Sunday, July 06, 2003

Hebron Crossroads 7-13-03
By Jeff Gill

If you had a seat on the shady side of Main Street, looking across at the sunlight striking the rough, weathered face of the Hebron Mill, you saw the best backdrop imaginable for the entry of the “Path To Statehood” wagon train into town.
Hebron Village did a wonderful job with a welcoming banner and a straw bale softened platform, Brezina Design & Construction had a laden board covered with food for the wagoneers (since they hadn’t eaten a bite for 2.6 miles, after all), and the Hebron Crossroads turned out.
Driving back from the high school early that morning towards town, there were vans and cars and pickups already angled along US 40, waiting to catch a good view of the 14 mule drawn prairie schooners (carts, really, most of them were, and more authentic for all that I was assured).
Once inside the village limits, from the cemetery to the municipal building there were lawn chair clusters and clumps of standing viewers shading their eyes to the east, watching for the first sign that “they were coming.”
Our Hebron Police stood ready to block off US 40 for the program, routing cars briefly to the south; Lt. Brooks and his crew was out in force, but smiling as much as any of the crowd. Fire Chief Weekly walked over from the station to check the coffee for the wagon train, both he and I pronounced it “good and strong” while some just said “strong” and accused me of making it, or at least of scooping the grounds. Not true!
Carlos Brezina was proudly looking over the gathered crowd, all admiring the work his crews had done on the restored mill (in the official bicentennial brochure, a typo labeled the Hebron stop “Resort Mill,” which produces a number of wild ideas: bed and breakfast, hotel, hot tub party barn. Carlos seems happy with it the way it is, though).
Suddenly the flashing lights heralded the coming of the first wagons down the National Road, and all eyes went to the east. As they pulled up behind Russ, the head wrangler on his horse (and did you see his assistant, SpongeBob Cowboypants? He had the yellow neckerchief. . .), they quickly formed a double line in front of the mill, where the wood above and the leather and brass below made for a visual harmony of history remade.
On one of the first wagons was our mayor and his boss, Clifford and Rose Mason, in full authentic regalia. They had camped out with the group at Lakewood the night before, enjoyed the breakfast from Jacksontown United Methodist’s good folks, and were riding aboard all day.
Disembarking, our village was greeting the riders and wranglers with bursts of applause and offers of cookies, and obviously both were welcome. Overheard was one person asking Bill Ours how he’d go about towing one of these vehicles, but he either was looking very thoughtfully at the problem or didn’t hear the question.
After a bit of the usual milling around, with a background of traditional music on the sound system (thanks Mike, Linda, and Tonya!), the dignitaries stepped up to the microphones and gave us a brief program, highlighted by the very clever proclamation from our mayor and council.
You have to know that the folks on this wagon train have heard, and will yet hear, more “Proclamations” than you can shake a 200 year old stick at. The one they heard in Hebron will likely be the most unique one and enjoyable to hear of their entire trip.
The words were crafted in a 19th century manner, enjoining the citizens of our fair village to offer every courtesy and assistance to these venturers, allowing the use of our watering troughs and hitching posts as they pass through, and wishing them well as they follow the path many before them have ridden through Hebron to points west.
It went on in a flowery and fictitious vein for some time, but the wagon train folks, connoisseurs at this sort of thing by now, leaned in to hear it all the way through.
Then the passengers and crew, after a brief response with one eye looking on down the trail, clambered back on board and they rolled forward to the cheers of the crowd.
Heading out of the village were yet more delighted onlookers and clusters of video camera wielding wagon fans. Kathryn Lockwood’s daughter Pat had a friend from her Columbus church walking with the wagon train, so they brought a special cheering section to set up in front of Hebron Christian, and front porches all the way down Main Street were jammed.
And as the sun rose higher, you could see the one understandable anachronism the wagon train participants indulged themselves in: almost every horseback riders and most of the teamsters on the wagons had day-glo bright water pistols, and they merrily squirted one another and passers-by while riding along.
You could tell their spirits would keep them going all the way to New Paris and the Indiana line on the 14th as we waved them goodbye, steadily dwindling up Sunset Hill and leaving us to the west.
Unless, of course, you dashed around them to get ahead and repeat the process all over again later that day; and many did!
We’ll long remember the 200th birthday of our state here at the Hebron Crossroads.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and just smart enough not to wear authentic wool and heavy linen on a midsummer’s day; if you were brave enough to wear the real deal and join the wagon train, and want to share your story, e-mail or call 928-4066. The responses may be a bit slow because you columnist is off to church camp, so it’s filler for a couple weeks, but we hope good filler, like Twinkies.