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By Linda Nidiffer
Having a manhunt nearby should be a sobering event. It should make you more vigilant about your surroundings and your personal security. It did, but it also made me giggle too. It reminded me of home and some of the crazy situations living practically in the shadow of the Indiana State Penitentiary brought into our street and living room.
We sold the farm when I was a sophomore in high school and moved to 1715 West Tenth Street, Michigan City, Indiana (just in case you want to put this into Google Maps or something). The South Shore Rail Road ran down the middle of the street which was a rude awakening after the peace and quiet of the farm. Our house faced a row of houses which backed up to a field which abutted the prison property. The only compensation for all of this crap was that you could hike to the ruins of another earlier railroad and jump into Lake Michigan and swim.
My first night living in this house I was upstairs studying in my bedroom and at 10:00 p.m. I heard this blaring sound. It was like a banshee gone wild. I barrel down the stairs to find my parents watching television as calm as a mud puddle. I am yelling, “Lock the doors and windows! Lock the doors and windows! Prison Break! Prison Break!” My folks let me carry on locking up and looking for the .22 vermin killer.Even the dog is looking at me like I am a lunatic. Don’t they understand the seriousness of the situation? The folks get ready for bed when dad informs me that the noise I heard was nothing more than “lights out” at the prison and it was time for lights out for our house as well. Ugh! Welcome to having a prison in your front yard.
There were a few prison escapes and then the neighborhood got really weird. We had many little old ladies, single mothers, families with absent fathers, retired people but not many young families. My dad lived in Chicago during the week and came home on the weekend. We had lots of weird families. The siren blares in the middle of the day and that means just one thing: a for real prison break. Mom tells me to find my sisters and secure our house and then meet her on the street. Mom has the varmint killer and is going from house to house to make sure that everyone is present and locked in. We even check the cars and the garages and make sure they are locked up as well.
We have completed about one side of one block before the first Indiana State trooper shows up. He tries to tell mom to get off the street. She ignored him. The third time she almost got arrested but she assured him that the immediate neighborhood had no strangers skulking about. She had 5 more houses to check. If he would like to personally check those houses and garages, she would be happy to go home. If he needed a cup of coffee or a bathroom just knock on our door and identify himself and she would be happy to provide him with both. He had no idea what to say to that. He did ask if she knew how to use that old 22 and she said, “Sir, I have spent most of my life living on a farm. I know how to shoot vermin.” ” His face was a picture!
I hear about a serious manhunt in my neighborhood and I get the giggles—weird.