September 23rd, 2006

compass rose

Sweet Owen County

Take me back Take me back

On the road to Whitehall, IN

I went for a drive this weekend down Whitehall way. Highway 43 from McCormick's Creek State Park to Whitehall has the only straight stretch of road in Owen County, and has therefore been the community drag strip since time immemorial. After a mile or so of straightaway, however, the road gets all curvy and hilly.

A lot had changed down that way since I last roamed these parts 35 years ago. The road is wider and better marked, for one. And there are a lot of new houses. But some things haven't changed at all. Just before you get to the tiny village of Whitehall, there is this farm by the side of the road: red barn, stream paralleling the road, and cattle (though they were off elsewhere this day).

I remember this location well from my boyhood. Winding down the road to Whitehall, crossing little streams, going up and down the hills, is the picture I had in my head to illustrate The Shire when I first began to read The Lord of the Rings just before my 14th birthday. Especially, scenes of the Woody End and the Marish were taken from Owen County, though of course the landscape in England from which Tolkien took his inspiration has a different geography.

I suppose we all imagine places in books according to what we have actually seen and known, especially when we are young and untraveled.

x-posted to scenic_scapes