Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 83: The Middle Way

Sulphur to Louisiana Welcome Center. 21.2 miles/1506.4 total

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The car is parked in a vacant lot at the corner of Lewis St. and Highway 90 in Sulphur. I'm heading down 90 to where it merges with I-10, and then a couple of miles to the Louisiana Welcome Center just this side of the Texas line.

Today will be my last full day of walking in Louisiana. My reconnaissance this morning indicated that I should be able to walk across the I-10/U.S. 90 bridge over the Sabine River into Texas on the next walk. It’s a wide bridge with an ample shoulder. The only trick will be not to attract the attention of the police.

Sulphur is a fairly tidy older industrial town, perhaps along the lines of Clawson, except for that ubiquitous southern tendency not to do a great deal in the way of zoning. Zoning isn't the whole problem, really. There’s zoning, all right. Here it appears to be mixed use commercial and light industrial, and in a few blocks it will be residential. Where the trashiness comes in is from the lack of enforcement (or maybe even the existence) of what we would call building codes. So yes, this is commercial, but if one of the businesses is burned out or the roof falls in and they take their time demolishing it, or if the business is being run out of a broken-down trailer, that’s fine. Similarly, when a place is zoned residential they often don’t care what kind of dwelling is on the property. This morning I went through a neighborhood of mostly trailers and modular houses where several people were living in school buses. Old yellow school buses, with wooden stairs going up to the back doors. And the utility companies apparently will hook up lines to a school bus. Also, in the south generally, I think they have a couple of subcategories of residential zoning we don’t have in the north, like Slave and Master.

There’s not much between Sulphur and Vinton, the only town of any size I’m going through today. So for the next twelve miles or so I’m out in the country. A few miles into the walk I make the acquaintance of a fellow traveler, who is on the other side of the road, walking but hoping for a ride. I passed him earlier, but we meet at a gas station where we’ve both stopped.

His name is Kerry, and he’s coming from Gainesville, Florida, headed for his home in Alaska, by way of California. He’s carrying a small backpack and wearing several layers of clothing. He’s missing about half his teeth and smells like booze already at a little before noon, but he’s not drunk. There’s no comfortable motor home waiting for him at the end of the day—just whatever shelter he can find in the town he ends up in, or maybe a spot beside the road. Kerry tells me he’s 63, and just enjoys being on the road. Says he was in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, and now he’s headed to the Gulf coast of Texas to stay with some people.

He tells me he was hauled in by the cops between Crowley and Jennings the night before last, and held in handcuffs for an hour while they checked him out, finally letting him go. I tell him that might be because of the serial killer in Jennings and he says he knows, that the police told him all about it. He was walking late at night to stay warm because it was too cold to sleep. For all that he's generally complimentary about the way the cops treated him. Evidently he's had worse.

We talk about finding things on the side of the road—tools, knives, money. He says he found $360 and some weed in a Marlboro pack once. I can’t beat that, with my pennies and nickels. I ask him about the metal silverware and he nods right away. He says the spoons are from people cooking dope. "When you see a spoon you’ll see the syringe a little while later." I’d thought of that already, and I say it makes sense for the spoons, but how does he explain the forks and knives? He shakes his head. “I have no idea.” So the mystery continues.

Kerry tells me to avoid Albuquerque, that there are gangs of Indians who don’t like white people, and not to go there after dark. I tell him that I never walk after dark anyway, and ask him about Santa Fe. That’s a nice city, he says. "Clean." I’ve been to both cities myself, but not on foot, of course. I agree with him that Santa Fe is nicer than Albuquerque, and I take his advice seriously, even though I’m not going to be walking around at night and staying in shelters, like him.

Something about Kerry just sort of broadcasts the fact that he’s a potential victim, drifting from town to town, whereas I don’t think I project quite the same image. More teeth, less baggage, perhaps more clear-eyed determination, and no hanging around bars late at night, all of which help to increase my safety. So far, so good.

Still, the idea of a person being truly on his own, with nothing but what he's carrying, is part of the freedom I romantically envisioned when I first began to contemplate this undertaking. But I guess that freedom comes at a cost—being rousted by cops and targeted by thugs and having to wonder whether you’re going to be able to sleep or have to keep walking.

I suppose it’s fair to say that I’ve chosen what might be termed the Middle Way—something between the unencumbered open road with nothing to lose and the potential for a world of pain on the one hand, and the Griswold family trip to Wally World in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster on the other. Maybe leaning a little toward the latter. But I’ll take it.

