Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 19: Paved with gold

South Raub to north of Crawfordsville. 16 miles/264.9 total
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It’s 10:30 a.m. and I am departing from the intersection of U.S. 231 and CR 800 S, near South Raub. It’s sunny and cool, probably in the low 50s. But the clouds are beginning to disperse and off to the west I see quite a bit of blue sky.

I am right back into the same kind of farm country and the same kind of road I was on when I walked U.S. 421. This road also runs parallel to the railroad tracks. Already I appreciate yesterday's walk, with a variation in terrain and a route through suburbs and the city. Beats the monotony of this road, with its treacherously narrow and sloping shoulders. Nature is nice in its place, but it's human nature that interest me. So here I am, "fighting vainly the old ennui," as Cole Porter put it many years ago.
These little roadside crosses, commemorating someone’s death on the highway on the spot where they're placed, have become a legitimate phenomenon on American highways during the past decade or two. Just passed two, for Beth and Billie Johnson, who died on that spot on December 26, 2006.

At three miles, the first little place I come to is called Romney. According to the internet, Romney was originally named Columbia, but the name was changed to that of a community in West Virginia. That makes absolutely no sense to me, but what the hell? Romney also has been the location of a number of ghost sitings, including ghosts of a young lady with a rope around her neck and an old prospector with a wooden leg. Today the ghost that passes through town is a dude wearing a zip-up hooded sweatshirt over a vest with its pockets full of walking accoutrements—camera, recorder, food, water, notebook.
No fancy welcoming sign here. Just the basic green and white state-issued one. I stop at the Romney Toy Shop on 231 and buy an old pocket knife, somewhat underpriced.

I'm impressed with my take of found money here in Indiana, and today it's especially good. I think the whole time I walked in Michigan I found about 12 cents. But so far in Indiana I have three times that going in to today. Found a quarter, a dime, and a penny so far today. I don’t know if the people of Indiana are more prone to throwing change out the windows of their cars than the thrifty folks of west Michigan are, or if since I’m freed from looking for returnable bottles and cans, I can keep a sharper lookout for coins. But they're gleaming in the golden light of day.

A few miles south of Romney I leave Tippecanoe County and enter Montgomery County. Two new items of road kill today: a mouse and a salamander. Someone has picked up the larger mammals recently, but the wide assortment of dead birds continues. So far today, another woodpecker, another cardinal, a pheasant, a beautiful meadowlark with a golden breast, and—get this—a large owl.

The next town I come to, at 7.2 miles, is Linden, where the sign says it was founded in 1850 and has a population of 718. Pretty typical. It was named for the Linden trees that grew here. And what should greet me a few hundred yards in but a boxcar and caboose of the Monon Railroad. It’s the Linden Railroad Museum, and next door is the Monon Railroad Historical and Technical Society. Both places are closed today, and only open on weekends this time of year. Too bad.

I thought the Monon Line veered off toward Indianapolis up in Lafayette, but it seems it continues south through Crawfordsville and into Greencastle before doing so.

At the Linden-Carnegie Public Library, I decide to drop in to see if they have anything on the history of the town. The librarian shows me to a drawer in a filing cabinet, with a bunch of loose stuff in manila folders in alphabetical order by topic. As I'm leafing through it to see if there's anything on the railroad, I get a pleasant surprise. It’s a photograph of a community event in Linden, in December 1934, called Ladies for a Night, in which all the menfolk of Linden dressed up as women. They look like uglier versions of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot, with a touch of Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. (Double click on the photo to enlarge it.) Actually Lemmon and Curtis weren’t ugly at all—Tony was pretty to begin with, and Jack made a surprisingly good-looking woman. It took Marilyn Monroe to make them look mannish when they were in drag.
I have no idea what the occasion for this weird event was here in Linden, or if they did it often, but it’s a priceless photo. Goes to show you the Brits don’t have a complete monopoly on female impersonation. (I do, however, remain convinced that Margaret Thatcher is a man.)

So I’d like to thank the librarian, and to dedicate today’s walk to the Ladies of Linden.

I go into a little antique store next to the library to look at knives, and end up talking to the proprietor, a guy of about 70, for about a half hour. I tell him what I'm doing, and he's enthusiastic. He says he’d like to just chuck everything and take a motor home and a trailer loaded with stuff and go around to flea markets all over the country, selling his wares. But he has custody of his four grandchildren, ranging in age from 17 years to six months. Old age isn’t what he thought it would be.

Just unbelievable. The road is paved with gold today. I find a 1976 Kennedy half dollar! You hardly come across half dollars under any circumstances, but on the road? My total for today is now up to $1.43, with two quarters, four dimes, and three pennies, in addition to the fifty-cent piece.

A police car sneaks up behind me then turns on its siren for a second. Whoooop! It startles me. An Indiana State Trooper asks me if I need any help. I don’t count that as an offer of a ride, but it’s not unwelcome, and it’s the second time it’s happened.

Across the road, they’re harvesting corn in the warm sunlight of afternoon. That's the real gold around here, I guess. The gigantic harvester scoops it all up, throwing the ground up stalks and chaff out the back, then empties the hopper of corn into another hopper truck following alongside, which then shoots it into a waiting semi trailer. Amazingly efficient. Two guys harvest a whole field in one day and load it into trucks.

A man in a yellow pickup who looks like Roger Clemens slows down to offer me a ride. I say no thanks, then I think, "What if that was Roger Clemens, and I turned down a ride from him?" Then I regain my senses. Anyway, he looked like Roger Clemens at about 30 years old. I did see Tom Seaver once, in Stamford, Connecticut. I was stopped at a light, and he made a left turn in front of me, and there he was, unmistakable, just as plain as day. But I knew that Tom Seaver lived in that area at that time--I think he was in the broadcast booth for the Yankees with Scooter. Ho-ly cow!

My destination for today, which is the intersection of U.S. 231 and I-74, is not a town. It’s still a couple of miles north of Crawfordsville. But it’s got more going on than many towns around here—a collection of motels, gas stations, and fast food places. I can see the elevated crossing of the interstate now, but it’s still about two miles off. The motor home is at a McDonald's just beyond the intersection.

Going back home tonight for two days off, to resume the walk on Saturday.


Billie Bob said...

What's with the guy in the suit and tie? A female impersonator impersonating a male?

Jason K. said...

I was wondering what's up with the three people in the hockey mask looking things? Maybe Jaques Plante had older relatives who lived in Lindon since he did not invent the hockey mask until 1959. Goalies sure did have guts prior to that!

Jason K. said...

Check that...the four people in masks...

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Don't know about the guys in non-drag, but I'm pretty sure the goalies are in blackface, a venerable entertainment tradition that for some reason seems to have disappeared from the scene.

Michael Roberts said...

Not biting, Mr. Jolson.