Constable: The sounds of cellphone silence and cicadas

  • When vacation begins in rural Indiana, cellphones are chirping. By the end, technology is ignored, and cicadas such as this one provide the background to all our conversations.

    When vacation begins in rural Indiana, cellphones are chirping. By the end, technology is ignored, and cicadas such as this one provide the background to all our conversations. Daily Herald file photo

  • Built near the end of the 19th century, the Fountain Park Hotel in Remington, Indiana, still anchors the Fountain Park Chautauqua, an institution that advertises itself as dedicated to preserving religion, education, culture, family values and fellowship.

    Built near the end of the 19th century, the Fountain Park Hotel in Remington, Indiana, still anchors the Fountain Park Chautauqua, an institution that advertises itself as dedicated to preserving religion, education, culture, family values and fellowship. Courtesy of Fountain Park

  • Although it operates only two weeks of the year and disappears this Sunday until next July, the Fountain Park Chautauqua in Indiana provides a tranquil escape from modern life.

    Although it operates only two weeks of the year and disappears this Sunday until next July, the Fountain Park Chautauqua in Indiana provides a tranquil escape from modern life. Courtesy of Fountain Park

 
 
Posted7/31/2018 5:36 AM

On the first day of vacation, the chirping comes from cellphones.

"I'm PTO," says a salesman friend, who shuts off the ringer on his noisy phone as part of his vow to enjoy his Personal Time Off.

 

"I haven't answered an email since 3:30 yesterday afternoon," says a woman whose admission sounds more like a boast than a confession.

"I'll deal with that next Monday," I say, glancing at emails before silencing my phone.

And so begins our annual family pilgrimage to Fountain Park Chautauqua outside Remington, Indiana, with the familiar collection of friends and loved ones. The desire to escape from the noise, news and trappings of the modern world trumps everything, making it tricky to keep track of the Chicago Cubs in our rustic family cabin with no television or radio.

"What's the score now?" asks my 91-year-old mom during a lull in the conversation with friends on the porch swing. The Cubs were down 6-1 on her car radio during her drive to the cabin. With the signal-strength indicator on my phone showing just a couple of bars, the best I can do is call up the sparse description of the gameday action.

"The Cubs are behind 6-4 in the 9th inning, but they have a runner on base," I tell Mom. Then a little blue dot pops up on my screen next to the words "Run/runs." Our excitement grows as we wait and wait for the phone to fill us in. It's almost as if we are watching a baseball soar toward the bleachers in left-center field. Waiting. Waiting.

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"David Bote just hit a game-tying home run," I blurt out as soon as my phone updates. Before Mom can respond, my phone's screen updates again to let us know that Anthony Rizzo just hit a game-winning, walk-off homer. A friend, watching the game at home, texts "Wow!"

We didn't see a thing. We didn't hear Pat Hughes' description on the radio, or Len Kasper's TV call. But even without video or sound, that ending is memorable.

That's about as newsy as we get during this vacation when people give thanks for the chance to escape the daily onslaught of stories of violence, politics, scandals, secret tapes and natural disasters. I don't ascribe to that "ignorance is bliss" philosophy, but a few days of ignorance proves rejuvenating.

Cellphones fall silent, and the only chirping comes from the chorus of relentless cicadas. The only tweets are from the melodious brown thrashers that find homes in century-old oaks and black walnut trees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The local newspapers feature front-page photographs of county fair queens, which reminds us that one of the visitors to our always-busy porch wore the Jasper County sash nearly a half-century earlier. Of course, sisters Sally and Nancy and I all know the story of how Mom lost the Fountain Park Queen title in a coin flip more than a quarter-century before that.

The past can be comforting. We follow my late dad's recipe for Willy's popcorn and gorge on bowl after bowl. We tell stories about those spooky times when my late brother, Bill, took kids to Moody Road to see if the ghost of Old Man Moody would appear with his lantern. My wife and I reminisce about the time our sons, Ross, Ben and Will, and a van-load of cousins and friends got stuck in the ditch during one of their many late-night Moody Road pilgrimages.

The receipt for that 2 a.m. tow paid by those kids still is displayed on our old refrigerator.

The newspaper I spend most of my time reading comes from an old friend who found a 1918 copy of the Chicago Daily Drovers Journal, which includes stories about raising pigs and curing lethargic chickens, as well as news that the hundreds of local bars and taverns were shutting down two years before the federal government would create the constitutional prohibition of alcohol. Avoiding the news of today wraps us in a comforting quilt of tranquillity. That gets tugged away only at the card table during our frequent euchre games. That's the only place where folks can't avoid saying "trump."

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