In the last reader column I mentioned that Sue Macy had loaned me a copy of “The Puk-Wud-Jies of Indiana,” a book written by her uncle, Paul Startzman.
Startzman was considered something of an expert on Pukwudgies. In addition to the book, he penned an article on the subject for Fate magazine and he was interviewed in a 1995 segment of the old PBS television program, “Across Indiana.”
That wasn’t the only topic he wrote about, however, as I discovered when I looked through the other materials Sue dropped off.
He produced two novels about ancient times, “Tutankhamon” and “The Lost Land,” and one on the Civil War, “Destination Richmond,” as well as “Life, Death and Dreams,” a collection of poetry.
(He served as Poet Laureate of Indiana in 1969, a position which was then unofficial and appointed on an annual basis. Since 2005 it’s been an official post, with Individuals currently serving a two-year term.)
He also wrote the music and lyrics for several songs.
Of course, I jumped on the Pukwudgie book first because of the column I’d written.
Later, I had time to go through the clippings Sue included. Most of those were columns written between 1987 and 1996 for “The Senior Echo,” a publication of the Anderson chapter of AARP.
Although the columns were primarily devoted to Startzman’s memories of growing up in Anderson and Madison County, he had relatives here and was no stranger to Hamilton County.
His cousin, Samuel Mott, was one of the men who planned the Riverwood development. That undoubtedly explains why Startzman chose to write one of his columns about Riverwood during its early years as a summer resort.
In those days, Riverwood had swimming areas, roped off by buoys, on both sides of White River near the old iron bridge. (The bridge is no longer there.)
There were cottages on both the Clare and Riverwood sides of the river, some with their own private docks. The development also boasted grocery stores, dance halls, and wharves where fishing supplies were sold, and boats and canoes could be rented.
Among the privately owned watercraft cruising the river were a small rear paddlewheel yacht with a glass-enclosed cabin, and a floating dance hall pulled by a motor launch. Mott himself had a 30-foot long flat-bottomed motorboat with benches along the sides that could seat at least 20 people.
Startzman related a humorous tale about the paddlewheel yacht.
The yacht’s owners really got into the nautical theme when they went boating. The man and his male guests would dress in officers’ uniforms of blue coats with gold braid, white pants and caps, while their ladies wore long summer dresses and “picture hats” (elaborately trimmed hats with wide brims.)
On one occasion, the owner’s collie was left behind on the shore, which did not sit well with the collie. He dove in and swam out to the yacht.
Pulled on board by crew members, the dog immediately made a beeline for his owners and showered them — and their fancy duds — with water as he shook himself dry.
The stunt produced shrieks and laughter that was heard throughout the entire Riverwood / Clare area.
Riverwood was at its busiest during summer weekends and holidays, and the Fourth of July, with its fireworks shows, and swimming and boating contests, was the highlight of the summer. There was, however, some activity even during the winter in the form of cabin parties and moonlight cruising.
According to Startzman, the Depression is what killed Riverwood as a summer resort. In its wake, many of the cottages were sold “for a song” to people who’d fallen on hard times and were grateful to call even a small cabin home.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com