News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

October 2, 2012

RONN MOTT: The Wabash Valley

Lindsey Monroe, the well-dressed weather lady on WTHI-TV, stated this morning there was going to be fog in most of the Wabash Valley.

I got to thinking. I was born very near the Wabash River and lived in towns on or near the Wabash River until I went to work after high school.

I could no more draw a picture of the Wabash Valley than I could fly to the moon. I’m sure I could draw a map of America and all of its states more accurately. Sitting around the courthouse at Newport, listening to the old-timers, never once did I see one of them slap their knee and say, “They can’t do that to this Wabash Valley.” In fact, in all my years of living in these parts, I can’t remember hardly anyone referring to the Wabash Valley as their home turf. It might be because it’s rather confusing.

I suspect Terre Haute is the actual epicenter of the Wabash Valley. I don’t think of the people in Lafayette north or Evansville south as part of the Wabash Valley. Many counties in both Illinois and Indiana are considered Wabash Valley turf. I don’t know how accurate that is. I’m sure the Illinois prairie counties of Clark, Edgar, Douglas, and Coles have many citizens who do not consider themselves as part of Wabash River country. In Indiana, I’m not sure how many of the counties would consider themselves a part of the Wabash Valley. Even writing about it is a little confusing.

For me, it’s fairly simple. I can see the bluffs, where there are bluffs, and I get a sense of the Valley and its spread-out flood plain when I go south towards Evansville.

I think it’s easy for the media. They don’t have to identify individual counties. They just have to throw out a general catch-all term — the Wabash Valley.

I suspect for those of us who live alongside the River, we can understand why we call it the Wabash Valley. But you get out of sight of the River and some of its major tributaries, and it might be a little more difficult.

Somebody said to me a long time ago that the term “Illiana,” combining the names of the states of Illinois and Indiana, sounds more like a disease than a geographic area. In the northern part of the state, they refer to it as “Michiana,” that is, southern Michigan and northern Indiana. And the folks who live there seem to feel that way as well. So, anybody who can draw a map of the Wabash Valley in Illinois and Indiana, please stand up. I’m just at a loss to explain this succinctly and I suppose I always will be.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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