Jenison to Zeeland Twp., near Beaverdam. 9.8 miles/40 total
Remember when I said yesterday that I woke up and could walk? Well, this morning I got out of bed and couldn't walk. That is to say, I had this serious hobbling pain on the outside of my left foot. For a few minutes I thought about just skipping today, but then I decided to take a couple of pills, drive on down to the site of the walk, and see how I felt by then. Once I got the car situated and rode the bike back to the starting point, the pain had subsided, and the cycling had sort of stretched out the muscles in the feet. So I set out.
This stretch of road is really pretty boring. Those of you who know the area know that it's mostly flat farm country, with nothing too interesting in the countryside. Lots of greenhouses, large produce warehouses, and of course fields. (Probably a taste of quite a bit more to come.) Hudsonville calls itself Michigan's Salad Bowl.
Chicago Drive is a four-lane divided highway of ancient vintage, with nothing in the way of modern concessions to pedestrians or bicyclists. Just cars and trucks careening along at breakneck speeds and places to walk and ride about two feet wide.
Since I am out of Kent County and into Ottawa County, and seeing all the Dutch names on the businesses everywhere, I got to ruminating about the Dutch in west Michigan, and just why they are so damned conservative. I mean, really right wing. Ottawa County usually goes Republican by at least a three-to-one margin. And as some of you know, I have some Dutch ancestry, and it's always bothered me that these Dutch around here are so far out on the geekoid fringe of U.S. politics. Why, I always wonder, are they so different from the laid-back, tolerant folks of the Netherlands, with their hash bars and unionized prostitution, and all that.
So I did a little research. It seems that most of the Dutch who came to west Michigan came between 1840 and 1880. And it happens that in the 1830s there was an evangelical religious revival movement, in which some Dutch folks broke away from the official Dutch Reformed Church, because it had become too "liberal." Now, what being liberal consisted of was probably horrible things like administering the sacraments to too many sinners, and tolerating drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, nose-picking, and other sacrileges. At any rate, in 1834 there occurred this "Afscheiding," which means a breaking away, from the state church, and those who broke away became known as Seceders.
It so happened that the Seceder movement accounted for only a tiny fraction of the population of the Netherlands, and those mostly in the outlying, farming areas such as Groningen, Leeuwarden, and the Frisian islands. In other words, the sticks. But wouldn't you know it, the majority of Dutch who came over to Michigan were Seceders from those areas. (For comparison, think of the Amish, the Mormons, or for that matter the Puritans.) They gave this area names from the old country, like Holland, Zeeland, Overisel, Drenthe, Harlem, and many more. And their origins also account for the fairly high number of surnames of Frisian origin, like the ones than end in "stra," as in Dykstra, and "ma," as in Jelema.
Like most folks with religious chips on their shoulders, they brought with them their bickering, self-righteous clergymen. So it wasn't long before the Christian Reformed Church was formed, in 1857, mostly in this part of the state, as a breakaway from the regular Dutch Reformed Church. In addition, any number of other smaller offshoot reformed denominations came into existence, some of which made the already conservative Christian Reformed people look like a bunch of wide-eyed New Agers by comparison. And that's been the story of west Michigan. We already know that Dutch farmers removed from their homeland are a dangerously narrow-minded bunch--look at the South African Boers. And farmers and right-wing politics and evangelical protestantism go together like, well, like all those vegetables in the salad bowl of Michigan.
The Netherlands, I'm sure, isn't losing any sleep over having lost these citizens. More chocolate and dope for the rest of them.
One fact for which I am somewhat thankful is that my own grandfather got here relatively late--about a hundred years ago--and was a tradesman, not a farmer, from the province of North Holland, not far from Amsterdam, which would have made him almost a city slicker next to these Ottawa County people.
Well, thanks for bearing with me on that little rant, particularly since it's been an otherwise uneventful day. One empty beer can. I do find some new and exciting road kill, though--a hawk. Oh, and also an endless scattering of white poultry feathers along the roadside--for miles. Probably turkey feathers, from a big truck full of flapping birds, since this is about the time for putting those guys in the freezer.
And mostly, for the last half of the walk, I commune with my pain, wondering whether it's ever going to go away. The next four days of rest should help.