Road Trip to Indiana, Part II

When I awoke Friday morning, little did I know how much Lucy the Cocker Spaniel and I would end up having in common by that evening.

I can’t help but think my brother Paul had something to do with what happened, too. I had often asked if I could spend a week or two at the house. It’s so beautiful there and I imagined myself spending all day writing by the pond, or on the patio. I thought of it as my own personal Ragdale, if you will, without the application process.



Even though I am a delight of a houseguest, Paul was never very enthusiastic about the idea of me spending an extended period of time there. Terry said I was always welcome, anytime. Maybe Paul was kidding, but after what happened Friday night, I’m not so sure.


Terry went to work.   

Lucas treated the house and surrounding areas like a national park, snapping photos of every thing from every angle.

I spent most of our last full day outside, playing with Rudy and Sky.

Never pet a cat while wearing a Bandaid.
Never pet a cat while wearing a Bandaid.
Sky; Mid-belly rub
Sky; Mid-belly rub
Rudy, striking a pose.
Sky-selfie; she didn’t want me in the photo.

Lucas offered to prepare supper, so I got out of his way. When Terry came home, the three of us sat down and ate every delicious thing Lucas had prepared, and enjoyed a nice peaceful evening together.

Until the itching began.

During supper, I couldn’t stop scratching the right side of my mid-section, right where my jeans sat on my waist. I didn’t think much about it but as we cleared the table, the itching became unbearable. I picked up my shirt a tad, and, since I can’t see over The Girls,  asked Lucas if he saw anything unusual.

Unusual is asking your almost 21-year-old son to check out your abs, or the place where abs should be.

Lucas, who didn’t seem traumatized by my request, took  a quick look, yelled, “Oh my god,” and backed away from me. He’s usually pretty “chill” about most things in general, so I knew he wasn’t joking. I ran into the bathroom, hoping I was tall enough to see my mid-section’s reflection in the mirror.

I stood on my tip-toes. There they were. Welts. Red welts. Itchy, red welts had invaded the right side of my abdomen. One was working its way toward my belly button, and several began to form on my right arm and leg, as well.

I ran out to show Terry who immediately said, “You have chiggers.”

“I have What-ers?”



Terry got out one of his bug books and and said, “They’re not still on you.”

Of course, I heard, “they’re burrowing into your skin, having babies, and making you itchy!” I took this news calmly, flailing about the house, shedding clothes as fast as I could, and perhaps shrieking a tiny bit. I heard later that Terry told my mother, “I’ve never seen so much of Leslie.”

I think I kept my underpinnings pinned, but can’t remember. The thought of bugs setting up camp on my body, combined with the itchiness was driving me mad. Mad I tell you!

I took a shower and boiled my clothes. Terry told me I had the  worst case of chiggers he’d ever seen.


I could now empathize with Lucy, except I didn’t smell bad.

I sat on the sofa in clean pj’s, and texted my girlfriends back home for support. When I told them Terry brought me Benadryl, and a cup of tea, you could almost hear the collective, “Awwww” crossing over the border from Illinois. Terry has always been so sweet and thoughtful, and I’ve always felt lucky to have him as my other brother.

Terry with Corey and Brandi.
Terry with our great friends, Corey and Brandi.

My friends were sympathetic and even texted me remedies they had looked up online:




Richard was not as kind. After penning beautiful texts and leaving loving voicemails all week, I received this:


And this:


I had taken many photos with my phone that day. As I lay on the sofa, I decided to calm myself by looking at the pretty pictures I’d taken using the magic box (the Benadryl was kicking in.)

As I scanned through to the end of the photos, I sat upright. I remembered Terry reading out-loud that chiggers tended to jump onto human hosts from low-flying plants, usually at dusk.

By George, the pictures on my camera made the evidence jump out at me! The scene of the crime was as clear as my skin had been before the chiggers invited themselves over for a snack. I had solved the Mystery of the Invading Chiggers!

Exhibit A:

Rudy lolling about in the low-flying plants.

(Exhibit B is not technically an “exhibit,” but more of an an explanation.)

Exhibit B: Who do you think was sitting with her right butt cheek amongst the low-flying plants, while balancing herself on the patio with her left one in order to take this picture?


Lucas drove all the way home so that I could knock myself out with Benadryl, sleep, and try not to scratch (scratch, scratch, scratch!) That night at home, I tried the Vicks Vapor Rub and salt idea. Wow! It worked! I did it for two nights and it really helped. Of course, I had to wash the salty sheets because Richard didn’t like being exfoliated by errant salt throughout the night.

But the best trick I learned was one I figured out myself: The Reverse Bridge Pose Powder Application. Since I couldn’t wear an apparatus to confine The Girls, I realized that, thanks to the laws of gravity, and some knowledge of yoga, a Reverse Bridge Pose was ideal for applying powder underneath those otherwise hard to reach areas.


Oh, and one final thing. I “designed” this t-shirt to commemorate our trip:


Yes, Beth*. There will  be a part III about our incredible day Saturday at Greening the Statehouse in Indianapolis, with Jesse Kharbanda, and Caitlin Priest.

