Roll in the Hay

Library fines, mosquito fog, and Amish love affairs. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: What are these romance novels about Indiana’s Amish community that I keep seeing in the grocery store?

Jake S., Martinsville

A: Who knew that between plowing and horseshoeing and barn-raising, the Amish had time for so much randy behavior? If the somewhat popular Indiana Cousins series of romance novels is to be believed, they’re churning more than butter in those simple country houses.

Wanda E. Brunstetter, the author of the series, married into the Amish scene (sort of) via her husband, who grew up worshipping in a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Ironically, Brunstetter now lives in Washington state, though apparently she keeps it real by having “Amish friends.” This inside info allows her to rip the handmade quilt of secrecy off of their most intimate affairs. For instance, in A Cousin’s Challenge (Indiana Cousins, Book 3), a sign-language tutor named Jolene Yoder gets involved in a love triangle. Or perhaps it’s a hexagon. The jacket copy isn’t too clear about that. Anyway, no less of an authority than Romantic Times says the series “contains a lot of tragedy, which allows the characters to draw their strength from God as they deal with challenges in life and love.” And as a bonus, you’ll find a bread recipe. All in all, a pleasant way to fill that wayward 45 minutes after you milk the goats and before you start supper for the fieldhands.

Q: I just received notice that my Indianapolis Marion County Public Library overdue fee is being turned over to a collection agency. Can they do that?

Greg L., Indianapolis

A: Keep your voice down! You want them to hear us? And yes, as The Hoosierist found out a couple of months ago when he didn’t promptly pay a $57 overdue fine for a bunch of DVDs and children’s books, the library can get as nasty as its old copies of National Geographic. To his amazement, he received a letter from a collection agency, prompting fears of a Bookmobile drive-by.
Of course, The Hoosierist has no one to blame for this but himself. The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library sends patrons an e-mail reminder three days before an item’s due date, another on the due date, and yet another five days after that. A billing notice is issued when accumulated fines reach $25. If you don’t pay up within 30 days, the matter goes to a collection agency called Unique Management, which starts shaking you down for the cash. We’re not talking about small potatoes, either. The library system raked in a cool $1,446,195 in 2010.

So pay up before the thugs file a credit report. Imagine losing out on a home mortgage because you forgot to slip your copy of A Cousin’s Challenge into the book-deposit slot on time.

Q: What’s in the fog the city uses to spray neighborhoods for mosquitoes? And is that stuff dangerous?

Lindsay Z., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist has been leery of mosquito-fogging trucks ever since his childhood years in Florida. Back then, foggers regularly rolled down our street belching out thick, oily, DDT-laced clouds. This was the 1960s, so kids thought nothing of playing in the fog. And now The Hoosierist forgets his name sometimes.

Happily, the stuff deployed in Marion County today isn’t nearly as toxic. The fog of choice is a petroleum-based product called Anvil. And while the name doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, studies using rats have shown what pretty much all studies using rats seem to show—that if you expose a rodent to enough of the stuff, it will get sick. But an occasional dusting is fairly harmless.
By the way, fogging is the city’s “nuclear option” for mosquito control. It would much rather nail the bloodsuckers during their larval, aquatic stage by spraying suspect bodies of water. So if your kids are prone to swimming in drainage ditches, you might want to have a talk. But then, you may have bigger problems.

Q: What’s the point of the Marion County Fair? We already have the State Fair, and this isn’t exactly an agricultural county.

Susan P., Beech Grove

A: You may be surprised to learn that Marion County isn’t entirely covered by gas stations, strip malls, and interstates. A good bit of its periphery remains as citified as Hee Haw—where cornfields and soybeans abound. Which is why the folks who run the Marion County Fair, with more than 90,000 visitors annually, bristle at the idea that their event needs to be put out to pasture.

Not that they haven’t adjusted to urbanization. The fair’s traditional livestock displays became a little spotty, so they’re now bolstered by out-of-county imports. But the horse program is booming, as are the hordes of displays put together by the county’s 4-H kids. You read that right. 4-H is alive and well in the Circle City. In fact, with some 13,000 members, it’s bigger than the entire populations of some blatantly agrarian Indiana counties. Which explains why our county fair never lacks for “best tomato” contenders. Take that, Benton County.

Q: I’ve noticed that some restaurants get mentioned by name on official highway exit signs while others don’t, which seems unfair. Do you have to pay for the privilege?

Taylor C., Shelbyville

A: Yes, Taylor’s Hushpuppy Shack will have to pay. A state-contracted company called the Indiana Logo Sign Group collects those fees, and as they point out on their Internet site, more than 58 million visitors roll through Indiana each year and spend a breathtaking $6.7 billion: “Are YOU prepared to take advantage of this opportunity?”

The Indiana State Legislature wants to make sure that you can, by offering the elegantly named Specific Service and Specific Service Attraction Sign Programs. You know them better as the big blue roadside signs posted before pretty much every highway exit in the state. The two sign types are slightly different, but not in a way that matters to drivers speeding past them at 65 miles per hour (okay, 80). For a fee, Specific Service will post the logo of whatever gas station, restaurant, hotel, campground, or tourist trap lies in wait at the next cloverleaf. Established by the Indiana Department of Transportation, prices for space on most signs range from $10 to $124 per month, depending on the location. Please send The Hoosierist a few sawbucks so he can purchase one for the exit that leads to the home of his country cousin, which he seems to miss every time.

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.