At eight miles I take Louisiana 388 off of Highway 90 into Edgerly. There’s an old rice dryer (which I know to be such because it’s located at the end of Rice Dryer Street). It looks like a skeleton of its former self—a huge empty ruin of a building, made of concrete and fifty feet high or more, with mostly windowless walls covered with dead vines and a few empty windows at the top, like black eyes. Cattle now graze in what used to be a parking lot next to the dryer.

Otherwise, Edgerly is nothing to speak of. I’m back out on U.S. 90. Finally at about 13 miles I get to the edge of Vinton. There’s something that looks like that rice dryer in Edgerly, looming high over the town. Vinton is a town of about 3,300, and is the birthplace of bluesman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, who lived here and in Orange, Texas, just over the state line.

This area, between the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers, was once part of a literal no-man's land. It lay in the disputed boundary between the Louisiana territory just bought by the U.S. and the Spanish lands to the west. In 1805 negotiations broke down and both countries agreed not to settle the area, called the Rio Hondo Territory. So all the settlers were cleared out and relocated. Things didn't change much until after the Civil War when a guy named Seaman Knapp came down from Iowa with a bunch of fellow Iowans, to get involved in the lumber business. Around the same time the Louisiana and Texas Railroad decided to build a line from New Orleans to Beaumont, Texas, which ran right through here. That's when things began to take off to the limited extent they did. Vinton, Iowa was where Seaman Knapp had come from, and hence the name.

Most of the town lies to the south of Highway 90, down by I-10. I stop at the Circle A Mini Mart to see if they have coffee. But nothing doing—they have half a pot that’s been turned off for a long time. So I go on to the Texaco station, where I have better luck—they have the super sweet cappuccino I have become addicted to lately.

Vinton has a dusty little downtown going, and at least one more gas station on 90, a Citgo. Then it’s back out to the countryside for a few more miles, where the road stretches straight ahead without curving.

I go by a small herd of cattle, perhaps fifteen adults and eight calves scattered around. I begin singing “Mister Bad Example” and they do just what they did last time, gathering together and clustering around the fence right in front of where I’m standing, looking at me. Ordinarily cattle run away when they see or hear me coming. I start singing another Warren Zevon tune, “Carmelita,” just to see what happens. They like it, and begin mooing back at me. Well, one of two things is going on here as I see it—either cattle like Warren Zevon songs or they like my singing voice (which I assure you is not good, at least from a human perspective). Perhaps I’ve found an audience. Next time I’ll try some Bob Dylan and see what they do.

At 18 miles I get to where Highway 90 merges with I-10. Before crossing over the expressway I stop in at the Lucky Longhorn Casino for one last video poker session in Louisiana, and quickly win a dollar. I think I’m ahead now for this state, and I’ll settle for that.

I begin walking down the access road on the right side of the expressway, until it curves away in a different direction. Then I go down into the wide ditch on the edge of I-10. Eventually I spy another road running parallel to the highway, and walk through fifty feet or so of woods and climb a fence to walk get to it. That road soon ends and I’m back walking through the weeds in the ditch, past the truck weigh station. At last, after about another mile, I get to the exit lane from the Welcome Center, where the motor home awaits.


Billie Bob said...

If you are ever really hard up and hungry, pull out one of your pocket knives and start crooning. The meal will walk right up to you…

Anonymous said...

Dope fiends in desparate need of cash to fuel their depraved habits cruising the roads, and gangs of Indians lurking in the cities ahead bent on evening the score. I have all I can do to restrain from spuouting dire warnings.

I guess there was a reason for Gene Autry to serenade the herd on those cattle drives.

You and the 144,000 reminded me of a Mexican Catholic priest who was always curious about certain odd family trqditions like covering all mirrors in the house when a death in the family had occurred. He took a DNA swab test and discovered not only was he genetically Jewish but was descended from the priestly class of the Cohens. Do you think that being a man of the cloth might be in the genes? Anguish.

Anonymous said...

After much research I have found that the G&H Feeds from Kaplan is actually taken from a couple of partners named Guillot and Hensgens. You never know when information such as this comes in handy. jowcar

Peter Teeuwissen said...

John, Thanks for the info and I stand corrected. You have to admit that Guidry and Hebert were good guesses.

