Monday, February 8, 2010
Day 81: St. Michael Redux
Day 81: Jennings to Iowa. 20 miles/1465 total
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I'm departing from the side of the road a mile or so west of Jennings, heading straight west on Highway 90 through a few small towns to another small town, Iowa.
It’s a cloudless day, in the mid-40s, expected to get into the low 60s. Another fine day for walking.
As you know I have run into trouble with my internet access, and haven’t been making my posts. Tomorrow I hope to spend the afternoon at a wi-fi café somewhere in Lake Charles, catching up.
In case you’re wondering, the terrain remains absolutely flat here. It’s just a few miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, and not much over sea level.
I enter the village of Roanoke. I think I’m at the south edge of town here. I pass the modern and large Welsh-Roanoke Junior High School. The Roanoke Phillips 66 station is closed on Sundays, so I’ll have to move on to the next village for sustenance.
That comes about three miles later as I arrive in Welsh, a slightly larger town of 3,300 or so. Its water tower stands off in the distance. And the high school that Welsh and Roanoke share is here. A mile or so in I pass Daigle’s Sausage Kitchen, but it’s closed. This being Super Bowl Sunday, I think it’s sort of a state holiday. Half of Louisiana is sitting in their living rooms getting drunk, and the other half is riding around in their trucks getting drunk. It’ll be good to be off the road before the game starts.
Next town I come to at about 13.5 miles is Lacassine. It’s another small one, along the lines of Roanoke. No one is certain where the name Lacassine came from. It might be an Indian chief’s name, or it might be the French transliteration of some words meaning “hunting ground.”
I pass the sign for St. John’s Catholic Church and a cemetery set far back from the road. By the highway are a bunch of tiny crosses presided over by a statue of Jesus, his arms outstretched. This is one of those anti-abortion displays so common at Catholic churches these days. Under the sign for the church is another sign. It says, “Abortion Stops a Beating” followed by a picture of a red heart. Abortion Stops a Beating Heart. At first when I saw it, driving by earlier, I didn’t see the heart and I thought, “Wow, that’s great. Finally a pro-abortion slogan we can use! Abortion Stops a Beating.” Like the beatings of little unwanted children and the beatings of women who get married to or stay with abusive partners after they get pregnant. Abortion has prevented many a beating, to be sure. Then of course I realized the silliness of my momentary flight of fancy. But still, I like the thought.
It’s getting pretty warm, and turtles are up and out of the ditches, sunning themselves. I see and hear them jumping back in the water as they hear me approach. And speaking of my approaching footsteps, as I’m walking by a cow pasture, singing along with Warren Zevon’s “Mister Bad Example,” instead of running away as they usually do, the cows all start trotting toward me, clustering together in the corner as I pass by, their eyes fixed on me. An audience! Maybe they like Warren Zevon. I could become the pied piper of Jeff Davis Parish.
Nearing the end of my walk I enter the last town of the day, Iowa, and also enter Calcasieu Parish. Iowa is home of an annual Rabbit Festival. Iowa is a community of about 2,700 that developed in the late 1800s as an agricultural town to which a number of Iowans and other Midwestern farmers migrated. Later, in the 1930s, oil became a major source of income.
I am parked in the middle of Iowa, next to the post office. As I leave the Chevron station, where I get another cappuccino, I encounter an older guy with a beard, who asks me the way to Route 167, which I have just gone past. I tell him, and he introduces himself as Michael, “like the Archangel Michael,” he says. I kid you not. Suddenly I feel that I’m being visited by otherworldly forces. We walk along together, and I offer to take him back to 167 on my way to the highway. Michael tells me he’s bipolar, and that definitely explains why he’s talking nonstop at breakneck speed. He’s seems to be off his medication.
Well, in a very short time I get to know a lot about old Michael, let me tell you. He’s been in Texas and is evidently wandering around now. He was born in Hazel Park, Michigan and grew up in Royal Oak. So we’re homeboys. He’s a friendly and harmless little guy, and I suspect that I’m doing the village of Iowa a favor by taking him out of town.
“Pete, Pete, let me tell you about this so-called friend of mine. This asshole. He tells me, ‘Stop talking, you’re driving me crazy.’ He’s my friend but he’s an asshole. Hey Pete. Do you love Jesus?” I say yes, absolutely. It seems like the right response. “Are you one of the 144,000?” I tell him that’s impossible to know at this point.
As he gets out of the motor home he says, “Hey Pete, I’ll see you in heaven.”