Sweet Home Indiana This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     I think the same way many of the myfamily members do. Raised in a rural community, we observe the smalljoys of farm life - newborn critters in the spring; the sweet spin ofcold water down your throat after haying in the summer; the crisp air ofan autumn day; the gentle cascade of snowflakes settling over thepastures in winter - but it’s not just the wonders of the farm wesee. The joys of books, history and timeless jokes find their way intoour corner of the world, and we share these interests like others swapmagazines.

I am most like my dad in that I am amazed by thesmallest accomplishments of technology (How is Alison Krauss’ssweet voice transmitted through wire to headphones?), by the skyscrapersthat city dwellers call tiny and by the baffling question, “Whensomeone writes a song, what comes first, the music or thewords?”

With these traits established, a family trip acrossOhio and Pennsylvania with the ultimate destination of New York City wasamazing. It was the first time I had ever been east of Eaton, Ohio,where I had gone for sheep sales, and the first time my brothers hadbeen east of the state line. Our two main stops before the big city werethe battlefields at Gettysburg and Valley Forge.

Gettysburgabsolutely blew my mind. I could hardly believe I was in the same placethat Lee, Chamberlain, Hancock and Armistead - men I’d read about- had been. I was amazed as tour guides told of the bravery of theVirginia men who charged across open fields under fire for almost amile. On Little Round Top, I read the monuments for then-Colonel JoshuaLawrence Chamberlain and his 20th Maine. All I could think was, Thesemen were here 140 years ago. I am standing in the same spot whereChamberlain ordered his bayonet charge. I have walked where Lee sat onTraveler watching his failed advance. Wow.

We stopped over inPhiladelphia and simply arriving at our hotel was an ordeal: Dad missedthe exit and had to backtrack 20 minutes. As soon as he shut off theengine, he said, “We’re not leaving here until ourvacation’s over!” (Driving in big-city traffic proved amajor source of stress for him.) That night, I wrote in my journal,“The further I go, the more I am reminded how good homeis.”

Needless to say, as we approached the Big Apple, Dadgot nervous with the hundred-lane highway (a bit of an exaggeration). Wethree kids were just looking around, amazed.

“The Statue ofLiberty! Wow! It looks just like on thepostcard!”

“There’s the Empire State Building!The one James’s giant peach landed on!”

“Thisplace is huge!” was all I could say, looking at the skyline. Evenwith all the trips to Indianapolis for state fairs, I still thought thebuildings were big. I could see Indy had only been David, while I wasabout to encounter Goliath.

My aunt Alyson and uncle Matt livedin Jersey City in an apartment that I must say, though small for all ofus, was nice. A bit exhausted (Dad the most), we dropped our luggage inwhat we guessed was their family room ... at least, it was the part withcouches, magazines, a coffee table and TV. One room bled into the next,so without realizing it, you could go from the family room to the diningroom to the kitchen. Our aunt asked if we’d like something todrink, but Dad and I had to think about what she had said, she’dtalked so fast. I am a person who takes things slowly and deliberately.This place would definitely require some adjustment.

My brotherColin, a true Hoosier, had brought a basketball and asked where he couldplay, but Alyson and Matt wanted to take us sightseeing. So we headed toLiberty Park, a small peninsula jutting into the Hudson River where theskyline was to the east with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tothe south. After posing for pictures, we headed to a basketball court inthe shadow of apartment buildings. An imposing iron fence and a few feetof dirt was all that separated us from the river. We come from thebasketball state and were playing on a court where you can overshoot andthe ball will land in the water with New York City on the other side!With all the lights from the buildings piercing the night, it wasamazing.

The next morning, we headed to NYC on the ferry, whichwas quite an experience. It took us on a rocky but awesome journeyacross the Hudson. On this sunny day, Lady Liberty shone in all hersplendor. I smiled as I remembered a man back home who has a miniatureStatue of Liberty in his pond with a torch that lit up atnight.

One of our first stops was the site of the World TradeCenter Towers. It was just two big holes in the ground. I could hardlybelieve it. Pictures of the victims that were posted on the wall at St.Paul’s Cathedral hit me hard.

My brothers were adamantabout visiting Madison Square Garden but Mom and I weren’t asexcited so we headed to Macy’s, which I thought was dull. I couldtaste the perfume permeating the air. I enjoy stores like Tractor SupplyCompany and going to sheep and cattle sales.

The Empire StateBuilding was by far the most impressive site we visited. We headed forthe 86th floor observatory on the fastest elevator ride I had evertaken. With ears popping painfully, I tried to yawn. Mom told me to stopbecause I looked like a fish.

The visibility was 25 miles thatday and for the first time, I could see the curve of the ocean. To thewest, I could see beautiful mountains. I saw Central Park in itssplendor and the Flatiron Building. Dad used several quarters for thebinoculars. What made me smile was that the building was made fromIndiana limestone quarried in the southern part of ourstate.

Then we met up with my aunt, who took us on a subway rideto Times Square. After gaping at that, we continued to Central Park, arelaxing spot with ponds and ducks skimming the surface feasting onbread crumbs. Summer leagues were playing baseball and runners werejogging and I couldn’t hear as many cars as on the streets.

Too soon, it was time to return to my aunt’s apartment. Aswe walked toward the subway, a carriage driver and his Belgian that hadbeen resting by the side of the street pulled out and started flyingdown the road. The driver was standing as he urged his horse into a fasttrot. One of the other drivers called out, “You’re gonnawant that horse tomorrow!” Dad and I liked that. It sounded likesomething my grandfather or his brother, a Clydesdale breeder, wouldsay.

Visiting the East Coast was thrilling but I know that Iwouldn’t trade life on the farm for one in a bustling borough. Istill am amazed by the smallest things. One thing is for sure, I washappily singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” once we crossedthe state line. I learned that no matter how far I go, there’s noplace like home ... and for me, that is my Hoosier Heartland, Indiana.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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