I spent my first 38 years of life in one of the older neighborhoods in this Northwest Indiana town of Lafayette, which I’m now re-visiting again. In our pre-teen days we lived on our bikes, dreaming of that magical driver’s license in a few years and then “true freedom.” We built a bicycle race track in a huge open field. We cleared all the weeds and made our racing oval in a natural banked area that would have made Tony Stewart proud. Our track turned into a shopping center, Market Square, that was a shopping jewel for a few decades and now struggles to attract tenants, and maybe someday kids will turn it back into a bicycle racetrack. I don’t think that’s the true meaning of the circle of life, but it sounds good.
When we did finally attain our driver’s licenses, the new shopping center was finished and we used our parents’ cars to do doughnuts and figure eights when the asphalt lot was covered with snow and ice.
But I digress; I am heading to a history lesson here.
One of the bicycle games we loved to play was “ditch’em.” We would form opposing teams with four or five on each team and basically play hide and seek on our bikes. We formed a boundary naturally created by main artery streets and we couldn’t cross those streets. Every street and alley was in play with the only rule being not to get off your bike or go inside of a garage or building. When a “seeker” found a “hider” the hider had to go back to the starting spot and sit and wait. We usually had a time-limit of an hour or so. The hiders has 10 minutes to “get hid.” The north/south boundary was about a mile and the east/west boundary was a little more than a mile.
One of my favorite hiding places was Greenbush Cemetery, a spooky old place with huge monuments that allowed a bike and rider to sneak behind. It only had a walk-in gate, no drive through, so a bike could fit through the gate and I would pick out a large tree or memorial stone to hide behind. I only used that place a few times because that would be the first place they started looking and I also felt creepy hiding in a cemetery.
Today, I walked through the cemetery after reading up on the unbelievable history of some of the permanent occupants. During the Civil War there was a train wreck that killed 30 Union soldiers. There were 22 unclaimed bodies. About the same time, a few dozen Confederate prisoners had died from their wounds and 28 unclaimed Confederate soldiers are buried next to the 22 Union soldiers and a monument stands in their honor.
This hero, James Tullis, was a local boy who was working for the County Clerk’s office when he decided to visit his brother in Oscaloosa, Iowa. While he was there, the Civil War broke out and James volunteered for the Iowa 3rd Infantry Division. The men of Company H elected him First Lieutenant. He was wounded in the left leg at Blue Mills, Miss. He was wounded in the left arm and promoted to Captain for gallantry at Shiloh. He was wounded in the right leg and promoted to Lt. Colonel at Vicksburg, Miss. He was wounded in the right leg again and promoted to full- Colonel at Jackson Miss. He was wounded in the right hip at the Red River Expedition.
Colonel Tullis came home here to Lafayette and became a legendary fiery journalist and his obit, in 1887, stated he was “one of the best known citizens of Lafayette.”
For those of us who had never heard of James Tullis, we thank you for your bravery, for being wounded, wounded, wounded, wounded and wounded again and still continue to fight for your country.
And Mr. Tullis, thank you for providing a winning hiding place for me sixty seven years after your memorial was erected.