Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 15: Loading road kill with a pitchfork

San Pierre to Francesville. 15.5 miles/198.4 total

Another day straight south on U.S. 421. It’s 10:15 a.m., and I am leaving from in front of All Saints Roman Catholic Church in San Pierre. I should mention that it’s 10:15 Central. I think when I get to my destination it will be Eastern time again.

It’s chilly, in the low to mid 50s with a strong breeze out of the west. Very high clouds and partly sunny for now, but some kind of weather is on its way up from the southwest.

I want to say that I appreciated the theories about the absence of raccoons south of Wanatah, but I got the answer this morning, as I was driving on this stretch, between San Pierre and Medaryville. I happened to notice a small pickup truck with a yellow light flashing, coming the other way. Suddenly it pulled over to the side of the road and a man hopped out and scooped up a dead animal with a pitchfork, flung it into the back of the truck, then jumped in and drove on, lights flashing. The insignia on the door of the truck bore the map of Indiana, but I didn’t see whether it was a more local branch of government. I tend to think it was a state enterprise, though, because I’ve been across two counties so far, and he was in yet a third.

The mystery is solved. Everything has been revealed. The road kill is being picked up around here. I’m amazed they have the money for such frivolity. Could be Obama money given to the Indiana Department of Transportation. Now, the next thing to speculate on is, what do they do with what they pick up? Disposal or dinner?

So again I won’t see much road kill. I don’t know where the territory of the road kill scooper begins and ends. Obviously he hadn’t gotten north of Wanatah yet. The only dead animals I’ll see will be very freshly killed ones, or those that somehow escaped the notice of the meat wagon.

I pass a large institution on the left, which looks pretty much abandoned. I remember reading that San Pierre had a Catholic old folks’ home at one time, and this must be it. The words on the sign out front are faded, but when I get right up to it I can read them—Our Lady of the Holy Cross Care Center. The building doesn’t look that old, maybe dating from the 50s. It’s pretty large, the size of a hospital, four or five stories and two or three wings, sitting several hundred feet back from the road. The main gate is chained off. The parking lot is almost empty, except for two vehicles. It's obviously not being used, yet the lot isn't all grown up with weeds, either. Wonder what they've got going on inside? Maybe they use the place to perform medical experiments on the locals, or to torture pro-choice people they round up. The Guantanamo of the right to life movement.

I do see my first raccoon of the day, out on the yellow line. I don’t know how that guy could have missed it, unless he stopped before he got this far north. Loading road kill with a pitchfork.
That makes me think of Richard Brautigan, whose poem "Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork" goes like this:

Loading mercury with a pitchfork
your truck is almost full.
The neighbors take a certain pride in you.
They stand around watching.

A half mile or so south of San Pierre, the back of the welcome sign says, "Thank you for visiting. Established 1854. Population 156." (That could almost be a Richard Brautigan poem.) Not long at all after leaving San Pierre I also leave Starke County and enter Pulaski County.

Where U.S. 421 intersects with a road called 700, the map says there's supposed to be a place called Radioville. There's no sign. The fact that a few extra houses and trailers are grouped here is the only thin evidence of a village. That and a large decaying building that looks like it might once have been a small roller rink. But what a cool name--Radioville.

It’s cold. I mean, hands in your pockets hunch forward cold. With this wind, I think the temperature has dropped down into the 40s. I’m layered pretty well, but a pair of gloves would be nice right now. I'm definitely stopping in Medaryville to get a hot drink.

I’ve eaten my lunch early, just to keep the old furnace stoked. Some of you might be wondering what I eat on these walks. I prepare a lunch that I take with me. It consists of a sandwich made on a large tortilla, with some sliced turkey or ham and a couple of slices of cheese. I fold it over twice and cut it. It doesn’t take up much room in my pocket, and can stand any amount of squashing. And I take a bottle of something, usually water mixed with orange juice, and an apple and a snack bar. That usually does it. About halfway through I might buy another bottle of water, depending on how much sweating I’m doing. Today, not much, I can tell you. Then if I ride the bike, I take an extra bottle of water for that ride. I try never to succumb to the temptation to get a candy bar, because that triggers a craving for sugar.

