Indiana Weekend – Episode 12 “Prison Horses/Houses/Golf Carts”
Indiana Weekend – Episode 12 “Prison Horses/Houses/Golf Carts”


[upbeat country
music playing] (John Strauss)
This is “Indiana
Weekend”… some of the most interesting
people and places from around
our region. These are
the stories you won’t always see
on the regular news… voices you won’t
always hear elsewhere. I’m John Strauss. This is a kind of
news magazine show with stories just a bit
off the beaten path. Today, life
on the farm… [horse neighing] the horse farm,
that is. Just across the highway
from this Indiana prison is this home for
retired race horses where inmates
from the prison work to get the thoroughbreds,
and themselves, ready for
new lives. (inmate)
I’ve got a few favorites
out here that I like. Usually it’s the ones that
are the most temperamental. (child)
Good job! It’s like a tower. (Strauss)
And it’s fall, so this
must be orchard time… families headed to the country
grabbing apples and memories. And you see them in
hometowns across Indiana. Not just for the
fairway anymore… golf carts as small
town transportation. In this town
they’re everywhere. (woman)
We have tons of
golf carts in here. I think everybody
in town has a golf cart. We start today on
another street, in another town. This could actually be so
many places in Indiana because so many places
the story is the same. In the big mortgage crisis
of a few years ago, Indiana actually led the country
in mortgage foreclosures. There’s a ripple effect
when that happens. Foreclosed homes
become vacant homes… become blighted
neighborhoods. The response in
many places has been to tear down
some of those homes, and Muncie has slated
dozens for demolition. But there’s a concern
that Muncie could lose part of its history
through that. And so there’s
a move now to save some of the city’s
historic properties. Brad King is Muncie’s Historic
Preservation Officer. (King)
We’re in the Old West
End neighborhood, and the Old West End is literally the old west
portion of Muncie. Muncie used to go
to about the river, and that was
the west — this is the west end of
Muncie at that time. Hence the name
“Old West End.” A lot of these houses
kinda date back to about the
1870s, to 1890s, and 1900 really proliferates
a lot of architecture through the
Old West End. (Strauss)
There’s plenty of history
in Muncie’s homes. On the east side
of downtown, places like the Emily
Kimbrough Historic District were the neighborhoods of
Muncie’s business owners. On the West End meanwhile,
were the managers, foremen, and the regular folks who
worked in those businesses. So you have a really
economically, socially mixed uh, group of housing
and families that were living in
the Old West End. Not too different
than you have today. So you have some really
big, High Victorian, uh, style homes. Queen Annes, 3500
square feet. And then you have
some cottages like 1200
square feet. And they’re just
a block apart… a block apart. So imagine
you’re a worker, workin’ in let’s say
Kitselman Steel and Wire, and your foreman lives
a block away from ya. (Strauss)
Today’s version of that
economic diversity could be someone
like Edwin Ramos, a transplant
from New York who’s bought the historic
R.M. Ball House on West Charles Street
in the Old West End. (Ramos)
I have a couple
of friends of mine here living
in Indiana… right here in Muncie
in particular. Um, they said
to me, um, are you sure you
want to live
in here? When now everything
is available. I say, “You know, I’m
looking for a quiet place, something that it’s peaceful
with friendly people, family oriented, and that’s what I
found in Muncie. And everybody
here is polite, good morning,
good afternoon, good night. And that took
my heart. (Strauss)
Ramos, a native
of Puerto Rico, says he looked at
more than 250 houses before settling on
this Queen Anne style built in 1891 by members
of the Ball family. (Ramos)
This house inside is
completely Victorian. It has its
original wood, original fireplace. Um, most of the renovation
that has been done they tried to preserve
what is inside. (Strauss)
That’s not easy. Take a 3500-square foot,
124-year-old home, and you can imagine the
maintenance issues alone. When we visited, a crew was painting the
outside of the house… cost, Ramos
says, $14,000. That’s not including
restoration to the woodwork, repairs to the
chimney, new windows, or other big-ticket items
the home will need. Ramos wishes that
people like him who are fixing
up these houses could get low-interest
loans or other support. In fact, the city
has more than 4,000 empty or abandoned
properties. Muncie’s Neighborhood
Investment Committee is looking for
urban homesteaders who can buy an abandoned
house at low cost in an exchange for a
promise to fix it up and live there. Ramos says he can
identify with people willing to put in that
kind of sweat equity. (Ramos)
That’s what I’m
doing, you know. It’s hard, but I’m telling
you at the end of the row, it pays
you off. Because you will
feel proud. You will feel proud
