The other day I went to a bluegrass festival with no music, which is typical for Indiana. I was assured that 'Barn Damage' was taking the stage later, but the afternoon's chief attraction was the Kids' Tractor Pull, in which various five or six year olds struggled to pedal a toy tractor while the grown-ups added increasing weight to a toy trailer -- if the kids make it past three or four feet the adults are clearly not doing their job. Encouragement and understanding are not really part of the Indiana parenting repertoire. Other spectacles included several dozen very large people exiting very large vehicles and driving golf carts over short distances.
I'm working on a second book set in southern Indiana, like SNAPPER, and since I haven't lived here for fifteen years it seemed a good idea to spend the summer on the ground. I've been snapping photos relating to SNAPPER and to Indiana generally, and had a surprise visit from a British photographer friend. I kept trying to tell him that Indiana is not necessarily the most backward of the United States – Iowa, Illinois, and Idaho are pretty competitive, and that's leaving off the states beginning with ‘A’. I settled on describing it as Jeremy Clarkson's spiritual homeland – it is, after all, the home of the Indy 500*. But Indiana might also be, for good or ill, the most American of the states. Twenty years ago the town I grew up in had the highest density of fast food restaurants in the world, and today it claims the nation's highest per capita obesity rate. Someone should have predicted that. Whenever a major corporation wants to know what America generally will make of a new tenderloin sandwich or pickup truck they run it past the people of southern Indiana first, because they are so representative. It's now ground zero for climate change discussions, too. Look at that drought they're having, says the New Yorker. That may be what the future looks like: amber waves of extremely short corn.
There are a lot of OBAMA BIN LYIN' bumper stickers out on the road, and, of course, an imminent election. I am not very good at making predictions, but I hope some years from now, when physical exercise is altogether forgotten and every registered Democrat has been sent to the guillotine, that SNAPPER and its accompanying photos will offer some clue to what happened, and how.
* My friend countered, however, that a European racetrack has nuance and refinement – a dogleg here, a berm there; Formula One is an exhibition of driverly skill. In Indianapolis they go really fast in circles. But I'm sure Mr. Clarkson approves.