My breakfast never varies, either. A bowl of oatmeal with milk and sugar, a cup of coffee, and a piece of fruit, usually a banana. Since I’ve started walking, I avoid caffeine in the afternoon, in order to sleep well at night. (That’s a big change for me. At home I drink coffee all day. So you were right about the decaf, Linda.)

At just under 6 miles into the walk, I stop at the Twice Is Nice store, which sells used clothing and other junk. I buy a couple of used pocket knives, which are very cheap. If this store didn’t have a sign in front of it, it would look like most of the rest of the houses around here, cluttered in front with an incredible amount of crap of all kinds. Every house and trailer on this part of 421 looks like a junk store.

At about 8 miles, the sign says, "Welcome to Medaryville. Heart of Indiana. Population 565. Established 1853." The woman in the gas station tells me that Pulaski County is on Eastern time. So I’m back in Eastern time until I hit Illinois. I take a walk down Medaryville’s Main Street, which runs off to the east, perpendicular to 421. It looks kind of charming, so I’ll take a little detour.

The town, according to the internet, was probably named after Samuel Medary, an Ohio newspaperman and politician who was governor of both Minnesota and Kansas when they were territories. Medaryville is known for growing potatoes, and each year it has a Potato Festival. It was once know as “Tatertown.”

Well, “charming” was overstating it a bit. It’s another little shit-kicking farm town. The Confederate flag flies in front of one of the houses on Main Street. So long, Tatertown.

Now I remember that the woman at the library told me that Pulaski County had decided to go on daylight saving time. But they’re still on Eastern. Starke County had decided to go on Central time, and also to go on daylight saving time. It’s apparent that the people in these time zone border counties are confused, and I don’t blame them.

I’ve been in and out of rain twice, with 3 miles to go until Francesville. I now have my emergency poncho put away. People are complaining about how cold it got suddenly.

I just got offered another ride. Is that the third or fourth time? I should keep track of that, too.

I find a lot of tools as I walk. So far since I started walking, I’ve found a pair of channel locks, two screw drivers, and about four wrenches, all worth picking up. I just got a 7/16 inch Craftsman box and open-end wrench in good condition.

“Welcome to Francesville. A Small Town With a Big Heart.” Turns out there are over 900 people in Francesville. Another railroad town, named for the daughter of James Brooks, president of the New Albany and Salem Railroad, the same one that ran through Medaryville.

At the corner of Salem and Montgomery Streets stands St. Francis Solano Catholic Church, which looks more like a large Taco Bell than a church. It’s small for a church, and has the whole stucco facade thing going on, but it’s not working too well.

Behind Gutwein Insuance Agency sits the truckster.


Anonymous said...

I'm picturing a custom-made bumper sticker saying I VISITED RADIOVILLE, INDIANA.


Anonymous said...

"Old folks'home" ? I discovered political correctness when visiting Aunt V in 1992 and I referred to Porter Hills as an "old people's home" and she replied: "We like to call ourselves "seniors""! I was embarrassed!
That Catholic place in San Pierre was still up and running in March 2005 when the Google picture was taken, there were at least 50 cars on the parking lot then.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say that yes, some people all the way in Australia do worry about what you do for food. Question number one was: Tell me again how Peter has this walk organized with the motorhome. He has bike and his car too?
Question number two: How does he eat ?
What you eat sounds like what the French now call un "vrappe". Even SNCF serves those on trains.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Australia? Wow!
My mom, I'm sure, was not the least bit put out--just having a little fun with you. Wonder what happened to the old folks of San Pierre, anyway? That bears further research, if I get around to it.
As always, thanks for your loyal readership.