*I am now required, by the laws of Beth, to insert the name “Beth” into every post.


Cue the harp music as we go back in time to October 19th, 2014….



Lucas and I drove to Nashville, Indiana, to stay with my brother-from-another-mother, Terry, at the home he shared with my brother-from-the-same-mother, Paul.


Their house is in the middle of a 100 acre wood. Well, it’s 15 acres, but after three or four, who’s counting? Terry lives with Rudy, the cat, and Sky, the dog, and was dog-sitting his friends’ Corey and Brandi’s Cocker Spaniel, Lucy, for a few days while we were there.

Rudy, who is one of those rare, really sweet cats.
Sky, mid-belly rub

Lucy was happy, sweet, and allergic to everything. The poor dog scratched herself silly, releasing a rather pungent, odiferous scent. When I took her for walks, I tried to stay upwind. Ashamed of my inability to tolerate Lucy, I walked with my tail between my legs.

For supper (I love that word; it’s so ignored up north,) we made a small dent in the cooler full of food Grandma had sent with us.

2014-06-26 12.14.07


Terry went to work, Lucas caught up on his sleep, and I hiked around the property with Sky and Lucy.  Since we were in Brown County, Indiana, the colors of the leaves were every shade of magnificent. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into a tree. (Well, that can happen to me anywhere.)

For supper we made a small dent in the cooler full of food Grandma had sent with us.


Before we left town, I had made tentative plans to visit Iris Rosa, my favorite professor from I.U. that day, and watch the 2014-2015 African American Dance Company (AADC) rehearse. Because Terry came home from work early and Lucas was awake at 3:00 PM, they dropped me off on campus, and walked around town together.

When I was a member of the (AADC) in 1981-82, as Paul had been years before, we rehearsed in a small, old basement.


2014-07-11 05.15.01

The AADC has a new home: the Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall Black Culture Center, named for the first African-American graduates of I.U. The studio is huge, with tons of mirrors and windows, and a vaulted ceiling with a skylight.

Watching the AADC rehearse brought back the best memories I have of being a student at I.U. “ProRo” and the dancers welcomed me like family.

I need to work on a more natural-looking smile.



The AADC of 2013-2014
The AADC of 2013-2014, Pro Ro and me

It was an honor to watch these beautiful, amazing dancers prepare for an upcoming concert. Their energy was palpable. I was itching to get up and dance with them, but didn’t want to risk ruining the rest of our road trip with an upper or lower body injury.


See Monday, except, Terry brought Lucy back to Corey and Brandi’s house because they were home from their vacation (I was still upset with myself for being Miss Judgy-pants.)


Thursday would have been Paul’s 59th birthday. The night before, Terry told Lucas and me that he had taken the day off from work and had a surprise for us.

A surprise for us? I imagined this day would be so hard for him, but he turned it into a really fun day that I’ll remember every October 23rd.

Terry’s last name is Briner, which will prove to be very important in this story. He has often told me about where he had grown up and how his family had settled in the area of Paoli, Indiana. I did some research one night at Mom’s house when Paul and Terry were visiting, and found tons of information about his ancestry, at which time I began to refer to his hometown as “Briner-ville.” I wasn’t too far off the mark.

Terry had the entire day planned out, including an itinerary of where we would go, and how much time we would spend at each place. We had been invited to Corey and Brandi’s house for supper at 6:00, and would need about an hour to get there.

Terry’s hometown was about an hour away from Brown County, so we tried to leave the house as early as possible. I am perpetually late, even when trying to be early, but managed to get up, dressed, and ready for our adventure.

Terry’s family settled in Orange County, Indiana in the late 1700’s. 1700’s! We visited Briner Springs, and the Briner family cemetery, high up on a hill, just as his great-great grandfather, George Briner, had wanted.

Terry came prepared with documents that led us to barely legible, weather-worn tombstones. Then he read to us the beautiful love-letter his great-grandfather, John, who was fighting in the Civil War, sent to his fiancee, Eleanor.

The tour continued to the Baden Springs Hotel with an atrium that looks as if it defies all laws of physics. We had lunch there, and, yes, I did lie on the floor in the middle of that great room to get this shot.




From there we drove a few miles to see Brenda and Jim, Terry’s sister, and brother-in-law. We were also introduced to Brenda’s pet catfish. Yes, pet catfish (who live in her pond.)

These were no ordinary catfish; they were so immense, they were like catfish on steroids. 


They were THIS big!
They were THIS big!

Before we left, Brenda gave me a set of hand-knit oven towels for my sister, Beth, and one for me. She also sent me home with this very cool puzzle.


Supper at Corey and Brandi’s was delicious, and their kids were adorable. Lucy smelled like a new woman. I felt like I had gained more family that day, not to mention all of Paul and Terry’s friends I’ve known and kept in touch with for years. I felt more whole than I had in the few months since the Recent Unpleasantries.

That night, I accidentally knocked my little makeup mirror to the floor, shattering it completely. Seven years of bad luck?

I don’t think so.

I just laughed. What could possibly be worse than this past summer? Nothing.

INDIANA ROAD TRIP PART II coming soon to a computer screen near you!