Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 22: Beasts of burden

Greencastle to Harmony. 17.4 miles/312.3 total

Monday, October 12, 2009

Leaving from just north of Greencastle at 10:10 a.m. Today's Columbus Day, so nothing much is open for business. These fall holidays, Columbus Day and Veteran's Day, are kind of quiet. No need for fanfare or parades, unless you're in a big city, and too cool for picnicking and public drinking, but governments and schools are closed. I would have taken today off to address the computer issues, but there's no use, since libraries aren't open. So for now, I continue to feel disconnected from the blogosphere, but I'll do what I must do to make this all possible, namely, put one foot in front of the other.

I'm celebrating the Yankees' victory over the Twins last night, to win the ALDS. Also, the fact that the Red Sox got swept. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of fans, or to a friendlier city. Boston, the team almost every good player wants to leave, and the only team in baseball I truly dislike.

Coming up the hill into Greencastle, one of the first things I see is the Monon Restaurant. It has its own caboose, on an unused siding. I notice they don't use cabooses any more. Wonder why not?

Greencastle, other than being the seat of Putnam County, probably wouldn't be much if it weren't for DePauw University. It's an older place, laid out in 1821 by Ephraim Dukes, who named it for Greencastle, Pennsylvania, where he came from. Population is currently a little under 10,000.

There's a square of streets surrounding the courthouse, an impressive but not fancy limestone building, dating from about the early 20th century. Of course it's closed today so I can't visit. At one corner there's a WWII memorial with a V-shaped pedestal holding up a German V-1 bomber, the unmanned buzz bomb. On another corner of the courthouse is the WWI monument, of a bronze doughboy, and the names of 22 Putnam Countyites who died in that war.

I take a jog about three blocks east to walk through the campus of DePauw University. It's a liberal arts school of about 2,400, originally Methodist and called Indiana Asbury University. Nice-looking bunch of buildings, mostly from the second half of the 20th century. The university was founded in 1837, and the centerpiece of the campus is a huge, high Victorian building, built in 1871, called East College.

At the southeast edge of the campus I reconnect with Jackson Street, which will take me southeast out of Greencastle in the direction of the village of Manhattan. I pass signs for the Prindle Institute for Ethics and The Bartlett Reflection Center. These are affiliated with DePauw, the former being for studying various ethical issues, and the latter for meditation, yoga, reflection, and prayer (which, as we know, are essential to solving ethical dilemmas).

This road is extremely narrow, with absolutely no shoulder, but the good news is that there is very little traffic. I cross the railroad tracks, and this is the last time I will encounter what used to be the Monon Railroad line. So long. Today's walk will take me over the 300 mile mark. I don't know if that's significant, except that it's a lot of miles.

I go through Limedale, not much to speak of. I must not be carrying the aura of my raccoon spirit animal, because as I walk by, a goat bleats at me and comes to greet me. Then on the other side of the road a trio of horses walk toward the fence, maybe expecting a handout. As I'm watching the horses, two young deer dart across the back of the pasture, oblivious to me, perhaps smelling only the horses. Their mother follows them out of the woods. Then another three horses at another place. One of them comes and sticks its nose over the fence, to be petted. I notice that it is missing its right eye. Just an empty socket.

It occurs to me that the horse is one domesticated animal for which there is practically no use at all in the U.S. in the 21st century. We don't need them as beasts of burden, unless we're Amish or something. For the most part, they're kept for completely frivolous reasons--to be ridden by well-to-do women and girls, mostly. Compared to cattle, for instance, they are useless to humans, and there shouldn't be as many of them as there are, except maybe in the wild. If there were absolutely no domestic horses, it would make no difference to most of us in this country, except when it came time to go to the races and bet on them, another superfluous, and rather cruel, pastime. If horses were prone to putting on more bulk or giving more milk, they might have caught on as a food animal. (The Mongolians milk their horses, but they also use them for just about everything else you can think of.) They're so expensive to maintain, it's not worth keeping them for meat or leather. Aside from that, there's nothing to do but sit astride their backs and whack them with riding crops, which seems rather decadent.

Well, I'm entering midtown Manhattan, at about 9 miles. Quite a bit less populated than its namesake in New York. I'd say you could subtract 100 from the population of the larger Manhattan to arrive at the difference. Here in this Manhattan, one of the prominent buildings is not the Empire State Building, but the Victory Baptist Church. "Independent, Fundamental, Separated, KJV Only." The initials, of course, refer to the King James Version of the bible, rendered in 1611. As all true Christians know, God himself actually wrote the bible in the King James Version.

It's here in Manhattan that I turn right, heading west on U.S. 40, which is to carry me to Harmony and beyond. U.S. 40 is more like I thought 421 and 231 would be, a four-lane divided highway. Narrow shoulders, but plenty of room for oncoming cars and trucks to get over into the inside lane when they pass by.

I'm going pretty much due west, for the first time since I went from Grand Rapids to Holland, back in Michigan. And my calves and hamstrings tell me that I'm going steadily uphill. Guess that's how Terre Haute got its name. I'm heading for higher ground.

I pass by Reelsville, a town with a water tower and a fire department and everything. But I won't go in, since it's a bit off of the highway.

One of the phenomena I encounter fairly often on the roadside is the single child's shoe, usually from a kid between one and three years old, judging from the sizes. Never a pair, always only one. Just now I see a girl's patent leather Mary Jane. My theory is that these are physics experiments conducted by children of that age, who are sitting in their car seats. What happens when you hold a shoe in your hand, hang it out the window, and then sort of let go of it? It disappears! It doesn't come back. And when you get home or to grandma's, your parents look high and low for it, and there's much shouting and angst, but the shoe isn't there. It's out on the highway. And by then you can't remember what you did with it.

I come to another historical marker. Have I mentioned that I love historical markers? Probably so. This one says that point was the line of the Ten O'Clock Treaty (also known as the Treaty of Fort Wayne). In 1809 William Henry Harrison, as territorial governor, obtained from the Potowatomie, Delaware, and Miami tribes almost three million acres of land. The Shawnees were left out of this treaty, and this contributed to the enmity between them and the Americans. Tecumseh was a Shawnee, and we know the rest of that story. This treaty was signed a couple of years before the Battle of Tippecanoe.

So Bill Harrison was a busy guy, taking land from the Indians, fighting the Indians, driving the Indians out--generally doing what his country expected him to do with respect to the Indians.

I leave Putnam County and enter Clay County at about 14 miles. I stop in at an antique mall for about half an hour and pick up a couple of knives and a straight razor. And a couple of DVDs--one with several episodes of the Ozzie and Harriet Show. My TV reception is so iffy that I'm always on the lookout for inexpensive DVDs.

I pass the Great Dane semi trailer factory, a place that looks like it's doing fairly well. At the south end stands a large brick Italianate mansion, empty and ruined, on the grounds of the factory. Beautiful arched windows on the first and second stories, and a row of smaller windows just under the eaves, where I suppose the servants lived. The building is just there, surrounded by brand new trailers.

Finally I reach the town of Harmony, my destination for the day, where I am parked in the parking lot of the post office, closed for the holiday. This Harmony is not to be confused with the Indiana town of New Harmony, in the far south of the state, which was originally named Harmony, and was set up as a utopian commune. Regardless, the motor home is pretty utopian to my weary bones.

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