Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 26: The slaughter of the snakes

Clark Center to Union Center. 17.8 miles/371 total

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Before the walk, I'll check out the cemetery here in Clark Center, which is called Auburn Cemetery, after the township where it's located. Some of the earlier graves date from the 1860s. Beabout, Freudenberger, Norris, and someone named Squire Mundy. Maybe he had a daughter named Gloria. The old clapboard church next to the cemetery is no longer in use, from the look of it.

The rest of the village of Clark Center consists of a factory called Yargus Manufacturing, maker of Layco Material Handling Systems, whatever the hell that is. I think it's stuff for moving and storing grain in those big co-ops they have in just about every farming town. Besides the factory, there are a couple of really dilapidated houses, one of which is not inhabited, or at least I hope it isn’t.

Another spectacular cloudless fall day, with the sun making its arc lower in the sky with each passing day, shining hard on left side of my face as I head west. Just west of Clark Center is a covered bridge, the cover portion of which is fairly new, probably not more than 20 years old.

This stretch of U.S. 40 runs parallel in Interstate 70, so the majority of the truck traffic runs on the interstate, sparing me the incessant passing of semis I experienced on the other highways I’ve been on.

What strikes me as I watch people pass me is that about half of them seem to be talking on their cell phones. I do the same when I drive. I wonder how long it will be before every state bans the use of cell phones while driving. It’s going to be one of those things like seatbelts, that takes some states longer than others. But one thing I learned from many years of working for state government is that states love to imitate one another. They jump on whatever bandwagon seems to be riding along. Like the term limit fad of a decade or two ago. Lots of states jumped on that and are now regretting it because they realize that, at least with respect to the legislative branch, the lack of long term experience is depriving legislators of institutional memory and experience. There might be an argument to limit terms in the executive branch, but state executive power is highly diluted to begin with, with the executive functions often divided among several different elected offices that in the federal government would all be within the president's prerogative. In most states the attorney general and secretary of state are elected separately, and in some states the treasurer and comptroller, too. So already a governor has less power than a president does. I don’t know if limiting the governor’s term in office is really necessary, either. If a governor is inclined to abuse his power, like the former governor of this fair state, Rod Blagojevich, he’s probably going to abuse it from the beginning, not wait until his third or fourth term. As Ted Kennedy said, "We already have term limits. They're called elections."

The CSX rail line is running alongside U.S. 40, and a succession of long freight trains passes throughout the day. This is a very busy train line. For the past mile or so I’ve been walking on an old abandoned road that runs about 50 feet from U.S. 40. I think it’s only used by farmers to get to their fields now. I feel like I’m walking on the Appian Way, or something. The Via Antiqua of Illinois.

The sign welcoming me to Martinsville says it has a population of 1300, and that it is the home of Dan Baird, most winning thoroughbred trainer, with 9445 wins. "Martinsville—It’s Small, It’s Friendly, It’s Home. Established 1833. Home of the Blue Streaks." I don’t know if Lincoln did anything here in Martinsville. Farted, maybe. There’s a factory, Rowe Foundary, in the middle of town, that smells like burning brakes. Martinsville--It's Small, It's Inconsequential.

Today I’m noticing countless little snakes on the road, about the size of nightcrawlers. I hesitate to count them as road kill because they’re so small and there are so many of them. I think I’ll establish a rule—no snakes counted as road kill unless they’re at least as long as my shoe, which is about a foot long. In any event, the snakes are doing the same thing as their fellow reptiles, the turtles, did back in Indiana. They’re trying to cross the road en masse, with disastrous results. The little guys are getting slaughtered. And some of the bigger ones, too.

I come up along side a facility of some kind, consisting of a number of 20 foot high cylinders, probably about 60 feet wide, some with domes on top,. There are signs saying no one is allowed to trespass, and that you can’t even take photographs of the place! This is a free country. I take a few photos, just for the hell of it, although I’m still not quite sure what it is. Then I see a sign on a gate—it’s a Marathon Oil tank farm. Everything is a farm out here in the country, I guess. So this collection of petroleum tanks is a tank farm. Okay.

I see a dead vulture. That’s the first one of them I’ve seen. Now he's food for the other vultures.

Casey is a city of 3000, which is pretty large for around here. Couldn't find out anything about the history of the place. Casey’s outskirts leading up to the city center contain a number of attractive craftsman style brick bungalows and two story houses, and some frame houses with decorative brick porches. Very nice.

I notice that the Bank of Casey has a sign featuring old fashioned baseball players at bat, which makes me wonder if there's any connection with Earnest Thayer's great baseball poem, “Casey at the Bat.”

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville--mighty Casey has struck out.

At the west end of town there’s a huge lumber yard, and on the other side of the street a fertilizer factory. Just past the city limits of Casey I enter Cumberland County.

I see another dead vulture. Must be something in the water.

In the distance looms the green and white sign for Union Center, the place where my motor home is parked, in the tiny parking lot of the tiny Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, established 1881. There is no evidence, either on the map or visible to the eye, of any such thing as Union Center, save this sign.

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