Hoosiers, Hoosiers Everywhere

Week of April 9, 2003

Apr 9, 2003 at 4:00 am
Hoosiers, Hoosiers Everywhere
The hoosiering of America: Just read your "hoosier" article and enjoyed it very much [Mike Seely, "Hoosiers," March 26]. I contemplated writing such an article a few years ago, but yours is much better than I could ever have managed. You clearly took the trouble to talk to many people, assembling many opinions, and the results are excellent.

I agree completely that "there's a little bit of hoosier in all of us." An interesting comment on this fact was made by the critic Roger Shattuck a number of years ago, in a review of a book on the American South by V.S. Naipaul. In this review, Shattuck referred to a "reddening of America" -- an obvious play on the title of a possibly long-forgotten, for the most part preposterous book from back in the '60s entitled The Greening of America. That greening never happened, but a reddening is in fact happening all around us.

Each year, in my opinion, popular culture becomes more and more infused with values which are in at least some part redneck or, as we in the St. Louis area say, hoosier values. And insofar as we are influenced by popular culture, which we of course cannot help but be, we become more and more "reddened," which is to say more hoosierish all the time. We may not like it, but this is our future.
Keith Spoeneman
via the Internet

Seely unfair to Granite Citians: Thanks to Mike Seely for helping to reinforce the negative stereotype of Granite City and its residents. Along with "dirty" and "stinking," we can also apparently add "hoosier-ridden."

Although the article says, "There's a little bit of hoosier in all of us," there is no doubt that the hoosier part is a definite negative. As for why there were several dozen patrons at Hooch and Sixteen's at four o'clock in the afternoon while "most of the St. Louis adult population" was at work, could it be that some of them just got off the day shift at the local steel mill? As for Rosco Villa, you could have chosen to identify him as an "Edwardsville native" instead of "Granite City hoosier," or just plain "hoosier."

Your article was interesting in explaining the use of the term in the St. Louis area, but you did a serious disservice to the Granite City and Soulard communities in the process.
Patricia Goclan
Granite City, Illinois

Seely nearly makes reader cry: I had the most terrible week last week, and Mike Seely's article almost had me crying, I was laughing so hard. Not to mention the fact that now I know for sure that I am, in fact, a hoosier too! Thank you so much for bringing something funny and lighthearted to the table in such a drab and depressing time.
Liz Wolfe
via the Internet

Widening the hoosier net: I found "Hoosiers" quite interesting. However, I disagree with your statement that "hoosier," as a derogatory term, is limited to a tight radius around St. Louis.

I grew up in Murray, Kentucky, and I knew the derogatory meaning of "hoosier" long before I moved to St. Louis. For us, a hoosier was equivalent to a redneck. I have Kentucky friends who live in Louisville and who won't move across the river into Indiana (where land is cheaper) because they don't want to live among the "hoosiers." And they use the term not politely.

Maybe "hoosier" is more of a Midwest term than you think it is.
Krystel Mowery
via the Internet

Laurie is a hoosier: Your article about hoosiers was very entertaining and hilarious! And very true! I have lived here all my life, and I am beginning to think that the majority of people here are "hoosiers" -- but I guess I could be classified as one as well sometimes, because after a night of drinking, White Castle doesn't sound bad!
Laurie Mason
via the Internet

Jim's probably a hoosier, too: In Mike Seely's article, I didn't find a reference to the quintessential hoosier icon: the person wearing a KSHE shirt with the pig smoking a joint, maybe with a pack of Marlboros rolled up in the sleeve.
Jim Moody
via the Internet

Ashley? An out-of-town hoosier: Your hoosier article was hilarious and ironically timed. I am a freshman at Fontbonne University and was quickly introduced to the local usage of the word "hoosier" upon moving to St. Louis from my native Columbia, Missouri. Being that the majority of my classmates have grown up locally, they have also grown up using the word in excess. It wasn't long until I was filling in my friends back home on the local meaning of "hoosier" and how it is rarely left out of a sentence. The funny thing is that when I tell my new St. Louis friends that people everywhere don't use the term with the same definition, they are absolutely stunned. It is beyond them that everyone doesn't use "hoosier" regularly. Perhaps this astonishment is another hoosier characteristic -- the lack of acknowledgment of people and places outside of St. Louis.

The word has snuck into my vocabulary. Maybe it is an unconscious effort on my part to fit in with the locals, seeing as how all the locals have the word permanently embedded in most descriptive sentences.
Ashley Hayes
via the Internet

Hoosier cover scars child for life: This evening, while leaving Houlihan's in Crestwood, my six-year-old son glanced over at your newsstand and saw the horrible image on your cover giving the finger. It is a shame that that is the best you could do for a cover photo.
Kathleen Ewing
via the Internet

Finger feud, continued: I just want to tell you I found the cover of your March 26 issue very offensive. I was in a public business, and my kids were with me. To be exact, they pointed it out to me. Apparently it wasn't good enough to have the same pic inside the paper. You had to put it on the cover as well.

