The Hash Road Hideaway: An introduction

BY REBECCA TOWNSEND
The pen-and-ink drawing leading this posting, used for Alison Cochran and Jo Jo Porowski’s 1983 wedding invitations, captures the original cabin, as it was when they arrived with me (Becca) and my brother, Ryan Wilson.

The original four-room log cabin (a notorious drug dealer’s hideaway in the ’70s) received a three-story addition built by JoJo (my stepfather/mom’s second husband) and his friends soon after we moved in around 1983.

In the ’80s, skinny-dipping hippies on the rope swing ruled — and the property’s reputation as a good place for a great time continued to build.

1983 Hash Rd array 1

Clockwise from top left: Mom and Jo Jo on their wedding day; Mimi, Mom and me in the old upstairs bedroom; Ryan salting Mom’s split pea soup in the old kitchen; musicians jamming on the dam; and JoJo standing against the cabin’s old south wall, in the place where he would build the three-floor addition with mom’s kitchen.

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This is the the south-facing exterior today. The ground floor (Mom’s kitchen) was the only part of the home damaged in the dam-crashing flash flood of 2012. The place is always a work in progress.

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Here’s what that view looks like standing up on the dam (above) and from the vantage point of the rope swing.

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The ‘80s addition included a summer kitchen (Mom’s kitchen) at the ground/basement level, a living room and bedroom (mom’s bedroom/living room) on the second level and a bedroom on the third level (where both my brother, Ryan, and cousin, Reuben, have lived over the years; now the “kid’s room”). Today, trees obstruct much of the home’s exterior when you look at the place from the rope swing. Compare that with this next photo, taken from almost the same vantage point, 35 years ago!

 

 

Original cabin from across the lake

This picture was taken of the original cabin on the day Alison and Jo Jo were married. Though the tent obscures the south side of the house, one may be able to tell that Jo Jo’s addition was not yet built. Also, what is now “the door to nowhere” on the top level then had a lovely platform deck and stairs down to the dam. Finally, note our old-school air conditioning in the upstairs bedroom window: a box fan. Today, the wood stove and box fans are no longer the only climate controls at Hash Road.

Rebecca Relaxing at Hash Road

Becca chilling lakeside in the grass on the dam. It’s a nice place to catch up on reading while soaking up some rays. Not everyone likes roaming in the buff, but those of us who grew up as products of the natural woodlands and the wild 1980s of Bloomington, Indiana, are accustomed to the luxury of total seclusion.

Around 2000, my brother, Ryan, and Richie (Mom’s boyfriend between her second husband, Jo Jo, and her third husband, the musician Chris Little) removed two of the cabin’s original rooms. The tiny original kitchen became a suite for my grandmother, including a living room overlooking the lake, a bedroom (“Mimi’s room”), a kitchen and bathroom.

 

Sitting Room

Mimi’s living room (above). This overexposed shot will soon be replaced. For now: Just imagine the lake right outside that window. You can vaguely make out the pine bench swing by the fire pit. Also, truth in advertising: that loveseat moved to Indy. We’ve opened up the space. Becca’s little A-frame bedroom became an open and airy space with exposed wooden beams, overlooking the lake (below left, facing lake) with another room tucked away behind it (below right, facing woods and spillway, which rushes into a waterfall during the rainy season).

 

 

Alison passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2010. She was 57. (Thank you so much to the Elenabella blog for providing a permanent online home for the obit I wrote and a piece of her music. Mom was a lovely fiddle player and singer.) Her mother, Ruth “Mimi” Cochran, also died in 2010 — on Labor Day.

Alison’s death left the family with the choice of what to do with the property: Sell out or try to protect a family legacy and one of the wildest spots left in Monroe County?

Keeping up with what grew from four rooms into quite a large house, plus the surrounding classified forestland (which insists on certain ecological protections), and the lake, creeks, and spillway involves a lot of cost and oversight. Still, the yoke of neverending responsibility presents what has thus far been an irresistible temptation. The pain is offset by the pleasure. I can’t not do my chores. The only constant in this nutty world seems to be chores at Hash Road!

What an honor to maintain the place as a natural memorial to my mother,  grandmother, and great-grandmother, who all lived there over the years and who all sacrificed so much to allow family and friends to have such an amazing place to commune with nature — to take some time out to relax and enjoy life.

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Thus, I welcome you, the greater public, to help me in my mission to preserve the property by experiencing Hash Road for yourselves!

The cabin is posted as “The Hash Road Hideway”  at Air B&B.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: HASH ROAD IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!!!! For instance, people who prefer their chillax spots to have granite countertops — or fancy finishings, in general — should probably look elsewhere. People who want cable television won’t have it unless they install it for themselves.

This is the country. The place is rustic. My mom, Alison Little Cochran, was an Earth mother, a wild, forest-loving creature. The home’s lines between wild and domesticated are sometimes blurred. Sometimes the power will go out and it takes a while for it to be restored. Sometimes the water feed to the cistern needs to be re-started. Sometimes people go skinny dipping or sunbathe naked.

