The Spring Birthday 2021 Trip, Part 6 of 8: Tangents from the Joy of Painting

blue butterfly art.

I gaze upon this large backyard butterfly and I smile as I’m reminded of Skyrim.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. Last year my birthday trip was among the billions of traditions ruined by the pandemic, all of which paled in significance to the millions of lives lost (and still counting). This year is a different story. Anne and I have each received our pairs of Pfizer shots and reached full efficacy as of April 24th. This past Friday and Saturday the two of us drove out of Indianapolis and found a few places to visit in our eminently imitable road-trip fashion…

The tour of the original house where PBS legend Bob Ross filmed his cult-classic instructional/mediational series The Joy of Painting up in Muncie was the centerpiece of my birthday weekend, but creativity continued to surround us as we left the Lucius L Ball Home and explored more of the Minnetrista grounds. We didn’t have to walk any farther than the Ball House’s backyard to find inspiration and tranquility, much of it geared toward kids who might prefer an augmented outdoor setting to indoor history.


backyard shed.

Most sheds are filled with either boring gardening supplies or deadly tools. This one’s a gateway to interactivity.

Minnetrista playground.

Child-sized flowerpots turned into crawlspaces, Nakatomi Plaza vents, or broken Jeffries tubes, depending on your mind’s approach.

backyard percussion.

Adventures in music-making for the budding percussionist. Kids can go wild here because the house has no neighbors.

koi and goldfish!

Koi and goldfish swim around a gentle pool and follow every human they see in anticipation of possible feeding, like you’re a riverside Pied Piper.

Mud Kitchen!

For want of children and moisture, the Mud Kitchen posed little threat to us.

reading baby statue!

Baby statue teaches the pleasure of reading outside. I do this myself at work sometimes.

Muncie bird statue.

A heron statue bars visitors from crossing into backyard portions under repair.

butterfly chair!

Anne tries out a butterfly chair that would look nice in our backyard.

Next door to the Ball House is Oakhurst Home and Garden, likewise formerly owned by the namesakes of Ball State University. On its second floor was a gallery of paintings by Bob Ross as well as by other folks he inspired, including his own station manager. How many TV stars can say they inspired their bosses to follow in their footsteps? Well, maybe Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards for two weeks, but otherwise, that’s a rare feat. Such was the power of Bob.

Unfortunately due to copyright issues, photos of the Oakhurst gallery were forbidden. The rest of the place was fair game. The Balls who last resided there were big on literacy and left a fair cross-section of their library inside for display, along with a selection of old-timey artifacts from the Good Ol’ Days.

Oakhurst in Minnetrista.

Stately Oakhurst manor, wherein resides the forbidden joys of painting.

old-timey magazines!

A glimpse of obsolete items such as magazines, rotary phones, paperweights, and beautiful wooden office desks.

bookbinding tools.

Bookbinding tools were used back in the day when bibliophiles wanted to save their favorite paper tomes from destruction.

book chair.

Chair upholstered with literary illustrations. I need one of these but with paintings by J.H. Williams III.

stove demo, Muncie.

Non-library educational items included this stove with a digital backsplash that taught kids about the world of canning, which was a thing their great-great-grandparents might’ve done.

book stacks!

The Balls had so many books that there are overflow stacks in the corner. I can totally relate.

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 1: The Animal Refugees
Part 2: Muscatatuck Everlasting
Part 3: Had Myself a Ball in a Small Town
Part 4: Donut Turn Your Back on Family
Part 5: Maximum Bob Ross
Part 7: Nature and Other Valuables
Part 8: Mondo Muncie Miscellany

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