The story maple syrup festival is about an adventure Rooster and I took to the small community of Story, Indiana. Story is a little out of the way place with a unique history and a few ghosts. #story #Indiana #blue lady #maple Syrup #festival
The Story Maple Syrup Festival
There are roads that are essential to take if you are searching for an exhilarating adventure. An unplanned turn can lead you to an unexpected discovery. The curvy country highway to reach Story, Indiana is one of those roads less traveled. This little hamlet nestled in the hills of southern Indiana is a step back into history. Rooster and I discovered this tiny village ten years ago when he made a right turn onto State Road 135 because it looked like it would be the perfect motorcycle road.
We putted along for ten miles before we came across Story, Indiana. The old mercantile building and several houses were tucked into the wooded countryside at the back of Brown County State Park and Monroe Reservoir. We would have glided past without giving the place a second thought, but we noticed a lot of motorcycles parked around the old mercantile. It had been converted to a restaurant. It was the only place to catch a bite to eat and use the facilities for miles. The old storefront was transformed into a restaurant with an inn above the dining area. We stayed for lunch before we continued our ride.
Story, Indiana has become a refuge for hungry bikers over the years. Most folks don’t know this little community exists, but if you ask a biker, they can lead you right to it. When we heard Story was holding the National Maple Syrup Festival, rooster and I knew it would be our Saturday adventure destination.
History of Story, Indiana
The tiny community in the middle of the wilderness of Brown County has a unique history. The little village was founded by a land grant issued by President Millard Fillmore to Dr. George Story in 1851. Story was once the largest settlement in the area with a blacksmith shop, two general stores, a grist mill, and a slaughterhouse. Unfortunately, Story never recovered from the Great Depression.
People left the area in droves to find work. The state of Indiana bought up land at a rapid rate to create Brown County State Park and Monroe Reservoir. The community became isolated when the Army Corps of Engineer’s flooded the area in the 1960s losing parts of old State Road 46. The only structures to survive were the general store, Doc Stories house, and a few other homes on the sized block area of land.
The Haunted Inn
What could make this tiny hamlet any more interesting than it’s rising from the ashes of extinction to become a vacation destination? How about a classic ghost story? It is said The Blue Lady haunts the Story Inn by wandering through an upstairs bedroom with the smell of cherry tobacco trailing behind her.
Some say you can summon her presence by turning on a blue light fixture on the wall. She is supposed to be wearing a lacey white dress, but like all good ghost stories, this one is told in variations. A lady at the pancake breakfast which we attended at the Maple Syrup Festival said she was called the blue lady because of the blue sash on the hem of her dress. She also informed us The Blue Lady is a prankster.
Doc Story’s ghost.
Doc Story can appear at times, but like a good husband, he stays in the background and lets his wife do all the haunting. An elderly couple who overheard our conversation said they sleep in the room The Blue Lady frequents with their grandchildren the night before. The kids didn’t see a trace of The Blue Lady even though they stayed up all night waiting for her. I have a theory. I believe the ghost’s appearance has a direct correlation with the amount of alcohol you consume in the bar before you go to your room for the night.
Why go to a Maple Syrup Festival
The morning of our arrival the gray sky overhead didn’t allow any of the warming rays of the sun to reach the ground. I worried the thirty-degree temperatures would chill us to the bone. Our blood must have thickened over the winter. We weren’t bothered by the nippy morning temperatures at all.
The Story Inn hadn’t changed since the last time we rode the motorcycle through the back roads of Brown County. The antique gas pumps still flagged the entrance to the mercantile. The rundown appearance of the place wouldn’t attract the attention of passing motorists unless they noticed all the people milling around outside the old mercantile. We strolled past the Inn to the tent where we paid our entrance fee. The landscape was clothed in a dense covering of greys, blacks, and browns, but I saw evidence of the green leaves of tulips starting to emerge from the ground as we ambled toward the area behind the mercantile where the event was held.
Blue Grass Music
Blue Grass music flowed through the branches of the naked trees stripped bare by the winter winds. The aroma from a dozen wood fires filled our noses with a refreshing mist of campfire smoke. We ambled through the craft tent examining all the homemade items. Brown County and the city of Nashville is a folk artist mecca. You can find everything from handmade quilts to bottle trees being sold by artisans in this area. Each artisan has a slight variation when they put their hands into creating their work of folk art.
This variation in art form holds true for maple syrup makers as well. We found samples, which ranged from traditional to peach brandy and bourbon barrel-aged varieties.
History of Maple Syrup
Maple syrup was an essential part of the Native American diet in areas such as Canada, New England, and the Great Lakes regions. The indigenous people taught the European settlers how to drain the sap from the maple tree and turn it into maple syrup. It was so important the maple leaf adorns the Canadian flag.
In the early spring, people would gather in camps for syrup making and trade. A perfect example illustrating how these camps were set up could be viewed in the reenactment area at the back of Story’s Maple Syrup Festival. There were actual demonstrations of how the syrup was boiled in a large steel pot to evaporate the water out of the sap. The process was performed by people dressed in period clothing.
