08 September 2009

Bouchercon Guest Blogger #9 -- Joanna Campbell Slan

Say hello to Guest Blogger #9 -- (sorry for any musical references that may drum up in your heads.) Joanna Campbell Slan is an author, but she's also a Hoosier and shares this week a great memory about growing up in Indiana.

Back Home Again to a Place I Love

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Every family has its traditions and fond memories. Most of mine go back to living in Indiana. We loved growing up there! In fact, whenever a road trip brought us back home, my sisters and I would be on the look out for the big “Welcome to INDIANA” state sign. The moment we crossed the state line, we’d break out into a chorus of “Back Home Again in Indiana.” (I still do this even today!)

I love Hoosiers. They are hard-scrabble, hard-working folks. They love speed (like at Indy), but they also understand the joy of taking one’s time. They are good neighbors and lifelong friends. They know how to take the simplest of things and create a good time. Hoosiers are good at understanding that complex does not necessarily equal better.

As a kid growing up in Vincennes, none of us had any money. But we never ran out of fun stuff to do. Especially in the summer. We would turn hollyhock blossoms upside down and pretend they were fairy princesses with frilly dresses. (Toothpicks made the arms, and we stuck on paper faces. We would suck the nectar out of honeysuckle flowers. We used wooden clothespins to clip playing cards to our bike spokes so we could pretend to be riding motorcycles. We would flatten heavy cardboard boxes and slide down the levee of the sluggish Wabash.

Best of all, we used to make “boxcars” and pull them behind us and our bicycles after dark. A boxcar is a pretend train car made out of a shoebox and lit from the inside out. On a hot summer night, a parade of “boxcars” moving along a city sidewalk is a moment of surreal beauty. Here’s how to make one:

1. Get a sturdy empty box you can seal shut. A shoe box is ideal, but a small cardstock box also will work. The box must be able to rest on the ground without tipping over, and a big flat bottom is best. (For the box! Not the crafter!)

2. Attach a string by running it through a small hole in one side (about middle of the way up). Tie it to a small stick or tape it down so it won’t pull out.

3. Cut decorative holes in the box. These will be “windows” and your light will shine out. (Think of Jack-O-Lanterns, but remember this is summer. We favored trying to turn our boxes into real train cars.) You can put colored cellophane behind the holes if you wish. That way your windows will be different colors.

4. Get a candle (the shorter the better, votives work well as do old birthday cake candles) and an empty tuna fish can. Adhere the candle to the can by letting the candle wax drip and pushing the unlit end into the gummy mess. Now using double-stick tape, you glue the can to the center bottom of your empty box.

5. SAFER and more modern way: Buy a cheap flashlight or any battery operated light. Even one of those glow sticks will do. Stick it in the box.

6. Close up your box.

7. Pull the string and drag it around behind you as you yell, “Choo! Choo!”

Now, you’re a happening Hoosier!

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Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of Paper, Scissors, Death, an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. Visit her at http://www.joannaslan.com/ She will be attending Bouchercon, where she will be in charge of a session on scrapbooking.


Mary Cunningham said...

This brought back such great memories for me, too! I'm a Hoosier from Southern Indiana. I grew up in Corydon and my experiences were much like yours.

We never lacked for something to do, especially in the summer. Softball, croquet, badminton. We'd play from dawn til dusk. In fact, My children's book series is based on memories of my childhood in Indiana!

Thanks for the wonderful post. Now I'm homesick. :>)


Joanna Campbell Slan said...


Um, I guess I'm glad I made you homesick! Wasn't Corydon a state capital? Or have I lost my mind?