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There is a cat, Sophi, who lives on the premises. She has her claws. She kills things. This is necessary when one lives in the country if one prefers to live without mice. Sophi can be kept out of bedrooms if allergies are a problem — or if one is just not into cats.

If allergies are a problem, please bring appropriate medication because one is guaranteed to encounter dust, pollen, Sophi, nature.

Speaking of nature, nature can include spiders, snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, mosquitoes, ticks, fish, horse flies and dragonflies (lots of really cool dragonflies!). Also, amazing stars  (we have a telescope) and geology (geodes) and hydrology with often dry creek beds that at times rage with rushing water … Future goals include installing a water quality testing lab in the basement.

When rainy season arrives, a lovely waterfall cascades in the spillway hugging the northeast corner of the cabin. Mimi’s kitchen and Becca’s bedroom overlook the spillway canyon.

Rushing water also led to a devastating flood of the property and partial dam collapse. It took 50 truckloads of dirt — $20,000 worth of work — to repair the issue. Because it was what they called an “act of God,” State Farm did not contribute a dime.

This is when it became clear that managing a constant flow of leaves, sticks and mud was the true legacy of Hash Road. That sometimes, the people who love the place and take care of it have to stand neck deep or even buried in nature to meet its management challenges.

God was good enough to get us through the very scary flood experience. The dam looks beautiful today.

Property management presents many unexpected responsibilities and expenses. This is why I encourage friends and family — old and new — to visit and introduce new generations and guests to Hash Road as a truly special spot in nature. That way,  Hash Road lovers can contribute to its long-term preservation and sustainability.

After all, ownership of property is a fleeting and temporary prospect. Really, we are just taking care of it for a bit. This Hoosier child, born in the Year of the Tiger — 1974 — is just following in the footsteps of the three generations of Buzzerd-Gerwig-Cochran/Wilson women who lived on the land in “the days gone by.” I’m just clocking my hours and one day the good Lord will call me home, too.

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This photo of a photo was taken at Alison and Jo Jo’s wedding. To the left, Jo Jo’s butt. To the right, great old friends Meredith Richmond and Chris Haak are on the scene as the wedding photographer snaps a group photo  of (from left) Aunt Mary (the eldest Cochran sister), Ruth “Mimi” Cochran, Alison and Aunt Sarah Cochran “the Reverand” (who passed away on St. Patrick’s Day, 2018).

 

Because the world gets crazier by the day (and water becomes an ever-more precious resource), protecting this precious sanctuary to share with future generations becomes as urgent a call as ever. The grounding connections one finds at Hash Road are incredible, ever-changing yet always rooted in an ever-present vibe of nurturing support.

A friend felt sorry for me one day as she saw I had a mountain of work to do at the place. I felt kinda sorry for myself, to be honest, my eternal Cinderella complex.

Why do you have this place?” she asked, as nicely as possible, maybe kind of gently asking, “Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Sometimes, when I have to clean up cat pee or battle a raccoon or face off with nature in some other crazy, unexpected way (a live, half snake, for example, or maybe …. DAM COLLAPSE!), for the ten millionth time in my life, I want to pull out my hair and run away to the beach forever. I’ll wonder why I remain tethered to the property. Then I’ll pause and look out over the lake. Look at the trees. Listen to nature. Wait for her to envelop me. And I feel better. In fact, I usually lose about 20 pounds of stress as soon as I hit Monroe County.

You can take this girl out of B-town, but you can’t take B-town out of this girl.

 

Becca and friends 9th bday Hash Road

Me, shortly after moving into the cabin, standing in the original kitchen (now sacrificed to make way for Mim’s place) surrounded by some of my best Harmony School girlfriends during a slumber party in celebration of my 9th birthday. Closing in on 40 years ago!!! I’m still friends with these chicks! From left: Genne (now Genevieve) Pritchard, Karina Pritchett, Heather Schultz and Leah. Drayton

Ultimate goal: Sustainability. Roots.

After I’ve joined the heavenly choir with Granny, Mimi, Alison and the rest of my friends and ancestors who’ve worked to provide for me, may the fruits of those labors and that love continue to multiply for the generations to come.

 

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I’m now working to formalize a timeline of Hash Road. So, if you’ve got an image you want to memorialize, send it my way!

We’ve had so much fun over the years …

In the ’80s …

Winter sports included clearing the ice and a toboggan run. Here you see people clearing the ice for skating (Mom, Ryan, Karina?) and Ryan heading down hill rapidly!

cleaning the ice at Hash Road 80s

Ryan tabbogan

In the summers, sometimes the lake level can really drop. At this level, the drop from the rope swing is probably 20 feet! Swing at your own risk!!! (Ryan would probably still be doing flips!) But, seriously, this picture below is the lowest I can remember the lake. I bet it was taken during the ’88 drought.

Chris Haack and date in from of old stairs

 

Abbie, a great friend of the Hash Road family, paddling around the lake with her dogs, Stash and Janice. Recently she helped me with such adventures as “flush the cistern” and set up the wifi, and snap some new pics from the dam and rope swing!

Now for some classic Hash Road from over the years …

1983 Hash Rd array 21983 Hash Rd array 3 plus sledding1988ish Hash Rd array Cochrans Karina bday

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