that you did it, that you made something
that other people can admire and see, hey, I mean,
it looks old, but when it’s done, it’s
gonna be beautiful. (Strauss)
Muncie, like plenty of
other rust belt cities, has had to make
tough choices about what abandoned properties
should be torn down and which should
be saved. (King)
It’s easy to look at
an abandoned home that has broken windows
and maybe even a bad roof and say, “Nah. No one is going
to do anything about it,” and tear it down. But it’s a little bit harder
to find people with vision and patience to say, “No, I’m
going to invest in that house and turn it around.” So the key is how do
we prioritize that? And so one of the ways that
I’ve been working with the city as the Historic
Preservation Officer, is to prioritize
those houses that have the best
characteristics — architectural characteristics, but also have the
cultural history of who lived there. Was it a pioneer
of Muncie? Was it a mover
and shaker during the turn of the
20th century of Muncie? Then let’s de-prioritize
those houses for demolition and let’s get some of
these other houses that people aren’t
interested in and bring them down, and let’s find ways to put
families back in these houses and get them rehabbed. (Strauss)
King spoke while standing
in a new community park built on the site
of a former home. It’s an example
of reusing space that was formerly
blighted. (King)
There was a, uh, Victorian,
Queen Anne home built at the end of the
Victorian era, about 1900. It was about two
and a half stories. And eventually during
its 100-year reign, it became five units. (Strauss)
King says he’s heard
from developers who want to do more
rehabs in the neighborhood, including someone
who wants to work on the Wilmore Apartments
across the street. (King)
This was a doctor’s office
and apartments building. Most people I think
will remember it as Planned Parenthood
from the ’90s, the ’80s and ’90s, and
the turn of the millennia. And now it’s empty. It’s not necessarily
blighted. It’s kept secure,
but it’s empty. And someone wants
to repurpose this for a type of
live-work space. And that’s the type
of repurposing that we would
love to see happen, not just in the
Old West End, not just in
historic districts, but in different areas that
have been hit the same way. And a lot of
it unfortunately is historic areas that
have been hit this way and are close
to downtown. (Strauss)
Ramos says his neighborhood
had its trouble with crime but has gotten a lot better
the past couple of years. He’s told friends from
around the country that Muncie is
the place to be. (Ramos)
What happened, happened,
but the past two years, has been getting better. And I said to people
across the United States, come to Muncie. Come to here. You will never
get out.
[laughing] You will never get
out from here because it has
so much charm. It has so many
pretty things. Only it need
a little TLC. That’s all… just the TLC
and your heart. No more. (Strauss)
There’s something about
rehabilitating these homes… maybe in the idea of
rehabilitation itself… a required kind
of hopefulness that makes it
seem worthwhile. You might make the same
connection in our next story, in the
rehabilitation of… [horse neighing] retired race horses. State prisons are looking
for ways to help inmates find jobs when they leave in
hopes that fewer will return. Among the training
programs out there is an eight-year-old effort at the Putnam
Correctional Facility west of Indianapolis. Inmates there are working
with retired race horses, helping retrain them
so the thoroughbreds can find new homes. The horse barn is
across the highway from the main prison, but it seems so far from
the razor wire fences and guard towers. It’s a horse
barn, after all, staffed by low-risk
inmates who know they’ve got a
great assignment. Mike Rains is an
assistant superintendent who oversees
the program. (Rains)
It is very different
over here. You know you don’t
have all the fences. You don’t have
the guard towers. You don’t have,
you know, all the uniformed
officers around. Um, you know,
you come back here, it is a more
relaxed setting. Um, you know, we
do like I said have the level
one offenders
out here, three level
one offenders, but it is a more
relaxing environment. (Strauss)
Not that the inmates are
coddled over at the barn, but Rains makes the point that
97 percent of all inmates will eventually
be released. So it only makes sense
to try to get them job ready for when they go. (Rains)
Everybody makes
mistakes. Uh, these guys, you
know, they come here. Uh, maybe they made
some poor choices, but, you know, once
they are released we are going to help them,
you know, re-enter society and make them
employable. The things that we
can do, um, you know, instead of being a
burden on the state is actually turn
these into taxpayers out there when they’re
getting employed. (Strauss)
James Harrison is one of the
inmate leaders of the program. (Harrison)
This is probably
the best experience that I’ve had
being incarcerated. Um, it’s probably
