The Hoosierist: A Tall Tail

Black cats, chimney sweeps, and leaf-hunter paradises. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: I’ve heard the Humane Society doesn’t offer black cats for adoption in October because they’re afraid the cats will be used for satanic rituals. Is that true?
A: The Hoosierist also has heard this urban legend. Locally, however, the story contains about as much truth as the rumor that Old Lady Ferguson, who lives three blocks over, is giving out full-sized candy bars to trick-or-treaters this year. Neither the Humane Society of Indianapolis nor Indianapolis Animal Care & Control embargoes black cats during October. Though animal abuse is a real thing, it’s a problem tied not so much to Halloween as it is to year-round morons who like to hurt animals. Nationally, some shelters do institute black-cat bans, but that’s based mostly on unsubstantiated anecdotes.

Q: I just found out Indiana has a chimney-sweep training school. Why?
A: Contrary to popular belief, this old-timey profession didn’t die out in the 19th century, along with petticoats and tuberculosis. The best proof of this is the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), which moved to Plainfield from Maryland in 1998. The company’s training program has graduated more than 1,700 certified sweeps and around 250 accredited dryer-exhaust technicians. It’s a necessary trade, says CSIA director of communications Jordan Whitt, because a dirty chimney builds up a waste product called creosote, which can catch fire and burn your house down. Likewise, home clothes-dryer vents can fill up with lint, which is pretty much the most flammable stuff in the universe. So having these guys check your pipes occasionally is a really good idea. Plus, Whitt entirely supports the supposition (popularized in the Mary Poppins song) that sweeps are “as lucky as lucky can be.” So consider that an added bonus.

Q: Everybody pours into Brown County to look at leaves. But is it really the best spot in the state for that?
A: If you want to look at colorful leaves and then retire to a conveniently situated eatery, Brown County is definitely the place for you. But if colorful vegetation (and not amenities) is all you care about, there are equally good places to enjoy Indiana’s foliage fireworks. The tree-huggers over at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommend O’Bannon Woods State Park along the Ohio River. Or if you’d like a car tour, try Skyline Drive in Jackson-Washington State Forest near Brownstown, or State Road 446 south from Bloomington as it passes by Lake Monroe. Just make sure your driver keeps his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road.

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