Fishers Author, Historian and Humorist: Larry Reynolds
The 150th Indiana State Fair finished up last month and this is the 45th year Reynolds Farm Equipment has displayed their John Deere tractors and other farm and lawn equipment. Larry Reynolds has been there since the beginning. “This is my 47th one, my dad’s 46th, I worked two years with John Deere. It could be my 48th year, I don’t know, but we came as a company in 1961,” Larry partially remembered. This year Larry thought he came up with a great idea, to let kids operate a working miniature excavator. The plan was for the guys to take turns, but everyone was busy and Larry got stuck working his great idea for most of two days. “What I didn’t count on is the fact that I had to pick the kids up into it, because I thought we would draw 10 to 15 year-old kids. A lot of parents, they want their three or two year-olds to try it. I picked up 200 kids in two days,” Larry said. “The other thing I didn’t count on is when I got back to the lot everybody treated me terrible and wouldn’t bring me water. It’s their chance to get back at me, that’s what they do for fun. Watch old people die of thirst – that must be a funny thing to watch.”
If you’re an old-time resident of Fishers you probably know Larry Reynolds and his family. Even if you’re a new resident you may recognize his name from your children’s book reports or history papers. The Fishers librarians will agree that during most of the school year, The Mudsock Scrapbook is always checked out. Larry published The Mudsock Scrapbook in 1993. The 167-page large format hardcover book contains a collection of over 400 pictures documenting Fishers history, interviews, stories and small town humor about the old residents of Fishers.
Although a published author of children’s books, Larry didn’t really want to write about Fishers history, but for years he had been collecting old pictures of Fishers dated from the 1800’s to the 1960’s. People started asking him to present slide shows of the pictures at local events, sometimes with old-timers explaining each picture to the audience. Over the years, the slide show became very elaborate with multiple projection screens, music and video. During that time a local teacher was transferred to Ohio, and left the stack of Fishers research she had worked on for Larry to deal with. Figuring he couldn’t let the work go to waste, it seemed like a good time to publish a book with the pictures he had collected, and also incorporate interviews and stories of the way things were back then. After more research, interviews and of course more picture hunting, The Mudsock Scrapbook was ready to hit the press.
If you’ve read the book you know that Fishers used to be referred to as Mudsock, and us residents were called Mudsockers. “Mudsock came from, well, everybody has a reason, but basically it was because the town was a swamp,” Larry said. Back then the town was just dirt roads with no sidewalks, and as those of you with basements know, Fishers is still prone to flooding. “I always thought it was because people had mud in their socks, and that’s what we were always taught. Well, I think the term back then meant your town doesn’t have paved streets. I remember going into the Noblesville barbershop, ‘well here’s the kid from Mudsock,’ they’d always say.”
“Fishers didn’t even have, I mean they had no intersection, had one street light. It was the step child of the county,” he joked. The lack of development required a police force much smaller than what we have today. “For a long time we didn’t even have law and order. I think it was 1960 before they got a Marshall,” Larry remembered. Because of the Mayberry-type police force, residents had to take the law into their own hands. “There were certain people appointed and if you saw someone speeding, you turned the name into the sheriff. They would bring all the vigilantes out on Halloween night. Probably the people who were patrolling the town during Halloween, ten years prior were getting into trouble, if you listened to all the stories.”
That’s right, we have our own stories about kids tipping over outhouses on Halloween night and other funny tidbits that probably shouldn’t be published. A neighbor who owned a convertible was fooling around with a cement driver’s wife. “The cement driver comes home and sees it, and fills the car full with cement,” Larry laughed. “You knew everybody’s cousin, and everybody knew everybody’s middle name or parents, or where the parent went to school. So there are a lot of things you could tell, but you won’t.”
The early street signs in Fishers were named for local families, and several of them were misspelled. “Fishers annexed two extra acres, so they had a little alley and they had to put a name on the alley. So they called it Commercial Street, I think it’s still called Commercial Street. But, when they made the signs they spelled it ‘Commerical’, the ‘i’ was misplaced. That wasn’t changed for years,” he said. There are roads such as Lantern Road that are still misspelled. It was originally named for the Lantner family, but the people making the sign thought it looked strange and changed it to Lantern Road.
To hear the really good stories, including the one about the old fire department, you’ll have to read The Mudsock Scrapbook or talk to Larry when he’s in town. Better yet, stop by the Reynolds store and talk with his dad Mac or his brother Gary. A.W. “Mac” Reynolds is 88 and was at the State Fair every day last month. “He’s here 6:00 every morning. Two times already this week he’s been here before they unlocked the gate,” Larry said. Aside from The Mudsock Scrapbook and the follow up I Dream of Mudsock picture book, the entire Reynolds family has done a lot for the Fishers community: The yearly Christmas display, the annual fireworks that the Fishers Freedom Festival eventually took over, the fundraisers and donations, the parades, helping the local 4-H, the list goes on and on for over half a decade. Given the Reynolds family easygoingness and small town sense of humor, they probably had fun during all of it, or most of it. As Larry reflected, “It was a lot of fun growing up in that town.”
As the book is now out of print, Larry has graciously made The Mudsock Scrapbook available online. If you use a Mac or the Firefox browser on a PC, you can visit:
If you have problems, Larry says you need to “upgrade” to a Mac. Or you can visit this page for a list of Chapter Downloads.