the best job that they
have here. I get along pretty well
with everybody here. And we all get along
pretty well, so. (Strauss)
What are the
horses like? (Harrison)
Um, well, I mean, they’re
thoroughbred horses. They’re pretty
hyper. Some of them are, um, a
little on the touchy side. Um, they don’t like to be
bothered or messed with. But they go along with
program, too, just like us. Um, there’s some… I got a few favorites
out here that I like. Usually it’s the ones that
are the most temperamental are the ones that
I like the most, the ones that’s got a little
bit of action to ’em. I mess with the ones
like Alley Cat and Love Ya. I know you’ve
never met ’em, but they’re a little bit more
hyper or temperamental. So I like messing
with those guys. (Strauss)
Tell me about
Alley Cat. (Harrison)
Um, Alley Cat, he’s an
older thoroughbred. He is the biggest
horse out here. He is 17 hands tall
which is pretty tall. I mean, and he’s — (Strauss)
A lot bigger
than you, right? (Harrison)
Yeah, bigger
than me. (Strauss)
You kinda have
to respect that? (Harrison)
Yeah…yeah. And, uh, like today, he was a
little temperamental today. I went in to
try to pet ’em. And, you know,
he let me know that he didn’t
want to be petted. So I’m kinda — (Strauss)
How do they
do that? (Harrison)
Um, well, they,
for starters they let you know by
they pin their ears back. And then the next step
will be they’ll nip ya. They don’t really
bite you. But they’ll
nip ya. And then the next step is
he likes to jump over with his butt and
get sideways on ya. Whenever he gets
sideways on ya, that means he’s about ready
to raise his leg up to kick ya. Then you know you’re in
a little bit of trouble. So I’ve had him do
that a couple of times. Once out there
in the field, the first time
he ever did it, I thought he was
going to kill me, but, uh, we came
to an agreement. So, but yeah, he’s
my favorite. (Strauss)
Terri Russ is coordinator
for the equine program and says the men
can earn a certificate qualifying them for jobs
caring for horses. (Russ)
They learn general
barn maintenance, how to groom
a horse. They learn
about anatomy. Uh, everything, you know,
from top to bottom. They learn about feet,
uh, digestive system, legs, bandaging, uh,
shed row safety. (Strauss)
Whatever the program
offers the inmates, it’s very much a second
chance for the horses. (Russ)
When their careers somehow
come to an abrupt halt due to any kind
of injury, or, um, they’re not winning
any money any longer, or they’re not useful to
the race horse industry, unfortunately then
a lot of times they were sent to, um,
slaughterhouses, either to Mexico
or to Canada. (Strauss)
The Thoroughbred
Retirement Foundation which sponsors
the inmate training helps find new homes
for the horses. In the meantime, they
get good care at the barn. The horses that
we have out here, they’re taken care of
seven days a week. We, uh, it’s a seven-day-
a-week operation to come out here
and feed them. We try to get them
out and groom ’em three and four
days a week. Uh, by doin’ that,
some of the guys here create a really close
bond with these horses. You know, um, when
the guys get out here, um, initially, 99
percent of ’em have never been
around a horse before in
their life. Uh, these horses aren’t
your average, backyard pony. They’re great, big, you
know, pretty massive beasts. And, uh, you know, they teach
the inmates sometimes, and then, you know, we try
to retrain the inmates to kinda bring ’em
back around, and we always want
to be the herd leader. You know, we want the
horses to feel safe. And we want everybody working
with ’em to be safe. (Strauss)
George Shuler has been
working at the barn for a year. He says you do
have to be careful. (Shuler)
I wear a brace ’cause
they’ll, you know, you gotta thousand
pound-plus horse pullin’ one way when you
want to go the other way. Uh, they’ll
nip at ya. They’ll kick
at ya. Like I’ve said, they’ve
spent the first multiple years
of their lives in a stall 23
hours a day except for, you
know, race day. And uh, now they
get out here and they get in
their herd mentality and left that way
for a while, and I don’t know if
horses revert back any, but I think they get
comfortable where they’re at. And you want them
to do something else. And if they
don’t want to, it can be
a challenge. (Strauss)
The experience is something
special both for the horses, used to being cooped
up in their stalls, and inmates used to be
cooped up behind walls. (Shuler)
It’s the freedom
aspect out here and the trust factor. You know, they have to
trust you to be here. But even though we are a minimum
security level in custody, we are as low
as you can be. We are 1 out
custody which means we could work at the governor’s
house if he wanted us there. So we’re more
trusting, but yeah, it’s a rat
race in there, you know, because you
got all walks of life and all different ages. And, uh, you know, you
might be on a top bunk and there’s a 19-year-old
kid on the bottom bunk and sleepin’ next to him a guy might have 23
