A performance at the Pixy Theatre in Edinburgh. Photo credit: Submitted.
A performance at the Pixy Theatre in Edinburgh. Photo credit: Submitted.

We all have stories, but I have not met many people in my time on this earth to share so many fascinating ones in a two-hour period.

Not long ago, I went to the Pixy Theatre in Edinburgh for my first time to hear one of my favorite groups perform, The Night Owl Band. As always, they were great while putting on a very professional and entertaining show.

It was then I met the owner, Mike Harding, for the first time. He invited me to take a tour of the large historic building of 12,000 square feet, but I did not have the time.

Well, I returned to hear Kevin Stonerock perform. Kevin also delivered an excellent program while incorporating three different guitars with mostly original songs throughout the evening. There were several in attendance from the Hope area due to his connections here years ago. Kevin was at one time Director of Indiana Historical Society and had a lot to do with Little Hoosiers and Little Hoosier Camp. Our Hope and Hauser clubs were among the largest in the state. He would come to Hope Elementary and portray Indiana characters such as a fur trapper, Civil War soldier, pioneer, and steamboat captain while keeping the attention of all students, not an easy task. Throughout his life, Kevin has written a lot of songs and performed in a variety of places. Years ago, there was a local event that my sister, Sally Webster, and Kevin performed at on the Hauser stage. I can't remember all the details but recall Hope students and faculty singing a song I wrote in honor of Mr. Epperson: “My Principal, My Prince, My Pal.”
I particularly enjoyed Kevin's ability to tell stories through his songs, one of the best storytelling artists, with a favorite being “Black Diamonds,” which the title refers to guitar strings. The chorus follows:

“He could make it talk
He could make it sing
He could make those old black diamonds ring
He could make it laugh
He could make it whine
He could make those old black diamonds shine
And the world seemed like a brighter place
When Ray would open his case.”

I would say the same thing about Kevin's ability to play his guitars. For those interested, more information can be found about Kevin Stonerock and his songs through his website.

I had more time afterward to tour the historic building. Mike took me from one room to the next with each holding many stories of special material, one that I will never forget. Our pastor, Edward Cottrell, stressed the importance of having a vision. As Mike was sharing, I knew I was in the presence of someone with a vision, one of understanding we are only here for a little while, that we need to preserve our land, our buildings, and history.

Mike graduated from Purdue with an environmental scientist degree. Later he married, Carol Forrest, who had a civil engineer degree from San Diego State University. They accomplished a lot individually and collectively in their fields and otherwise. As Mike stated one time, “You have to challenge yourself. You either coast or find interesting things to do.”

In 2002, Carol and Mike started planning a major project with a team of pilots and scientists they called the Flight of Discovery to fly the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail from Indiana to Astoria, Oregon westward in 2004, meet the Indian tribes of the Great Plains in 2005, and fly eastward from Oregon back to Indiana in 2006. The purpose of the Flight of Discovery was to commemorate the 200 the anniversary of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery (1804-1806), which included the invaluable services of Sacagawea, and to determine if there were any significant environmental changes in soil, water, and plant samples while comparing them to information found in the journals of Lewis & Clark. Within one room of the Pixy, there is much related to that adventure as well as other places in the United States. Unfortunately, three of Mike's team members died is a horrific helicopter accident the day before the final return route to St. Louis in 2006, including his wife, Carol. Understandably, Mike did not continue on the expedition but most of the crew proceeded on to honor the spirit and commitment of those they lost.

Mike soon left his home in California to return to his farm roots where he continues his work of environmental restoration, which has taken him to many places in the United States and the world. He is routinely called back to the West to mitigate the impact of wildfires. He purchased land along the Flatrock River that was in the family, Owens, at one time, bought the Pixy in 2008, and began restoration in 2010.

Not long after my tour of the Pixy with Mike, he came to Hope and WILLow LeaVes to eat and inquire about how he might work with WILLow LeaVes and their acts to come to the Pixy Theatre. It was a productive conversation, and Naomi Pyle agreed to bring their Opry Tribute to the Pixy on Saturday, November 19.

Later, Mike and I drove around Hope. When going to Simmons Schoolhouse on the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Campus, he mentioned that Hauser had their prom at the Pixy in 2015 and how well that worked for all. Once in Simmons, he immediately recognized the time, effort, money, and value of the project. At the Moravian Cemetery, we stopped, walked around, and viewed some of the oldest stones, and we spent reflective time at the war memorial. When going by the old Hope gym and hearing the story about the recent fire, his disappointment was just as strong as mine. Mike paid particular attention to the older buildings while inquiring about their history, and I stressed we would visit another Hope gem the next time he was in town, the Yellow Trail Museum.

If you have never been to the Pixy Theatre, I would encourage you to check it out. Their website is full of interesting information. Mike Harding will likely be present when there. Mike very much wants the Pixy to live beyond his earthly life as well as small towns like Edinburgh and Hope and fully understands the importance of the history held within their pages.