Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekly MUSE: Indiana

Photo Credit: Don France
I traveled to my home state of Indiana this past week to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and friends. And while I was there, I was reminded of how unique this small Midwestern state really is.

Hoosiers, we’ve found another MUSE!

What? What is a Hoosier? Oh, that’s what we call people from Indiana. Yep, that means that I, Professor Watermelon, am a Hoosier.

You are probably wondering how to pronounce this funny word. Try saying it this way: “who-zure”.
James Whitcomb Riley, Hoosier Poet

Nobody really knows where this funny word comes from. James Whitcomb Riley, a famous Hoosier poet, said that the word comes from “whose-ear”. Apparently, back in the old days, pioneers were known to get into some hefty fights. After one of those fights, someone found a stray ear on the floor. They shouted, “Whose ear?”

Even if this story is bogus, it is still hear-larious. Okay, enough play-on-words.

Most people know Indiana for the most famous automobile race in the world, The Indianapolis 500. This race has captured a world audience since 1911. In fact, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is the home of the original Indy Car. Take a look at this site to learn more about the history of the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar.

Beyond racing, Indiana also has a rich BASKETBALL heritage. The most famous Hollywood basketball movie features the true story of a small town high school basketball team that, against all odds, wins a state championship. This is an OLD movie, but I bet it would still make a great movie night for you and your family. Here is the movie trailer. Take a look. If you like what you see, ask your parents to rent the movie or buy it from Amazon. Here is the Amazon link.

And if we are talking about Indiana Basketball, we cannot forget the 1955 Crispus Attucks High School team. Sadly, Indiana has had some learning to do when it comes to equality between white and black people. And during the 1950’s Indianapolis school kids were still being segregated. (White kids and black kids were forced to go to separate schools.)

Photo Credit: IPS Crispis Attucks Museum
Crispus Attucks High School was an all-black high school. And in 1955, their basketball team made it all the way to the state championships. AND THEY WON!!!  This was the first time an all-black high school basketball team had ever won a state championship in the WHOLE country.  

Today, Indiana basketball is still going strong. Take a look at Indiana’s NBA team, the Indiana Pacers, and the WNBA team, the Indiana Fever.

Indianapolis Children's Museum
Indiana is also the home of the world’s largest children’s museum.  With over 110,000 artifacts and 400 employees, this museum provides over 4,000 programs and activities each year. My favorite exhibit is The Power of Children: Making a Difference. This exhibit features the stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. Take a look at this page to learn about these extraordinary children.

On a fun and whimsical note, Indiana is home to Garfield and Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis. You know who I’m talking about – the famous persnickety orange cartoon cat? In 1978, Jim Davis’ Garfield comic strip was published in 41 newspapers across the country. One year later, he more than doubled that to 100. Today, Garfield has been featured in comic strips, cartoons, and movies. If you would like to learn more about Garfield and Friends check out this really cool website!

Did you know that the world famous pop star Michael Jackson was also born in Indiana. Yep. Michael Jackson’s birthplace is Gary, Indiana. Other famous people from Indiana include: David Letterman, Larry Bird…. And PROFESSOR WATERMELON! Well, not quite famous…..yet.

So, I have shared some people, places and events with you, but what else comes from Indiana?

The Empire State Building
Did you know that the Empire State Building in New York City is made from Indiana limestone? More than 200,000 cubic feet of limestone was dug from the Indiana ground to fill a train more than 400 flatcars long. WOW!

Indiana farmers also grow one of the largest supplies of popcorn in the United States. Field corn, soybeans, and wheat are also grown in Indiana. Livestock such as cows, pigs, and chickens, are also raised on Indiana farms.

And since we are talking about agriculture, I must inform you that the legend of Johnny Appleseed also ends in Indiana. This famous apple tree planter is buried near Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Well, I could go on and on about my FAVORITE state, but it looks like I have babbled enough. If you want to know more about Indiana, just ask me. My brain is overflowing with HOOSIER knowledge. Speaking of…

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these WHAT IF questions will help you get started.

WHAT IF your main character was lost inside the Indianapolis Children’s Museum overnight?

WHAT IF your main character met one of the men from the Crispus Attucks Tigers Basketball Team of 1955?

WHAT IF your main character was the first kid to win the Indianapolis 500?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “agriculture”. Here is the definition: the production of crops, livestock and/or poultry.


  1. What if Indiana was a city of boats?

    By Ethan Bell

  2. What if Indiana was made out of ornaments?

    By Celeste Bell