years in for murder. And the guy on top of him was
a habitual driving offender. So like I said, just
all mixed and everything. And just like with the
military, you know, personalities clash
and that. And to be able to
come out here, it’s just, you know, like you
leave that all behind. (Strauss)
Elsewhere in the
country it’s fall, and that means the season
for apple orchards. We visited the Jacobs’ Family
Orchard north of Newcastle where they were sorting
some of the crop, making cider, and
even doughnuts. Kim Smith and her
daughter Lindsay were visiting
from Anderson. (Lindsay Smith)
I like coming out and trying the
different apples with my mom and bringing
out my nephews to the little
bounce houses and jungle gym that
they have over there. Climbing on the
different hays that they have. And just having a
good time with them and spending that quality
time with my family. I’d say it’s a fun, interesting
learning experience to see what the different
apples are, what it takes to
make those apples, and really figuring out what
type of apple you really like. (Strauss)
Like many orchard goers,
Lindsay is serious about her apples. There’s ones that are
sweet and crisp, tart and crisp, or you have an apple that’s
either sweet or tart and really soft. Um, you have to figure out
which one you like the best if you want a tart apple
which is what I like, and I like them to be crisp
like the Zestar! apples. (Strauss)
Kim Smith says
there’s a difference between store-
bought apples and the ones she
finds at orchards. (Kim Smith)
The taste is a hundred
percent better. [laughing] Tastes like
a real apple. And they’re ripe
when you buy ’em. You don’t have to
let ’em set out. You know, they’re already
ripe when you buy them. ready to eat,
taste good. Price is good. (Strauss)
A tip for
orchard visitors… try a couple varieties
to see what you like. (Kim Smith)
I think you need
to try the apples to see which one
you like best. My favorite for
the early season is the Zestar!s which
is a tart, crisp apple. Um, but then we like
the Mollie Delicious which is a sweet,
you know, crisp apple. And some are good
for cooking, and some are just
good for eating. The Cortlands are a
wonderful, uh, apple. It’s one of
our favorites. They’re great
for eating. Cooking, they
kinda get mushy. You know, but, um,
they are probably one of the better eating
apples in our opinion. (Strauss)
Wayne Jacobs runs the
business with his family. When he gets a rare break
during this busy season, you can sometimes find
him on the front porch of his house
next door. Twenty, thirty
forty years ago, it was just a retail
apple business. The folks that owned it
just bagged up apples and sold ’em and
made some cider, and that
was it. And it’s turned into
more of an attraction, more of a
family event. The apples aren’t the
only thing anymore. (Strauss)
Wayne, who also grows
corn and soybeans, says apples are a
very tough crop. (Jacobs)
My trade prior
to this, I was a grain farmer… corn, beans,
cattle, hogs. That’s — those crops are
kinda stable and predictable and apples are
much more variable, weather dependent,
temperature dependent. Just appears there’s
a lot more variations. This year started out
kind of a little slow and a little late. The spring wasn’t
really early. It was late due
to the cool weather. And then we’ve
had wet weather, and that’s made
the crop, uh, difficult to take
care of and maintain and difficult for the
trees to get taken care of because of the
wet weather and the
fungicides. We’ve had a big
pressure of fungus because of the constant,
constant, constant wetness. Um, that same wetness
has made it tough to just be out in the
orchard takin’ care of it. (Strauss)
Most orchards have
a store like this, but it’s not a typical
retail experience. Charles Bell brought
two of his grandsons, Christian and Collin. (Bell)
We just live
up there. We came in on
a four-wheeler. We’re down
here a lot. [laughing] (Strauss)
It’s a neat place. Talk about that
a little bit. (Bell)
Yeah. We, uh, have
lived on — where we
are now for almost
40 years. And so the orchard
has been a big part of our
growing up because the kids have
all been comin’ down here from the time
that they were, uh, very young themselves. Our kids grew
up here. Now these kids are
growing up here. So it’s just part
of the tradition of who we are in this
part of the county. (Strauss)
Wayne and his
wife Samantha met at Purdue and
ran a small farm after they
were married. (Samantha Jacobs)
We farmed a little…
not a lot. And he saw where
this was for sale, and we got to
lookin’ at it and thought, well,
it was a good way
to diversify. (Strauss)
Agri-tourism was just
starting back then. (Samantha Jacobs)
Okay, let’s give
her a whirl. You know, I never thought
I’d own an orchard. I mean, I
like ag. I mean, I grew
up in it. Have an animal
science degree, and that’s — I mean, agriculture
is my passion, but not — I didn’t think
I’d have an orchard. (Strauss)
Every job has something
about it that we love. What’s a good day look
like at the orchard? (Samantha Jacobs)
