I can’t remember how I came by a first edition copy of “On the Loose” by Jerry and Renny Russell. Published in 1967, it chronicles the adventures of the two Russell brothers, who had an extreme case of wanderlust that led them on treks through extraordinary country. The book captures the spirit of “wild places,” and its poetry had a profound effect on my life.
One of the book’s quotes by Steve McQueen, “I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than any city in the world,” has been pivotal on my adventures to see the other side of the mountain. That is, until the other night, when the weather promised freezing rain. In spite of McQueen’s contention, I’m too old for another night of shivering and praying for sunrise.
I had been adventuring in Southern Indiana’s forests and its curvy back roads dotted by rustic cabins, a red covered bridge, and barns with ancient signs reading “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco.”
I heard of a special place, the Story Inn, in Story, Ind. The tag line for it is “One inconvenient location since 1851,” According to my map, I was 12 miles north of the place. I stared into the rear-view mirror, said to myself, “What the heck,” then headed south. The name Story itself and what it stands for was enchanting.
I arrived at dusk and stepped into a village from the early 19th century. What remains of the town, which once prospered in the 1880s but died during the Great Depression, is now the Story Inn. Unique to its surroundings are four immense forests: Brown, Hoosier, Yellowwood and Lake Monroe, which were ceded to the Americans in 1809 by a treaty between the Miami Indians and then Gov. William Henry Harrison. According to the Ten-o’clock Line Treaty, the boundary line running from Raccoon Creek on the Wabash River to Seymour was marked by a shadow cast at 10 a.m. Such an unusual treaty gave birth to Southern Indiana.
The hardwoods and deciduous trees of the forests encircling Story beckon fall-peepers who follow the colors of the leaves. The Inn has 18 unique rooms and cottages that once served as homes and workplaces for the residents of Story during the early 19th century. Each of its rooms is decorated with Victorian-era furniture and antiques.
Initially, I was about to choose the Blue Lady Room, named after the ghost that is said to haunt the premises, but I “weren’t” traveling with my Ka-Bar and furthermore, I forgot how to sleep with one eye open. So, I chose the “Doc Story” cottage built by Dr. George Story, the town’s co-founder. I couldn’t begin to describe the ambience that I walked into, but the room had a claw-foot tub.
I found the young owners and proprietors, Jacob and Kate Ebel, as fascinating as the Story Inn. They are both accomplished culinary artists who, according to Jacob, “Cooked our way around the country working as chefs until finally meeting in Denali, Alaska, in 2013.” I smiled, for I knew I was speaking to kindred spirits also inclined to see the other side of the mountain. They married in 2015 and eventually came to the Story Inn to actualize their passion for hospitality and food.
I walked throughout the town of Story and found the Inn’s gardens. Jacob mentioned that they grow their own produce. I was fascinated by an old water trough; rusted farming tools, an old barn, and I met Pete Wilkerson, a sixth generation resident of Story. I asked him a millions questions. I saw an old tombstone of John Hedrick, who died in 1857. He was 5 years old.
That evening, Kate built a campfire and I sat under a canopy of a million stars. I pulled a flask and smoked a backwoods and thought of the story that I’d write about Story.