Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 13: Rainman


Otis to Wanatah. 12.3 miles/166.1 total

I get started today at around 11:30 in the morning. The question was whether to walk at all, since it rained all night and is still raining. I figured I'd try to get in a walk, even though it will be a relatively short one. Better to keep moving, even in small increments, than to waste the day.

The raccoons continue their suicide mission here on U.S. 421. So many have died, and for what? Will there be virgin raccoons for them in heaven? Old corpses, new corpses, piles of bare bleached bones, leather skin and whisps of fur. The horror. The horror.

I am not totally averse to walking in the rain. I do, after all, carry the emergency poncho. It’s going to have to be done, probably fairly often. However, the constant spray from the trucks speeding by is something I could do without. More than once so far, I’ve had my hat blown off and into the ditch. Whenever that happens, I find myself getting angry at the trucker, as if he had any control over my hat.

Fairly early in the walk I cross over the Indiana Turnpike, Interstates 80 and 90, and shortly afterwards, pass by the Purdue University North Central Campus, which I suppose primarily serves the commuting students from this corner of the state. The broad front lawn, behind which is a stand of tall trees hiding the campus, features several nice sculptures. One I’m particularly fond of is called “Running Arch,” by Steve Adduci. Very nice. It is indeed an arch-looking thing, like the Arc de Triomphe, that looks like it's trucking along.

I must be a pretty amusing sight, walking along covered with my bright yellow poncho, the hood up and my hat on over the hood (to hold the hood on), my arms tucked inside, looking at the ground and making mental notes about road kill and the like. I think I might look a little more “special” than usual, muttering, “Uh oh, another raccoon,” and taking out my little notebook to write it down. I’m definitely doing a good Rainman imitation today.

About a third of the way along, I pass through the community of Westville. It’s a town of about 2000 souls. Here gas prices are the cheapest I’ve seen so far--$2.29 a gallon. The precipitation is tapering off to what the great Ernie Harwell used to call “a fine mist of rain.”
At the south end of Westville, past Prairie Meadow Park and the school playing fields, stands, in grim repose, as it were, the Westville Correctional Center of the Indiana Department of Correction. Far back from the road, perhaps 300 yards, is the huge red brick prison facility, surrounded by guard towers. It started as a mental hospital in 1945, with criminally insane inmates, then was converted to a prison. It houses over 3000 inmates, or half again as many as there are citizens of Westville. Looking across a cornfield at the prison puts me in mind of Oscar Wilde’s “Ballad of Reading Gaol,” two of whose many verses go like this:
I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.
The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.

After the prison, I come to where U.S. 6 crosses U.S. 421. Maybe if I look off to the east on 6, I can see Provincetown, Massachusetts, where it begins. Route 6 is one of the great old highways of the country, running all the way from P-town to Oregon. Paralleled by I-80, I guess. One of these days I’d like to take a driving trip of the entire length of U.S. 6.

A little south of U.S. 6 is a huge facility of the Nash Finch Company, a wholesale food distributor whose motto is “Performance Driven.” I see the sign for Wanatah, 6 miles, so I know I’m a little more than halfway. And there's nothing between here and there except corn and soybeans. And soybeans and corn. And some pumpkins.

The number of beer and pop cans really is incredible, after Michigan. I can’t help sort of keeping track. In any given mile there are probably about 20 of them. One garbage bag wouldn’t be enough here. Of course, if they had a deposit, there wouldn’t be nearly as many.
I get offered my second ride by a Hoosier, a farmer who looks like Rance Howard, Ronnie Howard’s father. In other words, like a bald goofy farmer. Ron Howard puts his dad Rance, as well as his brother, in just about every film he directs. Usually he tries to cast them appropriately, but sometimes the result is ridiculous, like when old Rance played a cardinal in the Tom Hanks piece of crap based on the Dan Brown novel, Angels and Demons. Casting Rance Howard as a cardinal in the Vatican is a little like putting a tutu on a pig.

It has finally stopped raining altogether. I’m thanking the gods of walking. The poncho is off and dry. It remains gray and overcast, but the wind has died down considerably. I just got offered yet another ride. I tell them, “No thanks, I’m just out for a walk.” They look at me as if I'm crazy. I haven’t yet told anybody the full extent of what I’m doing. The time will come when that will be appropriate. Right now it’s more information than most people need.

At last I reach a road, simply called 1025 W, which veers off to the southeast to take me the last couple of miles into Wanatah. This is a nice quiet little lane. As I pull away from 421 the sound of traffic diminishes and the crickets and grasshoppers can be heard. Corn and soybeans drying in the fields.
I enter the village of Wanatah, as quiet as that road. Town green, churches, huge grain co-op in the middle of town. Smaller than Westville, with only about 1000 inhabitants. Across from the Wanatah post office is the family truckster.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is good reading. Better than the NY Times which we get every day, having finally given up on the MPLS paper. We both read your blog faithfully. Linda Moses

Anonymous said...

Definitely good reading. I have just given up on my subscription to Newsweek after over thirty years. I know what I'm starting my day with for the months to come.

Randy said...

Are you still including the bike for a portion of the day? Riding a bike in the rain usually means getting soaked unless you have fenders and the right gear.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Haven't been biking much lately. Hoping to get back to it when the weather gets better.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Replacing Newsweek and the Star Tribune? Well, no pressure there. Thanks for the support.