Well, a fun day is when
I have a lotta people here and they’re lined up all
the way to State Road 36, and I have a lot of money
at the end of the day. [laughing] (Strauss)
Finally, that sense
of community that’s part of life
in so many places. Think of the small towns where
everybody knows everybody… where a youth baseball
team’s success turns into a parade
down Main Street. [sirens] (woman)
And a golf cart
brings up the rear. [laughing] (Strauss)
This small town is Fairmount
in Grant County. And there’s something different
here in recent years… something you can
see in small towns seemingly all over
the place… the people who have golf carts
and drive them on the streets. In Fairmount,
everywhere we looked, folks were riding around
town in golf carts… in the city park… in neighborhoods… up and down
Main Street. This goes back
a ways. A state law passed in
2009 allowed golf carts on local streets as long
as the cities or towns pass an ordinance
to allow them. Some places
allow them. Many don’t. In Fairmount, we ran
into Heather Reno when she stopped
downtown in her SUV to watch the
baseball parade. We have tons of
golf carts in here. I think everybody
in town has a golf cart. I used to live
in Gaston. And they had– there
was several people that had
golf carts, but I think Fairmount
has more golf carts per capita than any other
small town in Indiana. There’s a bunch. (Strauss)
Do people
like ’em? (Reno)
Love ’em. That’s — as soon as
the weather breaks, you see ’em out. Everybody, they
start rolling out. (Strauss)
They ever
annoy people? (Reno)
I don’t know anybody
that gets annoyed by ’em because most of
’em have ’em. Almost everybody
has one. We’ve got one. (Strauss)
Who drives
the golf carts? Kenny Wood, born
and raised here, now sells
kitchen cabinets, guesses that 600
people in town may have carts. He’s one
of them. Well, uh, sittin’ many
evenings on the porch, watchin’ people go
by on golf carts, and it just seemed
like after six o’clock, um, we were missing
out on all the action, so to speak. So, um, I
don’t know. It was just one
of those things where we say, “Well, maybe
we oughta get a golf cart, you know?” So we did. (Strauss)
In a smaller place where driving
all the way across town to the city park is
just a half-mile ride, carts make sense. (Dixon)
You don’t have to get in
your car all the time. I mean, walkin’
is great health. Don’t get me wrong. But, you know, you can
hop in your golf cart and either go uptown,
go to the park, um, go get
some ice cream, you know, whatever
you may want to do. And you don’t have
to get the vehicle out to do it. Kinda like a moped,
GoPed type of thing. (Strauss)
The carts are slower, which you might think
would irritate other drivers. Kenny says most
of the cart drivers he’s seen try
to be polite. They have to have
taillights, headlights, mirror, reflective
triangle, insurance, a $15 annual
city permit, and maybe a small-town
sense of neighborliness. (Dixon)
About six o’clock
in the evening, probably right
after dinner, everybody hops. It just seems like everybody
hops on their golf cart and takes a spin. You know, see what everybody
else is doin’, I reckon. The neighborly nibs,
I reckon. But I mean, it’s just a good
way to get around town to see some
of the things. (Strauss)
A basic cart can
cost $2500. Go for the extras and
you could spend $10,000. The value of
friendships: priceless. (Dixon)
Well, it’s a
small town… kinda come back
to your roots, type of thing. People know you,
you know? It makes you feel a
little bit more comfortable about things when you know
who you’re dealing with and who they are
as well, you know? So roots and families go
quite a distance in Fairmount. (Strauss)
The neighbors you
could run into would be retired GM
worker Gordon Hoheimer and his wife Roberta who
bought their golf cart when everybody else
seemed to be getting them. Usually it’s just
right around Fairmount in the evenings, you
know, when it’s nice, and, uh, the
sun’s goin’ down. Then we ride out
to the old high school ever so often to see how much
of that’s left out there. (Strauss)
Sixty years after
James Dean’s death, he’s still remembered
fondly here. Gordon knew the
future movie star when they were
both in school. (Hoheimer)
We played football
at noon hour. You know,
and go out, and James Dean
didn’t play with us, but just one day
he come out, and he was
on my team. And he looked
at me and he said, “Can you catch
a football?” And I said,
“Yeah.” So he was a quarterback,
naturally, senior. He threw the ball
and I dropped it. (Strauss)
The seasons
may change… leaves may fall… but the carefree
spirit of summer doesn’t have to change
just because the calendar does. It helps to have the
right frame of mind. [laughing] That was my claim to
fame with James Dean. [laughing] (Strauss)
That’s our
show for today. Thanks for being
part of it with us. Hope you’ll join
us next time as we find more stories
off the beaten path from across the state
on “Indiana Weekend.”

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