Logansport and Adamsboro are the inspiration for two fictional towns in a new book by a Logansport native.
Author Keith Frohreich says his latest book, “Blackberries are Red when Green,” which was released earlier this year, is a story about coming of age, the slow arc of racial change and a place time has forgotten.
In “Blackberries are Red when Green,” according to the synopsis, it is 1960 and two murders shake the sleepy village of Adams Creek in Northcentral Indiana. Over the three years leading up to the murders, young Kurt Baumann’s world has been rocked by the loss of his dad, his best friend and his precious dog, leading him to doubt the existence of God. A year after losing his father, a retired Pullman Porter named Dutch Clemons moves into a small shack across the river from the small Baumann farm. Kurt now has a new friend, a father figure and a self-educated historian, who disrupts and enlivens Kurt’s segregated life with tales around the supper table, and while lolling the day away bass fishing down the riverbank.
Frohreich grew up at a farm along the Eel River in Adamsboro and is a 1965 Logansport High School graduate. He currently lives in Southern California with his wife, Pam. He hasn’t been back to Logansport since his 40th high school reunion back in 2005 when his mother passed away.
“I am looking forward to coming back there and sharing a reading and taking questions," Frohreich said. "I know I am going to see a lot of my classmates from what I’ve heard so far, and I’m not going to get to spend enough time with them so I’m hoping they all come to the mini reunion Saturday, later that day, so I can actually spend some quality time with them.”
Frohreich says the two towns in his book — Adams Creek and Twin Rivers — are based on Adamsboro and Logansport.
He unofficially began writing the book’s setting about 15 years ago when he began writing about Logansport for family history purposes.
“When I would come home to visit mom, I had started visiting the Cass County Historical Society pretty regularly, and it was there that I learned stuff that I had never knew growing up," Frohreich said. "I saw this extraordinary train history … and there I discovered the Pullman Porters and so then I started researching the Pullman Porters. … As I thought about a story, I thought, ‘What if I made Dutch a retired Pullman Porter?’”
While most of the book is fiction, Frohreich took inspiration from people he knew growing up.
Dutch Clemons is loosely based on “an old hermit friend” of Frohreich’s named Henry “Dutch” Musselman. Musselman was a retired railroad brakeman and fireman and lived across the river from Frohreich.
“He was a Sunday morning only paper customer and I would stop there kind of halfway through my paper route — back in the days when there were paper boys out in the country," Frohreich said. "In the winter it would be kind of cold and chilly and the smoke would be spiraling up from his shack. I would walk in and he’d always say, ‘Come and sit a spell,’ and he always cooked up the best bacon in my memory. So we’d chat for 10 minutes and I’d head out again because I had to get home and change my clothes for church.”
There’s a photograph of Musselman, who was 79 at the time, in the Dec. 22, 1955 evening edition of the Pharos-Tribune, iceskating on the Eel River, “with the greatest of ease.”
“One of the things that I used to do when I would come home, just doing what I would call research based on something I may or may not ever write about, I would go down to the library and go through the microfilm, just scroll through it — that old system — and just now and then something would catch my eye and I would print it out," Froreich recalled. ”Anyway, I found the story about Dutch. I printed it out and I’ve got it in one of my files.”
Frohreich, who wrote a guest column in the Pharos-Tribune for a number of years, wrote about Dutch Musselman and went as far as to name a dog after him. He wrote in the Pharos-Tribune Tuesday, Nov. 21, 1995 edition: “If I were a child today, I doubt I would have ever had the chance to know a "Dutch." Today, Dutch would be that mysterious old man who lives alone in that rundown shack. I would be told to stay away from him and to never, ever go into his shack. We weren't as cautious in those pre-TV tabloid "if it bleeds, it leads" days. Trust was assumed. I wish my children had known him. He would have cooked bacon and asked them to sit a spell. He is memorialized by that 95-pound aggressively friendly namesake in our backyard. Dutch Musselman would have liked that.”
Froreich will be hosting a book talk and signing at the Logansport Cass-County Public Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10.
Reach Tyra Bahney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5150.