Their first impulse is to smile. Some chuckle. A few guests signing in for a stay at the Brown County State Park laugh right out loud.
Those are pretty funny names to give to the cabins: Jake Bentley, Burley Sap, Emma Moots, Tawny Apple, Lib Pash, Fawn Lippincutt, Tipton Bud, and many more peculiar monikers. After the snickering subsides, many visitors have questions. Who are these people? Why do the cabins and rooms bear their funny names?
The staff members at the park's Abe Martin Lodge have the answers. Jake and Burley and Tawny and all the rest were friends and acquaintances of one Abe Martin. Abe was a cracker-barrel philosopher who used to hang around this rustic area of southern Indiana. He often quoted the quaint and curious citizenry and his amusing aphorisms usually possessed the barb of truth.
Abe once quipped: "When a feller says, 'It hain't the money but the principle of the thing'--it's the money." His observations ranged far and wide, from the arts ("Classic music is the kind that we keep thinkin' will turn into a tune") to etiquette ("I hate t' eat by a feller that holds his arms like a snare drummer") to politics ("Some fellers git credit for bein' conservative when they're only stupid.")
Abe Martin and his crusty crew of cronies were the creations of a man named Kin Hubbard. Kin was a cartoonist working for the Indianapolis News in 1904 when he began to draw Abe: a lanky, seedy-looking cuss with a scruffy beard. He was often shown leaning against a rail fence or sitting in a Model T Ford. Kin always included a humorous sally below the drawing ("It's no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.")
Abe became a Hoosier sage and eventually appeared in 300 newspapers, from small-town weeklies to metropolitan dailies. He gained fame for himself and his creator, Kin Hubbard. Will Rogers said that Kin was the best humorist in America. He was praised by Booth Tarkington and James Whitcomb Riley.
Millions of readers looked forward to reading Abe Martin's daily wisecracks. They delighted in his homely wit which usually rang true. ("The hardest thing is to disguise your feelings when you put a lot of relations on the train fer home.") It is estimated that, in all, Abe appeared in 8,000 drawings and cracked 16,000 "jokes."
Kin lived in Indianapolis and worked at the News, churning out a cartoon and a quip six days a week until he died on the day after Christmas in 1930. Also silenced were the voices of Tell Binkley, Uncle Niles Turner, Miss Mame Moon, Editor Cale Fluhart, Constable Newt Plum, and all of the other odd denizens of the fictitious place called Bloom Center. It's no wonder that most guests at the Abe Martin Lodge do not know them. It has been 70 years since their passing.
Kin published several books during his lifetime. These little volumes are scarce now and reprints are virtually non-existent. However, the Indiana University Press has published a delightful assortment of Abe's "sayings" and comic essays. "The Best of Kin Hubbard" was put together by Professor Emeritus Davis S. Hawes. It is highly recommended to anyone who loves homespun humor or, as James Whitcomb Riley described it, "hoss-sense and no sense at all."
Such was the love for Kin Hubbard that in 1932 the state of Indiana dedicated Brown County State Park to Abe and his creator. Most of their original fans are gone now, but the names of the Bloom Center citizens remain, immortalized in the signposts which mark the cozy rooms and cabins. Their names survive to give a grin or two to a modern visitor. That would please Kin Hubbard. As Abe Martin once said: "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and it keeps on laughin'."
Abe Martin: A Hoosier Original