What a perfectly beautiful second day of fall in Hoosierland. I've been on the run lately (when am I not, you may ask) with work assignments, working on new material for a program about writing devotions, and well, you know, life! This is a reprint from the New Castle Courier-Times about a special section on family food. Today, we're running a special section on family fun. Happy fall everyone!
SULPHUR SPRINGS — Iron Kettle Owner Melinda Grounds knows her customers.
On a Thursday morning she greets a regular, telling him that if he hadn't arrived in the restaurant by 11, she'd be calling to check on him. She knows that another customer is having a birthday over the weekend and privately shares with the visiting reporter that a surprise party — hosted by the diner — in the works. When still another customer calls in a to-go order, Melinda confirms the specifics of his standard order by heart.
It's all pretty much a typical morning in the life of the outgoing business owner who treats, and thinks of, her customers as friends.
"I just like the people, the community," says Grounds of why she does what she does. "That makes a big difference."
A Kennard native and Knightstown High School graduate, Grounds worked at the New Castle Kroger for 12 years, then purchased the restaurant from her aunt, Lida Sullivan at the start of 1992. The restaurant has been a staple in town for approaching six decades. The current owner says when she saw the Iron Kettle as "a good business and you sure don't want to see it go down. It keeps the town going."
Grounds and husband Ron live nearby. Their son Zach lives in Pendleton. Grandchildren are Ziranda, 10, and Boone, 7 months.
Grounds has good things to say about her employees. Tammy Fowler has been a cook and server at Iron Kettle for 20 years, opening up the restaurant at 5:30 a.m. each morning. "She does it all," Grounds says. "She can walk and talk and cook at the same time."
Fowler says of her job, "I just like the people and I guess you can put I really like my boss too."
Employee Dawn Bolden has been at the restaurant for seven years and describes her role as doing "a little bit of everything."
She says of working there, "Everybody feels like family. It's always fun to come to work. Never a dull day."
Lyndsey Doyle has been working in the popular restaurant for a few months and says the business has "great people and great customers. There's never a dull day here. Always lots of conversation."
Jim Hedges is one of many regulars. He lives north of town and is a retired Muncie South High School principal. His favorite dishes are Swiss steak, meatloaf and ribs. Along with the food, his favorite thing about the restaurant are the people.
Topper Painter, a retired farmer, says of the Iron Kettle, "It's just a good country restaurant. (I) come up here every day for lunch. Eat with my buddy here," he says, referring to Hedges.
Grounds said that the restaurant has regulars for each of the three meals a day it serves. Not only do regulars come in to dine, but there are to-go orders on a daily basis that can include farmers or say the Duke plant nearby that might call in a dozen or more orders to go.
Some of the meals the restaurant is known for include Monday's ham and beans day; meatloaf on Wednesdays and hand-breaded grouper fried or grilled on Thursdays and Fridays. On Fridays expect fried chicken and every day, there are homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. Grounds is proud of the homemade Ranch dressing.
And of course, there's plenty of other things on the menu.
But one thing is for sure, according to Grounds, "We don't have anything that's sugar-free or diet."
The restaurant also hosts clubs or groups that want to meet in the private dining room. There's no charge for the meeting space as long as folks order food.
Iron Kettle is located at 103 Meridian St., Sulphur Springs. Hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Says Grounds, "Believe me if something's going on they call here. They call here for everything."
The following article appeared in a special section Sunday in The Courier-Times under the theme Cultivating Henry County: Family Farms. Any time I can mix it up with some llamas, it's a good day.
by Donna Cronk
For years, Allen and Sue Davis and their daughter, Lindsay (now Lindsay Brown), raised sheep on their rural New Castle property, west of Cadiz. After Lindsay's tenth year showing 4-H sheep, she and her mom were at the Indiana State Fair and watched a llama exhibition. But they did something more than merely watch.
"We bought two llamas," recalls Sue of their quick decision that day.
The two geldings, Prince and Romeo, were the start of a new era for the family, that of raising and showing llamas all over the country as well as Allen becoming a show judge with the Alpaca and Llama Show Association.
"It just kept growing," Sue says of their interest in these animals that has spanned almost 25 years. "We've met lots of nice people from all over the U.S. and Canada."
At one time they also bred and sold the animals but now maintain their herd for their own family's enjoyment.
There are two classes of showing llamas: performance and halter. The Davises work in the halter class.
When judging llamas, Allen says, "You're basically looking at the confirmation of the animal structure. You watch their walk, squareness of front legs and rear legs, walk, top line, sqareness of their rump, length of neck."
Historically, llamas were used for packing / utility animals in South America where they were better than horses or mules for that purpose. They are also guard animals by nature. Interestingly enough, Sue says that Noblesville has the largest 4-H llama youth association in the nation with an average of 100 4-Hers participating.
Lindsay says they are used on farms within herds to protect the other animals. If they become aware of danger, they sound a special "alarm" call to alert the others. A herd of llamas will surround its own young ones to protect them from predators. And when llamas are content, they hum.
Says Allen, "They're like a dog. A lot of it is in the breeding."
Other attributes of the creatures are that they are people-pleasers, very clean and can even be potty trained.
