Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 21: An extra bite of the apple

Parkersburg to Greencastle. 15.7 miles/294.9 total

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Today I'm headed for a spot just north of Greencastle, across from the Putnam County Fairgrounds. Another partly cloudy day in the 50s. A good day for walking. Hell, what am I saying? Every day is a good day for walking.

There's not much to Parkersburg. A private biker club on one corner, a collection of junked cars on another, and a collection of other miscellaneous junk next to that. But there is a historical marker. It says that the village of Chief Peter Cornstalk was near here. He was a Miami Indian, who lived in this area around 1800. You've got to wonder how a Miami Indian gets a name like Peter Cornstalk. The Cornstalk part I guess I understand, but what about Peter? Obviously given to him by the white man, but what was the point? Not like he was providing tech support from Mumbai, and needed to give himself some American-sounding name, like Larry. Hi, my name is Peter, and I'll be your Indian. How may I help you?

Today's walk will be 100% rural, and through mere points on the map. Parkersburg does at least have green and white signs at both ends, about two blocks apart. Here the terrain is a little hilly and the road twists, providing some relief from seeing your destination three miles ahead, and wondering if you're ever going to get there.

I'm hoping Greencastle will be big enough to have a Best Buy or similar place where they work on computers. Walking without writing about it afterwards seems so, well, pedestrian. I'll have to try to get the three blog posts for yesterday, today, and tomorrow done at a library on Tuesday. That's not the way I like to do it, and I imagine it's not the way you like to read them, either, but it'll have to do for now.

A little south of Parkersburg I leave Montgomery County and enter Putnam County. I continue to find money on the side of the road--nothing like the big take I had last week, but a penny here and a dime there. My total for Indiana so far stands at $1.78. Every day holds something a little new and different, within the confines of the task at hand.

I come to a small compound, with a couple of acres and two trailers and a pole barn, around which they have fashioned a fence consisting of about 30 bicycles lined up, one in front of the other, and spray painted white. Mostly 20 inch bikes with the old banana seats. From the condition of the premises, I would venture to say that the majority of these bikes were lying around the yard at one time, and someone hit on this novel way to use them.

The next little place I come to is called Raccoon. Just a crossroads and some ratty houses. But since this town bears the name of my spirit animal I walk through it with a certain amount of reverence. Shortly thereafter, I cross the Raccoon River.

Litter. I must say that if it weren't for litter these roadsides would be a lot less interesting. Stuff thrown out, and other debris that falls or breaks off of vehicles, not to mention the animal casualties of the highway. Oscar Wilde said, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." I'll paraphrase that and say, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are checking out the neat stuff in the gutter."

A dozen beef cattle eye me warily, and hurry away from the fence when they see me coming. Ordinarily I don't attract much attention from domestic animals, but today maybe they sense the aura of the raccoon spirit about me, and feel that I'm a threat to the barnyard. If not to them, then to other, smaller denizens. Next to and behind the cattle pasture, Woody's Performance Center stretches over a dozen acres, full of wrecked cars. Out in a pasture full of sheep stands a lone llama, looking at me with its long ears up. The sheep seem wary (as wary as sheep are capable of being), and in the distance a dog barks as I pass.

Another cross to mark the death of someone on the highway. It occurs to me that if we all got into the habit of marking the spots where people died in addition to the places where they're buried, it would become inconvenient. I can see myself putting up crosses in the rooms in the nursing unit where my parents both died. That would be offputting to the current residents. I guess part of the roadside cross thing is to warn motorists to be careful and all, but it still seems as if the loved ones of these dead are trying to have a bit too much in the way of commemoration. Then again, maybe that's what it's all about--getting that extra bite of the apple.

At about 6 miles I come to Fincastle, which has kind of an Irish sound to it. In the middle of the block or so that is Fincastle stands what used to be a Universalist Church, built in 1871, which looks like it has been converted into a private home. I say that because there are a couple of cars parked haphazardly on the grass, some flower boxes in front, and also a sign that says, "Beware of Dog." Not the kind of thing you usually see at a church, unless they're referring to the Hound of Heaven.

Interesting that there should have been a Universalist congregation way out here in Nowhere, Indiana. The Universalists got their start in the northeast, and merged more recently with the Unitarians. There are, or have been, Christian Universalists, whose beliefs reflect an ancient (and relatively heretical, from the point of view of orthodox Christianity) belief that all souls will be saved by and reconciled to Christ at some point. In other words, no permanent hell, no need for personal redemption. Well, this particular church is no more, and such outlandish creeds don't wear well out here in the fundamentalist hills.

Places like Fincastle and Raccoon and Parkersburg don't promise the person who enters them any progress, prosperity, or commerce. They just announce what they are. And yet they endure, and even have little signs made for them, by doing absolutely nothing.

An SUV passes me, going north, with a license plate that reads, "MONON 1." Hmmm. Maybe the mayor of Monon?

I pass an elk farm. Three or four elk sit there doing nothing, which seems like the thing to do around here. Just down from there is the intersection of U.S. 231 and U.S. 36. It's not a town on the map, just a crossroads, but it has a lot more in the way of activity than the named places do. On one corner they're selling trailers, on another prefabricated outbuildings, and on a third mobile homes. But the fourth corner is the busiest: there's a dairy bar and a produce place, and in a lot right by the road itinerant vendors sell saddles and junk and barbecued pork. Maybe they should give this place a name.

One thing I've noticed in the past few days is that the men around here seem to talk like Pat Buttram, the guy who played Mr. Haney on Green Acres. Sort of high and twangy and with a cracking voice. Well, keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

Next I come to a buffalo farm, but the buffalo must be somewhere else. Then I arrive at the community of Brick Chapel. No need to puzzle on the origin of this name. There's an old brick Methodist Church, adjacent to which is a large cemetery. I take a stroll through it. Pierce, Roberts, Wilson, Darling, Reeves, and one older tombstone bearing the name Earp. The latter is for William and Sarah, born in the early 1800s. Wonder if they're any relation to Wyatt Earp?

As I round the bend on 231 and cross Big Walnut Creek I know that I'm almost at the end. It's been a quick and fairly painless day.

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