I guess there is no shame where some are concerned! I will be surprised if you print this, as it is probably too conservative for your taste.
Glenn Harris
via the Internet

Finger feud (the conclusion): Each week I pick up a free copy of your so-called newspaper while I am awaiting my car wash. I do this to keep in touch with my kids' generation, although they have outgrown you. Anyway, by page ten, I can usually be sure that what I have read has raised my blood pressure significantly. I then flip to the restaurant review, and then it's to the trash, where it belongs.

I applaud you on your new poster child for the RFT, he who graces the "Hoosiers" cover. Perhaps the RFT should try to get him incorporated into your logo, as he perfectly typifies the spirit of your publication and he hits your target market. Then we could see him every week, flashing us the bird.

What a perverted view of the world and our city plus its people which the RFT portrays each week. It is consistently disgusting.
Bill Mattson
St. Louis

A reader with far too much time on his hands: Loved the article. I have compiled my "Ten Traits of Being a Hoosier," for your perusal. To be or not to be a hoosier; that is the question:

1. All hoosiers have loose sexual mores. This frequently results in multiple marriages, multiple children, multiple relationships and, occasionally, inbreeding.

2. All hoosiers either smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol (always off-label, always cheap, usually beer or whiskey). Most do both. This explains their high rate of DUIs, DWIs and license suspensions/revocations.

3. All hoosiers share a penchant for Midwestern rock music of the 1970s and '80s. This explains the popularity of the "mullet" hairstyle amongst hoosier males.

4. All hoosiers possess one or more of the following: body piercings, tattoos, the wearing of multiple rings, tawdry jewelry or keychains that hang from belt loops.

5. All hoosiers are poor, and cheap. This explains the high percentage who share homes or apartments or live in trailers, vans, on the streets or in dilapidated housing. It also explains their aforementioned preference for the cheapest cigarettes and alcohol available and the lack of tipping at restaurants.

6. All hoosiers have guns, own pickups, drive cars in a state of chronic disrepair (usually illegal and unlicensed) or enjoy NASCAR events with the religious fervor of a Southern Baptist preacher with his own TV show.

7. All hoosiers are limited in formal education. Possessing a degree from an accredited four-year institution automatically disqualifies you from being a hoosier. Just like owning a mullet automatically qualifies you for being a hoosier.

8. All hoosiers have poor oral hygiene. Want to certify that you have spotted a hoosier? Look closely at their smile. It is not uncommon for a hoosier to bathe every day but not brush their teeth for weeks.

9. All hoosiers have the knack for saying and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time and never learning from their mistakes. This explains the frequency of fistfights and police records.

10. At some point in their life, they learn how to do the "hoosier hanky" maneuver. This is accomplished by pushing two fingers against one nostril and blowing the snot onto the ground.
via the Internet

More o' Flora
Balding's blind spots: Jeannette Batz's article on Flora the elephant was heartbreaking ["Wait Elephant," March 26]. It's sad that David Balding, her guardian, won't allow her to go to a situation which would be in her best interests: the animal sanctuary. After years of using her, he plans to send her to another situation where she will be used. But after working so hard for Balding for so many years, she deserves to live a normal elephant life, and this can best be done in a sanctuary setting.

It's interesting to see the mind of an animal user at work, with its accompanying justifications and rationalizations. Balding claims Flora is happy at the zoo, even though she has injured a keeper there. He claims she wants to be a mother, because he is thinking of breeding her (thinking also, no doubt, of the financial gains to such a move). He claims to have her best interests at heart, even though his own clearly come first. He is a walking advertisement for the fact that animals should not be property.
Patricia Panitz
Centerville, Massachusetts

Marc speaks for I-SPEAK ... David Balding should face the facts and stop playing games. Flora, like most circus elephants, should never have been trained to perform. It was detrimental to her natural instincts. There is no perfect place for a performing elephant to be retired to after problems occur. The next-best location is a sanctuary like PAWS, or at least a secure location where she can interact with other elephants. She should not be put into a dangerous setting just so the Discovery Channel can show it on TV.
Marc R. Jurnove, executive director
International Society for the Protection of Exotic Animal Kind and Livestock Inc. (I-SPEAK)
Plainview, New York

... and Eileen chimes in for CRY: I am writing as a mother, public-health educator and president of Circus Reform Yes! I can assure you, after four years of investigating circus abuse, that captive-animal circuses are not fit entertainment for our children.

Elephants, sensitive animals with strong family bonds, are wrenched from their mothers before they are three years old. Most often the mother has to be killed, as she will not give up her baby. Elephant-training methods include chaining both feet and head for 20 hours a day and embedding a sharp-pointed hook into the elephant's most sensitive areas. Elephants travel in cramped, filthy trailers or boxcars from city to city. They eat, sleep, defecate and live their lives outside the ring in chains. All this to perform inane tricks that will leave them arthritic or crippled for life.

Like the freak show, it is time this blatantly cruel, archaic form of "entertainment" was removed from our country.
Eileen Adamec
Minneapolis, Minnesota