The Davis farm, called Rose Cottage Llamas, is home to the one-time national grand champion wool male llama, a Bolivian llama named Conductor. The family says he won every show he was in for three years. He also served as national reserve champion during his prime. He is deceased now but a large, framed picture of him is featured on a wall. Llamas can live into their 20s.
Allen says of llamas, "When you are around them, they have a calmness to them that makes your mind and your body calm." He says they are quick learners.
Says Sue, "I like to watch their gracefulness. They're nice to each other."
Adds Lindsay, "They always remember you by your scent."
Lindsay says of the animals, "They all have their own personality. There's always one female in charge." Lindsay and her children, Luke and Layla, were on hand to talk about the llamas on the day The Courier-Times visited. The Browns make their home in Hagerstown.
Right now the rural New Castle family has a herd of 10 females and three males.
Allen owned AJ Pools in Anderson for 40 years. He's now retired. Sue, who is a high school special education teacher at Shenandoah, says she misses showing the animals. However, with two young grandchildren, who knows? Rose Cottage llamas may again be back in show rings once again.
This past weekend in central and east-central Indiana has been rainy with if not exactly a chill in the air, the kind of air where a sweatshirt feels good. I'll come around to fall, as I always do. But for now, I want to relish the end of summer.
Since schools open in early August now, the pool has been closed for weeks, the season's trip to Cordry Lake a memory, and the 4-H and Mooreland fairs in the books for 2018. Tonight, Bible Study Fellowship resumes in Middletown, a sure sign that a new season is approaching.
I don't want to close out summer without a thank you to folks I don't know and don't even see, but they provide so much: those flowers and vegetables placed at the edge of roads throughout our state. They leave glass jars and even cash boxes encouraging passersby to use the honor system of paying for the produce.
There's something humbly refreshing about this kind of random trust. And apparently it works because these stands are there daily for folks to pick up luscious red tomatoes to slice and top off our burgers and flowers to arrange in Ball jars for the center of our kitchen tables.
One site has a scales and a cash box. One day I didn't have the right change but decided to leave a tip. The extra coin wasn't for the merch -- although it could have been -- rather, it was a tip for the stand owner's faith in humanity.
At a flower stand though, I picked up two beautiful $5 bunches. I only had a twenty so I delved into the glass jar for a ten and went happily on my way.
In a few weeks I'll see some pumpkins along the road and stop and pick up a few. I'll dig out my best fall wreath for the front door and fill my wooden bowl with gourds. Brian has already mentioned Halloween candy.
But for now, at least until the calendar tells me I'm out of season, I'll enjoy the last of summer's in-season goodness, its bounty, its harvest. Summer remains for a few more days. I'm not rushing it away.
The following column ran today in The Courier-Times.
by Donna Cronk
Here’s what I know: When working with the public, you will likely hear complaints more often than you do compliments.
Here’s what I know as a member of that same public: I am no different. I will speak up when the product I ordered is inferior and needs to go back, or tell my husband or friend when there’s something that bugs me about mankind – or about the state of Indiana roads.
Recently I waited in line to check out groceries. The line was long but I had used this cashier before and knew she was worth the wait. She’s a talker, yes, but words don’t slow her in the least. Once I overheard her say that she has customers who time their shopping with her working schedule so they can use her line. She is proud of this; proud of doing her work well.
One day I overheard her talking about a brother who had been promoted as a heating-and-cooling professional. It was a hot day, and that’s how the topic came up. She told the customer ahead of me that he was good at what he did, and as a result, in high demand. He had an offer to change jobs but his employer asked him what it would take to keep him. He landed a raise and a promotion.
When it was my turn to check out, I watched this woman work. She not only rang up my items quickly, but skillfully loaded them into my cloth bags, making sure they were not too heavy, yet full. Her work was equal parts experience, talent and caring about doing her job right. I complimented her on her expertise.
“I want to be the best,” she said of her work. “I look at it as a puzzle.”
The dried-goods boxes were arranged almost as art. The colds placed together, the canned goods dispersed just right, the breads fluffy, the eggs unbroken.
I wanted to get home and put everything away, but first, a detour to the service desk. I wanted to compliment this clerk on her service in an official way, and let her employer know how much I appreciated her bright outlook, work ethic, speed and skill.
The clerk there was happy to give me a form to fill out and I was happy to complete it. From there, I have no idea what happened, but something good, I hope. Maybe it was a supervisor’s compliment, or a kind word from the store manager letting the line clerk know she had been caught in the act of doing something well.
I would like to meet the mama of my cashier and her brother. I’d say she did a good deal right in raising them.
Several years ago I had an above-and-beyond experience at the bank drive-thru window. I had turned off the engine and when I went to start my van, nothing happened. The female teller told me to hold on, that she had jumper cables in her vehicle. Out she came, pulling her truck around to my van – and jumped it! Soon I was on my way, destined for a new battery.
I called the bank’s main office to report this amazing teller’s work in saving the day, not to mention saving me a service or even towing bill.
Sometime later another bank employee told me that because of my call, the teller I reported was given special recognition and a meal out for her effort. That made me happy.
Today I challenge you to catch someone doing something right. And report them for it!
We’re each a member of the public. So it’s on us to help make our corner of the world a better place to live, work and be a human being. And wouldn’t it be nice to make someone’s day in the process?
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor at The Courier-Times. She also edits the quarterly her magazine for women.