A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton-Porter) by Ray Boomhower – Selection 5 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♥Eight♥ of Hearts. (Picture at left found at worthpoint.com.)

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “stories” from books I picked up at the 2019 Holiday Author Fair a the Indiana History Center. This week’s selection is by one of the authors I talked to at the fair.

The Author: Ray Boomhower – the second time in three weeks one of his cards has turned up! A prolific author of books about all things Indiana, particularly history and biographies. I’ve read several of his books in the past, including biographies of Gus Grissom, General Lew Wallace, and Ernie Pyle.

The Story: “A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter)” from the volume “Indiana Originals” – short non-fiction pieces about famous Hoosiers. For Deal Me In 2020, I included four selections from this book that featured notable Hoosier women. (Two weeks ago I learned about May Wright Sewall.)

BUT…what is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020. 

A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter)

“When I am gone, I hope my family will bury me out in the open, and plant a tree on my grave. I do not want a monument. A refuge for a bird nest is all the marker I need.”

Even the most voracious of readers, I’m sure, still have certain works or authors that they’re embarrassed to admit they’d never read. This embarrassment is felt even more often by mere “avid” readers like myself. Being an Indiana native, I’ve heard about Gene Stratton Porter throughout my life, and have purchased the book that the title (“A Girl of the Limberlost”) of this essay refers to, but I still haven’t read it. As Gomer Pyle would say, “Shame, Shame, Shame!” Maybe Deal Me In 2020 will be just the kick in the pants I needed to finally read her work.

The Limberlost Swamp originally encompassed a vast stretch of land in Indiana’s Adams and Jay (not named after me!) Counties. I learned from this reading that the swamp got its name from “Limber Jim” Corbus, who “…went hunting in the swamp and became lost for some time. When local residents asked where Jim Corbus had gone, the familiar answer was “Limber’s Lost!” The wetlands that comprised the swap drained into the mighty Wabash river, that flows southwest from eastern Indiana, later enjoying the status of the state’s western border until it joins the even mightier Ohio at the extreme southwest tip of my state. These wetlands supported a great biodiversity which, from an very early time in her life, fascinated Porter and led to a lifelong love of nature and to writing brilliantly about that love, selling millions of books over her lifetime.

Later in life she also wrote articles for McCall’s (a monthly column called the “Gene Stratton-Porter’s Page”), and Good Housekeeping (“Tales You Won’t Believe.”) It would be a fun rainy day project for me to look up some of these old works. One example appears below, with Gene Stratton Porter on the right. She also realized a dream of founding a motion picture company that created film versions of some of her novels.

♫♫ Personal Notes: My grandparents on my Mom’s side of the family lived at the edge of ‘wilderness’ land in the mountains of West Virginia, and our frequent trips there while I was growing up instilled in me a love of the natural world, further nurtured by my Granddad, who was quite a keen observer of all things found in those mountains. Reading about Porter in the book and also in some of the ‘research’ I did preceding writing this post made me feel like she and I would have gotten along just fine. 🙂

What about YOU? Have you read any of Stratton-Porter’s work? Have you visited the Limberlost Swamp (or at least its remnants) in Eastern Indiana. Should I take a road trip up there this Spring?

Up next in Deal Me In 2020: it’s back to fiction with “Kiss Me Again, Stranger” by Daphne Du Maurier!

(Yeah, but does she have an historic marker?  Of course she does!)