Ernest Taylor Pyle was born on August 3, 1900,
in Vermillion County,
Indiana. Pyle was an only child, leading a mostly solitary
childhood on a working rustic farm without plumbing and electric
lights just a few miles east of the Illinois border. He helped
his tenant father with farm chores, contrary to his own liking,
including small construction projects and feeding pigs and
horses. In his writing, Pyle reflected disdainfully about
waking at four a.m. on summer mornings and other aspects his
childhood on the Indiana farm.
Like many Hoosier boys, Pyle idolized the drivers
of the Indianapolis 500, wanting to make a career of racecar
driving. However, at the beginning of his senior year of high
school, the United States declared war on Germany, and upon
graduation, Pyle left Indiana and enrolled in the Naval Reserve.
After the Armistice, Pyle enrolled at Indiana University in
1919, but quit during his fourth year to pursue a greatly
successful, lifelong career as a journalist.
1927, he began the first U.S. aviation column for the Scripps-Howard
newspaper chain and later moved on to travel writing before
the start of U.S. involvement in the second World War. During
this period of travel writing, Pyle spent two weeks in Brown
County, Indiana, profiling the area for his column. These
are reprinted in Images of Brown County, and excerpted
in Home Country. He writes about the artists and
hill people who inhabit the county and the conflicts caused
by the autumn influx of tourists. Here, Brown County is separated
from the rest of Indiana, as well as the rest of the Midwest:
All northern and central Indiana is as
flat as a board…But some thirty miles south of Indianapolis
the land begins to undulate, and the hills are covered thick
with forest and roads wind, and fields become patches on
slopes. You come into hill country and it is hill country
because here is where the glacier stopped and melted away
its last force and left its giant rubble piled ahead of
it. (“Artists and Hill People in Brown County, Indiana”)
Pyle explains that the hill people came from
other hilly areas to the south and to the east of Indiana,
and he paints for the reader a visual image of the subjects
he is studying:
Because of a certain necessary resourcefulness
which makes hill people proud and somehow self-sufficient,
the natives of Brown County for a long time lived their
own lives in the woods and the tobacco patches and the little
settlements, asking nothing of any man, and eventually they
came known to the rest of Indiana as ‘quaint.’
That is what first attracted the artists to Brown County
forty years ago—the log cabins, the lounging squirrel
hunter, the leaning sheds, the flowers and the autumn leaves,
and the brooks and hillsides. That too, is what eventually
attracted the sightseers. (“Artists and Hill People
in Brown County, Indiana”)
In a sum total of ten columns that Pyle writes
about Brown County for his travel column, he profiles many
local artists by their names, works, and mediums of art. The
county seat of Nashville is discussed and described as a beautifully
rustic and undeveloped site that is pillaged by tourists,
thus spoiling the “picturesque” qualities of the
area for the locals and diluting the artists’ impressions
in an area prominently known as an art colony.
Pyle was killed by a sniper in the South Pacific
on April 18, 1945, working as a war correspondent. At the
time of his death, Pyle’s World War II coverage reached
a worldwide audience in about 700 different publications.
Miller, Lee G. The Story of Ernie Pyle.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1950.
Pyle, Ernie. Home Country. New
York: William Sloane Associates, 1947.
---. Images of Brown County. Indianapolis,
IN: The Museum Shop, 1980.
"Ernie Pyle." Archives,
Spartacus Educational. 20 November 2002. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWreporters.htm.
Pyle at Indiana Historical Society
Ernie Pyle Memorial