What is the meaning of the devils cut?
Today maple syrup is made using a machine called an evaporator. Tim Burton gave a lecture on how the water is extracted from the sugar using the long metal contraption. He explained the process which goes into making his variation of maple syrup. He places the nectar removed from the trees into barrels he obtains from Kentucky distilleries. The barrel is heated from the outside twice a month over the next year chasing the flavor into the syrup.
Also, the process of removing the Devil’s cut leaves behind no trace of the alcohol. As a result, the water is cooked off, what remains is maple syrup with a kick. You wouldn’t get drunk if you drank a gallon of the sweet nectar, but what you’re left with has a unique taste. Burton says he has a vision of Story becoming the epicenter of the Maple Syrup circuit.
People could go from this central point to farms in the Brown County area and watch the syrup being produced on nearby farms. The visitors could do syrup sampling similar to what folks do on wine tours through vineyards. Rooster says it won’t go over unless they offer alcohol to people along the way.
Mr. Burton has a realistic dream. I can see people flocking to Story for this celebration of syrup. They will have some serious competition from the folks in Rockville, Indiana. They have their own Maple Syrup Festival in the spring.
Our next stop was to eat the pancake breakfast offered at the front of the property behind the inn. The guy working the grill put on an amazing sideshow.
His big talent was flipping the cakes onto the customer’s plates. He missed his intended target many times while we watched. It proved that even mistakes can be achievements in disguise. People in line laughed every time one of the flying brown disks hit the ground.
When the line died down, the grill guy had to clean up the mess he made. It’s important to remember you are never too talented to clean up your own mess. I want to mention the hot apple cider with whipped cream and caramel topping. It was a tasty treat that warmed our insides on a cold morning.
Listening to the Silver Sparrow.
We spent some time listening to the bluegrass music from a group called Silver Sparrow. The area around Nashville, Indiana is a bluegrass haven. Bean Blossom and the land of Bill Monroe is right down the road a couple of miles. The guitar player, Dave Sission, put on a wonderful show. His mother sat with us during their set. It was obvious she took great pride in her son’s musical ability.
Dave’s mom told us about how her six years old son worried he’d never learn to sing and play guitar at the same time. Rooster and I appreciated him acquiring the skill. We listened to him and the mandolin player fill the woods with song.
A walk down a country road.
It was time for us to move on when the sun began its travel into the west. On the way to the car, I persuaded Rooster to take a little walk with me. I’m still trying to get in ten-thousand steps a day. He made it as far the curious horses standing at the fence before he lost interest. He said I could go on alone. He’d wait for me. I decided it wasn’t a good idea. I might walk up on someone’s meth lab. It’s rumored they are as prevalent in this part of the state as bootleg whiskey stills in Kentucky. It is the modern version of making moonshine. I decided if I was going to continue with my healthy initiative, I was going to have to come up with a better plan on the days I go on adventures with Rooster.
Our visit to Soma
We had one more stop to make before we started the journey home. When our son was a student at Indiana University, he took us to a coffee house called Soma. Since we are searching for the perfect coffee house, it seemed logical for us to pay a visit to one of our favorites. It’s also nice to get a look at the mothership from time to time to assure us it does exist. (Rooster and I work for a satellite school of Indiana University. I guess you could say we are an IU family.)
Never visit Bloomington when IU is having a game.
The factor we didn’t add to the equation was that we would end up on Kirkwood Boulevard on an IU basketball game day. It was a miracle we found a parking place around the corner from the coffee house. I managed to get in a thousand steps while Rooster figured out the newfangled parking meter. He was under the impression he had to use an app, but some kind people stopped to show him all you needed was a credit card.
Soma was how we remembered it from our last visit with a few minor changes. The shabby chic sofa and chair were removed, and the fish tank TV was moved to a new location. The Burger King hats were missing from the restroom, but the life-size cardboard Elvis was still there. The employees were a little younger, but who isn’t these days. The typewriter collection wasn’t as extensive as I remember. Rooster noticed they didn’t have a Batwing.
It was games day at Indiana University. A crowd of people swarmed the typically peaceful coffee shop. Rooster wanted to sit close to the coffee dispensing area. We cut our writing short because of the chaos. I knew it was time to leave when he started getting sloppy with the whipped cream. We highly recommend this place, but time your visits. There is nothing to be gained by showing up on an IU game day.
Home at last.
It was still daylight when we started the long trip home. The game-day traffic was thick all the way to Indianapolis. We stopped for a bite to eat at a well-known place on the south side of the city. I won’t mention the name of the restaurant because neither of us enjoyed the meal. I hate to make a judgment about a place I’ve only eaten at once. They could have been experiencing a bad night. We came home with a bottle of Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and some lovely memories we will savor forever. Our adventure to Story, Indiana was worth the trip down a less traveled road.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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