Ryan Blackwell

I moved to Greencastle when I started my undergraduate studies at DePauw University—I was eighteen years old. It was the first time I moved from Columbus Indiana—about an hour and fifteen minutes south east of Greencastle. I graduated in 2009, and am currently working as an intern for the DPU art department. I’m renting my first place in Greencastle—two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room and a dining room. I share the space and rent with a roommate. The basement is unfinished and wet. My landlord told me to keep things on pallets if I choose to put anything downstairs. There is a coal shoot accessible from my gravel driveway that leads to a room in the basement. The driveway is below grade—the yard is below grade for that matter. The interior walls are freshly painted. My roommate and I try to mop the floors every Saturday, but that doesn’t necessarily happen. We have a front and back porch, with a fenced in back yard. The south side of the house falls noticeably—enough so my butter in my frying pan pools to one side. We have gas heat, and no air conditioning—no washer or dryer, no dishwasher, no garbage disposal. From the pictures, I thought the kitchen had blue tile with painted chili peppers on the wall. It turned out the tile was wallpaper. The place is perfect for us.

The city poured a new sidewalk outside my rented house a few months ago. It sits three inches above my gravel driveway. When it snowed, I had to put my truck in four-wheel drive to back over the new sidewalk in front of my driveway. The sidewalk is nice. The city workers did a nice job troweling it smooth. The city has been revamping a number of sidewalks around town.

I hear more about how Greencastle is—as opposed to reading about or experiencing the place. Some of what I hear I can relate to—but it seems more of it is a retelling of what someone else told someone else.

DePauw students complain there is nothing to do in town—maybe there isn’t in comparison to New York City, or Bloomington down US 231 for that matter—but this isn’t necessarily the case. There is live music. There is beautiful nature—DePauw’s Nature Park, Fern Cliffs, and Cataract Falls are a few nearby outdoor destinations. There is a wealth of interesting people to meet, many who are more than willing to have you over for a cup of coffee and a conversation. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer your time at the primary schools or the humane society. There is a town movie theatre that costs a few dollars to attend. There are two local art galleries, and few more galleries on DePauw’s campus. There is a skate park, and a city park. There is a big cat sanctuary up north, and a beautiful greenhouse down south. There are a number of places to get pierced and tattooed, and even more places to eat fast food.

People say there is nothing to eat in Greencastle. I’m tempted to agree for the most part, but this isn’t necessarily true. There is a local butcher in Cloverdale, eight miles south on US 231. There are numbers of farmers selling local meat, eggs, and vegetables—you can even buy raw milk for your pets. There is a summer farmers market—and a Kroger that carries a variety of organics and interesting foodstuffs like quinoa, tofu, corn tortillas, white onion sets and hemp granola. I’ve existed as a vegetarian in Greencastle for over two and a half years. This Saturday, I’m going to a local farm to kill my first chicken. I’ve decided it is time to patron local meat—if I’m going to eat it, I think it is only right I be the one to kill it. The farmer told me I’d be cutting its head off with a hatchet. He’s selling me the whole bird for four or five dollars. “Too much” he asked. “I mean, you’re doing all the work.”

Technically I live under the poverty line. I don’t necessarily feel that way. I have student loans, rent, utilities and groceries to think about. I’m embarrassed to say my mother has been paying my cell phone bill. She’s the only reason I’m still floating—if you can call it that. The relatively low cost of living in Greencastle is a blessing.

I’m moving to New Bedford Massachusetts in August. I’ll be attending the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as an MFA candidate. I have the Greencastle and DePauw community to thank for my growth and development that has led me to my continued education. My rent will be twice as much for half the space—no backyard, no below grade gravel driveway, no wet basement, no coal shoot. My place will be heated by burning oil.

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