August 1, 2023 at 9:55 a.m.

An 18-year Adventure: Hope, Indiana

By Renee Risk Strietelmeier

In my life, I have lived in numerous major city in the United States.  I have been fortunate to have explored every state except Hawaii.  I have been fortunate to have studied in Mexico and traveled to several different countries. I did this all before I was married.  Nineteen years ago, I was married. Eighteen years ago, I moved to Hope, Indiana to live in my husband’s home on Schaefer Lake.  Since then, I have embarked on an 18-year adventure in the surprising little town of Hope.

Surprising, because given my background, one would not think there would be much to do or see in such a small town. However, with each passing year, I appreciate more and more the surprising little town of Hope. With each birthday comes a new perspective.  With every year’s new perspective comes a different appreciation my little hometown.

It was fall when we first moved to Hope.  Our son was just starting to walk.  At the time I was not a water person and was scared to death to raise my son on a lake.  Thank goodness our neighbors, Ron and Marcia Albert and Lowell and Susan Thompson helped me keep an eye on my wandering toddler, Jacob.

Jacob and I first adventured to the Hope Square Park.  We would go every day.  It’s the perfect destination for a busy mother and son.  We could take a quick bike ride to the park.  Jacob being in the kiddie seat of my bike.  We would play for a while and then get ice cream at The Corner Café. Hope satisfied both our afternoon play and snack time.

As Jacob got a little older, I could get my hair cut at Hair on the Square, while Jacob played in the park.  I could keep an eye on him while enjoying wonderful conversation with Vickie and her customers.  For 18 years no one else has cut my hair except Vickie, or her daughter.  If I was not able to get in when I was busy teaching in Seymour, I often times whacked at my hair to get it in line.  No matter how badly I butchered my hair, Vickie would always fix it.  She cuts my son’s hair as well.  He has become another generation of faithful customers.

In addition to the Hope Square providing summer playground fun, it also provides entertainment for several town events. One 4th of July, Jacob won the toddler parade with his tricycle lemonade cart.  He and his tricycle were decked out in red, white and blue.  He sold cups of lemonade for a quarter.  His picture as the winner was published in the Hope Star Journal newspaper.

Scott, Jacob and I always participated in the Hope Ride. The first couple of years Scott pulled Jacob in a cart behind his bike for the entire 75 miles.  The most I ever rode was 50 miles.  Such a wonderful family event as well as attracting crowds of cyclists who used the event to qualify for a triathlon.  As Jacob grew, he began to ride his own bike with his dad and me.  We loved stopping at the rest stops to fill up on much needed liquid and snacks.  The best part, of course, was reaching the end at Hope Square where we were treated with lunch and a yummy root beer float.  This has been such an important adventure for my family over many years one of the Hope Ride tee shirts made its way onto a quilt that was made for Jacob upon his high school graduation.

Don, Scott and Jacob Strietelmeier on a bike ride in Hope, Ind. Photo credit: Renee Strietelmeier.

Another adventure near and dear to my heart, was Jacob making his way across Ron and Marcia’s yard via a little bridge to visit Rick.  Rick was an elderly man who was partially blind.  He and Jacob quickly become close friends. They were also allies during Rick’s once a month poker game.  Jacob would sit on Rick’s lap and help him decide which cards to play.  As I was teaching Jacob during the summers, I also told him to put on his remembering hat because what I was about to show or tell him would last him a lifetime.  During one of Rick’s poker games, I noticed Rick was winning a lot.  After we left, I asked Jacob how he was helping Rick.  My fear was he might have been looking at other people’s cards or something.  When I asked Jacob he said, “I just put on my ‘membering’ hat and know what cards everyone has.”  Whoopsie daisy.  My 4-year-old son was counting cards for Rick.  

Rick has been in Heaven for many years, now but both Jacob and I remember the adventures we would take to his house, finding ‘dinosaur bones’, driftwood along the way. Rick was a small-town neighbor. Where making the adventure always included a popsicle.

Our new neighbor living in Rick’s house has a dog name Zippy.  Nowadays, Zippy makes the adventure over into our yard to play with my dog, Isabella.  Zippy is a male dog and Isabella is a female dog.  I say they are boyfriend and girlfriend.  Every time I say the word Zippy, my dog jumps up and comes running to play with him.  When Isabella and I go on our morning and evening walks, we pass Zippy’s house. Isabella always has to look into the back yard to see if Zippy is home.  It is the sweetest thing ever. 

Back in the day, running and biking around the lake was a daily activity for my son and me.  Jacob still runs and bikes around the lake.  I walk.  The adventure of the daily time around the lake has been priceless.  Lots of conversations and learning.  The best part is I have never once had to worry about Jacob making the trip around the lake.  All of the neighbors we have on the lake are very kind. Just last week, the sister of one of our neighbors helped me push our lawnmower that I had gotten stuck in the rocks.  Four men who were on their daily walks stopped to help push the lawnmower the rest of the way.  I let everyone know if I could not get the lawnmower unstuck, I might not make it to my 19th wedding anniversary, which was in a few days. Whew!  That was a close call.  I have had many close calls with the lawnmower.  In years past, our neighbor would come over and get me out of whatever predicament in which I found myself.  After our neighbor would save the day, I would give him $20.  We called it ‘the hush money’ meaning my husband would never know.  

During all the time Jacob was growing up and to this day, he knows our neighbors’ homes are safe places for him in case of an emergency.  Actually, I consider my neighbors’ homes my safe place, also. That is a truly blessed adventure to know your neighbors are there for you just in case.  This is especially true the wackier the world gets.  The surprising little town of Hope offers a buffer of kindness in a world seemingly going wild. 

Perhaps, I have taken for granted over the years how incredible of a view we have of Schaefer Lake.  The lake is calm and peaceful first thing in the morning and late at night. It’s exciting on the weekends and holidays to watch everyone enjoying a variety of water activities.  

When Jacob was younger, we would pull him on a raft behind the boat.  One of my favorite pictures is the one I took of him hanging on with one hand and punching the air with the other hand.  We also would go on nightly fishing adventures.  Both real fishing and pretend.  When we pretended to be fishing from the deck, we would throw our invisible line into the lake and Jacob would pretend to be a fish.  I would reel him in and we would say, “Oh!  Look! I’ve caught ‘Big Blue’ again.”  Believe it or not, we played this game of pretend until my arm would ache.

Campfires and sleeping in tents were also a frequent adventure in Hope. My husband, Scott, would pitch the tent and it would stay up for the entire summer.  Nothing like just going to your backyard for some safe outdoor hometown fun. 

Winter has had its own adventures on the Hope Square. Many of our Christmas card pictures were taken in front of the Hope Nativity scene on the Square.  My husband and I would pull Jacob on a sled to the Square where we would build a snowman.  One year the lake froze completely and we spent days sliding all the way to the other side of the lake.

We attend many festivals with live music year-round at the Hope Square.  Our little ‘Surprising Town of Hope’ is full of adventures that rival any big city awaiting you and your family.