Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 20: The kind your mother wears

Crawfordsville to Parkersburg. 14.3 miles/279.2 total

Saturday, October 10, 2009

At 11:30 a.m., I'm leaving from McDonald's parking lot at the intersection of I-74 and U.S. 231 just north of Crawfordsville, headed for the village of Parkersburg. Getting a late start. The reason for that is that I drove back down here last night from Michigan, and slept in a little this morning. Also, it just worked out that way. I was trying to divide the distance between Crawfordsville and Greencastle, the next city. There was a spot just north of Parkersburg where I could park the motor home. This is a problem sometimes out in the country--finding a place to park the truckster and trailer for the day. The roads are so narrow that often there's barely anyplace to turn around, much less to park.

It's a beautiful day, with clear blue sky and temps in the high 50s. But there's a storm cloud on the horizon, figuratively speaking. I went to look at my computer this morning and it wouldn't let me open it. Got an error message. So I fear the worst--that the hard drive may be fried. What I need is access to a computer, and that means a library. And public libraries are few and far between, and this is a weekend and Monday is a holiday. So I guess I won't be able to update the blog until Tuesday. In the meantime, I'll just do what I came here to do, which is to walk, although the blogging is becoming as integral a part of the process as the walking. On Tuesday I should be in or near Terre Haute, where I can get the computer looked at and go to a library.

So in case you've been wondering where the blogs are, that's the explanation.

Be that as it may, very soon into this walk I am entering the northern outskirts of Crawfordsville, which is the home of Wabash College, a liberal arts college for men. An all male college is an anomaly these days, and of somewhat questionable utility, if ever it had any. Crawfordsville is a city of about 17,000, pretty well self-contained.

I'm celebrating the Yankees' win over the Twins last night, 4-3 in the 11th inning. Exciting, and one they needed, to take full advantage of being at home.

Today I am trying out new footwear. This is an experiment. A friend suggested I try army boots, and since I'm always comparing my walking to that done by foot soldiers, I though I might give it a go. So I went to a surplus store and bought a pair of spiffy buff suede modern desert warfare boots, with flexible ankles and high tops, and steel toes. So here goes. And if they don't work out for long-distance walking I've still got a sturdy pair of boots for shoveling snow, or whatever.

Past a hydroelectric plant on a dam in the Wabash River, the first point of interest I come to is the old Montgomery County Jail, from the 1880s, which was the first rotary jail built in the U.S., and one of only nine known to have existed. It was used until 1973. It has a circular cellblock with 16 wedge-shaped cells on a two-story turntable on a central shaft. It's a museum now. It was used until 1973, but the rotary crank was immobilized in the 1930s, since it was considered to be a hazard to the prisoners. (You could lose an arm or leg if you were hanging out of the bars when the thing was turning.)

Well, I just took the tour of the jail, and it is really a fascinating place. The front part is a Victorian residence, which housed the sheriffs all the way into the 1980s. Connected to the back of the house is an octagonal building, which houses the round jail. The two tiers of pie-shaped cells could house up to 32 prisoners, with doubling up. The jailer would turn the crank to access each individual cell from a central point. Each wedge-cell is about seven feet wide at the front, tapering to two feet or so. At the back of the wedges, by the center shaft, were toilets that emptied into the shaft. All in all, a strange but interesting idea.

Crawfordsville also was the home of Lew Wallace, the Civil War general who, in 1880, wrote Ben-Hur. There's a museum at his residence here, which I tour. Wallace was quite a guy, pretty much what you'd call a Renaissance man. He first became a lawyer, then during the Civil War was the youngest major general (except, I assume, for brevet promotions), at the age of about 34, I think. During the war he fought a battle in Virginia at a place called Romney, and I'm betting that the town north of here was named after his victory there. After the war he was second-in-command at the trials of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination, and also presided over the trial of General Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the infamous Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp, leading to Wirz's conviction and execution. (They should have done that to a lot more Confederates, especially Lee and Davis.)

In the 1870s he became governor of the New Mexico territory, where he personally wrote out and signed the death warrant of Billy the Kid, of all things. It was there he finished up Ben-Hur, which was among several historical novels he wrote, and was the best-selling American novel of the 19th century. Then he became ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and traveled extensively abroad in the area of the Mediterranean. In addition, he painted, invented a few things, and in later life became a violin maker.

Some time after his fame from Ben-Hur, he built a large study out in his spacious backyard, which I toured. The tour guide was a woman named Kara Edie, who is from Westville, one of the towns I visited shortly after I entered Indiana. We had a good time talking about all those towns and villages along 421 and the old Monon Railroad line. She's a trustee of the Linden library, where I found that great photo. And, I noticed, she has joined as a reader of this blog. Welcome aboard.

Crawfordsville also is the home town of Henry S. Lane, one of the founders of the Republican Party.

After having dawdled in Crawfordsville for a couple of hours, I have to step it up here if I want to make it back to the motor home before sunset.

I stop in the large municipal cemetery to check out some of the early Crawfordsvilleites. English names, mostly--Yount, Bird, Bullock, Brady. Minerva Whittaker. Thousands of them, all dead.

For the rest of the way the road promises to be narrow and rural. At about 6 miles into the walk, I have to say that the army boot experiment has been mostly a failure. I say "mostly" only because they are nice boots, with plenty of support for the foot. But the soles are too hard for me, and I'm developing blisters and pressure spots in places I haven't had to worry about until now. They're just too rigid--like the army itself, I guess. By the way, these are the same army boots your mother wears.

A turkey vulture cruises low and slowly, in big circles, against the clear pale blue sky, head hanging down. Waiting for me? Sorry, I'm going to keep moving.

At a road called 510S, the map says there's supposed to be a place called North Union.
There's a collection of six or eight houses, but that's about it, except for some indentations in the ground that look like maybe a railroad line might have gone through here, diagonally to the road, many years ago.

Another little cluster of farmhouses, within a few hundred yards of each other is, according to the map, the village of Lapland.

At 7:00 p.m. I finally drag into the motor home.

1 comment:

Kara said...

Hello Peter! Thanks for the welcome. Welcome to Indiana (two weeks too late)! It's too bad I've just found your blog now, as you've left my areas of expertise.

I can tell you the unusually-populated intersection at 231 and 36 was probably even livelier than usual because you just skirted the annual Covered Bridge Festival, which occurs in the city of Rockville and surrounding covered bridges but spreads to the neighboring counties with scads of people, garage sales, people, traffic, craft and art and produce sales...and people.

I wish you continued luck, adventure and safety in your travels! It makes for a fascinating read and I'm looking forward to the trip.

-=Kara Edie