anti-British because of Oliver Cromwell. My Jewish friends loathe going to Germany, and my African American friends have closer-in memories of slavery and prejudice.

Am I proud of my grandfather's membership in the KKK? Most people were in the 1930's... not that this forgives it, instead, it tries to help me understand it, and him. He was wrong, but a branch of my family still carries his prejudices. Another abhors them. This dichotomy influences how I think and feel and understand people. A lot of people live in the past, Tom. I live one day at a time. Today, it's hotter than the hinges to the gates of hell out there. Tomorrow, it'll probably change.

2010-07-17 09:38:59

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2010-07-24 03:16:13

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