The Hoosierist: The Big Cover-Up
Manholes, historical markers, and dino bones. Ask The Hoosierist.
Q: What’s with all the manhole covers here? Seriously, I’ve never been to another city with such an abundance.
Suzanne P., Indianapolis
A: The Hoosierist prefers to leave thoughts of manholes to the nuclear-mutated rats that (he assumes, based on horror films) skulk in the dank passages underneath. As for the folks at Indianapolis Power & Light, which oversees roughly 1,500 downtown and another 300 around Marion County, they can’t recall ever receiving complaints about the quantity. The city and other utilities maintain their own manholes, too, but even if that doubled the number, it still doesn’t seem excessive for a 372-square-mile city. Plus, if The Hoosierist had to use them, he’d want one every 10 feet. Just in case those rats showed up.
Q: How do Indiana historical markers get doled out? Based on some of the places “honored,” the bar must be pretty low.
Alan R., Fishers
A: The gold-lettered signs are bestowed by the Indiana Historical Bureau. If you’d like to park one in front of your town’s storied edifice, get ready to fill out a pile of forms, wait years for approval, and adhere to a lot of rules. (No bridges, standing county courthouses, or cemeteries need apply.) And if you only think William Henry Harrison passed a kidney stone at that old farmhouse by the interstate, you’ve got some research to do—exhaustive proof is required. Back up your claims, and the “William Henry Harrison Kidney Stone House” could join the long list of marker-worthy Indiana attractions, which includes both first-rank offerings (Wilbur Wright’s Henry County birthplace) and quite a few head-scratchers (The La Grange Phalanx).
Q: How come Indiana doesn’t have any dinosaur fossils?
Bethany O., Carmel
A: Remember back in the ’90s when you fished out your VHS of IU’s 1987 championship game, only to discover that someone had taped a Growing Pains episode over the second half? That’s sort of what happened to Indiana’s fossil record, only in this case we didn’t lose 20 minutes of The Greatest Game in NCAA Tournament History, but rather the entire Mesozoic Era. Our state is knee-deep in marine fossils from pre-dinosaur times (when the state was covered with water), and we have loads of Ice Age critters. However, during the dinosaurs’ reign, the land that would one day become Indiana sat so high above sea level that anything that croaked in these parts got washed downhill and out to sea, rather than fossilizing. Sorry, T. Rex fans.
Have a question about anything Indiana-related? E-mail The Hoosierist here.
Illustration by Shane Harrison
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue.