Exploring row after row of headstones in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, IN, the childhood home of legendary actor James Dean.
Wouldn’t you know it, the only one I wanted to see and someone was already sitting in front of it. Pam and her nephew Eric scooted across town in a golf cart. Eric was visiting for the holiday and that was their excitement for the evening… until they discovered they weren’t alone.
“You scared me,” said Pam, as I rolled up through the grassy lot behind them.
“Are you biking cross country? My husband loves that. You should come home with us and spend the night.”
I took the obligatory photo of myself and James Dean and made my way to my host’s house on First Street.
Pedaling slowly down a Mayberryesque road I saw a man sitting on his front porch reading a history book about the Hindenburg. He glanced up slightly looking over the top of his glasses and without saying a work pointed to the porch. A subtle indication that this was the place.
There was no wind that night as Dennis, Pam and I sat on the front porch and chatted. Conversation came easily as lightning bugs lit up the streets and neighbors colored the skies with fireworks.
Retired, Dennis had worked for General Motors, and Pam in a dental office. Married 50 years they settled in their home in Fairmount four years ago.
“I drove past this house every day going to work in 2016. The Amish were building it,” said Pam. ”One day I stopped and told the owner I was going to live there. We just made it happen.”
Pam was fiery and full of faith and common sense. “When I saw you in that cemetery I knew I was going to bring you home,” she said.
I liked Pam. She was confident and said what was on her mind. She also was a wonderful decorator and collector of old things including Fiesta dish ware.
Not to be outdone, Dennis was a collector, too. Model cars was his gig. His floor-to-ceiling collection was stored in a building out back.
Organized and with an eye for detail, Dennis had his man cave set up where he could tinker with his models, watch TV, or read a book.
Dennis was also a seasoned biker. ”In my younger days,” he said. A black Trek was stored in the garage but Dennis said it had been on a lot of cross country adventures when he and his buddies would knock off 50 miles after work.
Eric joined us on the front porch. He had been inside watching the baseball game. A proud Cubs fan, he could have been a baseball announcer in another life.
We chased down the rabbit trail of baseball history noting the change in physique of Mark McGwire, the unique pitching style of Fernando Valenzuela, and there was a debate about how Prince Fielder could run.
“Would you like some banana bread?” said Eric.
An avid baker of banana bread, Eric rushed inside to get a slice.
“It’s his form of ministry,” said Pam. ”He hands out banana bread to people all the time.”
Within moments I was holding a thick slice of buttered banana bread that was heaped full of walnuts.
The bread was perfect and reminded me of banana bread made by Isabelle Muckerheide of Kewaskum. Homemade banana bread and she sold it for $1 a loaf at the Kewaskum farmers’ market. She’d sell out within the first minute of the market. If you wanted to guaranty yourself a loaf you would have to ask her the week before to set one aside.
We talked on that front porch late into the night as the cicadas buzzed and fireworks exploded.
Pam greeted me in the morning with coffee and conversation. It was such a comfortable family setting in a home that could have been featured in Better Homes & Gardens.
Leaving was difficult as my muscles are sore and hard fatigue is setting in.
Leaving down First Street I explored a bit of the charming downtown Fairmount.