We need to thank our alert friends at Inside INdiana Business for pointing out this piece from WISH-TV8: Shoe Thefts Puzzle Small Town. The story of a beagle, a firehouse, and a crime spree in Waveland, Indiana, needs to be read in its entirety, yet we are thereby reminded that in Waveland people still have porches and they still leave shoes on them. Foolishly.
However, this tale jogged my memory about the next county I’d like to revisit virtually – Montgomery County. The county seat, Crawfordsville, is probably best known as the setting for Wabash College, “A Liberal Arts College for Men,” as its home page declares. Passing over the reasons why this institution still refuses to admit women (about which I have no clue), I will pause instead to recognize a past Indiana Humanities Council chair, Don Herring, who taught at Wabash and brought his love of literature to his work with us. Let me also give a nod to our friends at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum who do wonderful work there.
Yes, Montgomery County is an amazingly rich spot for the humanities, but I have to admit that for sheer remarkableness, it’s hard to beat the Old Jail Museum. This structure is a two-tier cylindrical block of wedge-shaped cells that rotates to allow prisoners in and out of the only opening. I actually saw its mechanism demonstrated once, and it is beyond bizarre. It was only later that I learned about the Panopticon, a prison structure built for covert surveillance and popularized by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish. The Old Jail is different from a panopticon, but it too is chilling in an Orwellian way.
Whew, I feel like I just did six degrees of Hoosier associations to get from beagles and front porches to paranoid French intellectuals. Small town Indiana — it’s quite surprising once you get to know it.