The Hoosierist: Cranes, (Food) Trucks, And Horse-Drawn Automobiles

What lurks in the heart of the park?

Q: I know Indy’s parks are packed with deer, but what other interesting animals live there? A: Though it’s not the Serengeti, Indianapolis hosts a lot more critters than the average resident realizes. For starters, any park that’s larger than the footprint of a Costco probably has some of those ubiquitous deer. But according to Ronnetta Spalding, chief communications officer for Indy Parks & Recreation, that’s just the white-tailed tip of the iceberg. Eagle Creek contains everything from raccoons to red foxes to bald eagles—along with a few oddities. “We have white pelicans, loons, and double-crested cormorants there as well,” Spalding says. The aforementioned eagles also visit parks that are near the White River, because our national symbol is a sucker for a fish dinner. Lots of parks have coyotes, too. But these days, that’s hardly a novelty in Indiana. If you want to see one, just leave the lid off your trash can.

Q: Where are food trucks legally allowed to go? Since the pandemic struck, I’ve seen them everywhere. A: When it comes to food preparation, the folks making all those street tacos and deluxe mac-and-cheeses must meet stringent, restaurant-level health and safety regulations. However, the rules about where they can sell their wares are pretty lax. “It’s always determined by event organizers, boards, and homeowners associations,” says April Richwine, co-owner of Friends of Fred Food Trucks, one of the city’s largest food-truck event organizers. Which means that while they can’t, for instance, block streets or impede traffic flow, they’re free to set up shop pretty much anyplace else. It certainly helped during the pandemic, when food trucks abandoned downtown and started plying neighborhoods like adult-oriented ice-cream trucks. “The foodies couldn’t come to us, so we went to them,” Richwine says.

Q: I’ve seen the Amish riding around northern Indiana in their horse-drawn buggies. Could I do that, or do the Amish get special permission?
A: If the idea of riding in a buggy churns your butter, you’ll be happy to know that anyone can employ wagon transport, just like the Plain People. The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department publishes a Horse and Buggy Driver’s Manual, which you should check out. Among other facts, you’ll learn that when one buggy tries to pass another, the horse in the “slow” buggy will sometimes take offense at being flexed on and speed up, making overtaking him difficult. Also, you have to trick out your ride with side lights, blinkers, and a “slow-moving vehicle” triangle. You’ll want to avoid crashes, because buggies lack seatbelts. But then, you do that anyway.