On Memorial Day, summer’s unofficial start, my husband and I drove down to Greenwood’s Mrs. Curl, one of the 12 hometown stands highlighted in this month’s ice-cream feature (“Here’s the Scoop”). As star-spangled banners fluttered from telephone poles lining South Meridian Street, a line of teens in flip-flops and dads with strollers wrapped around the white cinderblock hut, awaiting their turn at the tiny window to order peanut-butter-cup “Razzles” (Mrs. Curl’s version of the Blizzard) and hot-fudge brownie sundaes. “At the Hop” rang out as kids skipped down to the creek winding along the patio. A little girl with pigtails and a peach sundress plopped down in the middle of the sidewalk as her mother tried to get her to leave. “But I don’t WANNA go!” she cried. At that moment, a breeze cooling my brow, my spoon scraping the last of the ice cream from the bottom of a Styrofoam cup, I knew just what she meant.
In the small towns around Indy, our reporters discovered, these stands are more than just purveyors of frozen treats—they’re touchstones, an experience of sticky fingers and bellyaches passed from generation to generation. After our trip to Greenwood, I posted a photo of the stand on Twitter, and a reader replied, “I woke up thinking about Mrs. Curl.” That’s devotion.
As Samuel Johnson might have said if he’d ever tried a Razzle, “If you are tired of ice cream, you are tired of life.” But I have to admit, a few of us came close when we sampled more than 30 pints from shops around town for a taste test with the Hancock County 4-H dairy club (“Pint Sized”). Yes, in this age of Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga, young people still love being around livestock, says Marla Stone, the team’s coach. It’s a sentiment explored further in “All Hail the County Fair,” Amy Wimmer Schwarb’s meditation on—and argument for—our local fairs’ and 4-H clubs’ role in carrying on our agricultural heritage. In Hancock County, Stone estimates, 1,400 kids participate in 4-H. No, not all of them will farm one day, but as for her group, Stone says, the process of raising and judging dairy cows breeds confidence: “Down the road, when they’re applying for jobs, they’re going to be able to use those skills they’ve learned.” In other words, 4-H may be helping the cream of our youth rise to the top.
Amanda Heckert is the editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly.
This column appeared in the July 2014 issue.