Anguish, Sounds like the priest was from a family of what they call "crypto-Jews." During the Spanish Inquisition ("No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!") many Jewish people converted to Christianity to avoid being liquidated, and some of them emigrated to the New World, where they continued to secretly practice Jewish traditions. Ordinarily when a young man came of age his father would tell him the secret, but maybe in this priest's case the secret got lost and only some of the practices remained. Or maybe the family figured why burst his bubble, he gets a free education from the church, and a priest is a priest. I know being a man of the cloth is in my genes, but I doubt if I'm a Cohen.

Anonymous said...

You told me your father's calling, but as to whether there is a Cohen in your genes who knows whether a Dutch Jewish family of priestly lineage converted to Christianity during the Black Plague to avoid persecution and exile. That might qualify you to be one of the 144,000. Anguish

Anonymous said...

Maybe if the family had come from Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but where the Tees come from, I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

I gave your comment some thought S, and it occurred to me that a Jewish family in one of the big cities might flee the Jewish community and reappear with Christian names and identities in an area where there are no Jews, like where the Tees came from. For example, Moses Teastein and his family disappear from Amsterdam and reappear as the Matthew Tee family. Of course, only a DNA swab would give any indication whether this might have happened. Anguish

Anonymous said...

Where the Tees come from, you can't just appear!

Anonymous said...

The first Tee had to just appear. Anguish

Anonymous said...

Let me try and explain: 1) The Tees come from a tiny village of mostly fishermen. I doubt that anyone fleeing persecution and seeking anonymity would have chosen the place in the past centuries. The person would probably have been known as The Stranger forever after.
2) The family has owned land in that village since the 13th century and you had to be a local to benefit from the communal landsharing system.
3) In the village, men are known as Wilhem son of Jacob son of Gerrit Tee or Wouter van Jacob van Jacob Tee, etc, so people know who is who and the first Tee did not just appear: generations ago he was the son of Matthew which is what the name means.
4) I was not really ready to go into this but aren't the genes you were referring to supposed to come from the mother's side to qualify ? Or if that is not the case, as a man, you would need to be a convert ?
5) I'm not sure that even a DNA test would prove anything because said genes would be very diluted.
6) Why are you in Connecticut (?) so interested in getting Peter or anybody to "admit," ? confess ? acknowledge ? " that maybe they have Jewish ancestry not that he would mind I'm sure if that were the case? In a family where there are several Jacobs (which is just James in Dutch), but so far no Moses, it could have provided some welcome variety among the kaaskopjes and erfgooiers.
7) So now the big question: is it a matter of genes or chosen religion?
Pray, what say you ?
Apologies to everyone for the length of this comment.

Anonymous said...

First S, I would like to thank you for all the information on the Tee family. Peter never told me this much; although he did explain Matthew.

I hope the following answers your questions raised in your paragraphs. Paragraphs 1-3 demonstrate how unlikely that my hypothetical occurred. However, there are many ways new blood can enter the gene pool, I do not picture the Tee family living in thee little village marrying their cousins or siblings for 800 hundred years.
You are correct in paragraph 4 that mitochondrial DNA survives the longest with the least changes. As to paragraph 5, I refer you to the human gene project being run by National Geographic. They will analyze your swab and tell you what groups of people your distant ancestors may have come from.

As to paragraphs 6 & 7, it was Peter who claimed that he did not know whether he was one of the 144,000. To the best of my knowledge, I did not recall Peter claiming Jewish ancestry or convering to Judaism. That prompted me to comment that he was not one of the 144.000. Peter asked me how I knew he was not. Aside from what Peter told me of himself, I really had no proof and was reminded of the story of the Mexican Catholic priest. In short Peter was right in his statement to Michael.
Are you sure that Jacob is James in Dutch? Is Jesus's brother, James, referred to as Jacob in Dutch bibles?
As to the big question, not being John or God, I can only speculate that the 144,000 would be practicing Jews. John did not know of genetics. Christians were already saved.
I am sure that Peter would have no problem with Jewish ancestry,but I doubt that he would be as ecstatic as my Mother would be to discover that she had Jewish ancestry. She considered Jews to be the smartest people and God's Chosen People.

Anonymous said...

So questions: What or who would you say you are or how would you define yourself ?
Do you seriously think I would say Jacob/Jacobus is James in Dutch if I were not sure ? Just wondering.
As to inbreeding, you'd be surprised how much of that went on before globalisation and not only in the Netherlands. In some areas, people married their first cousin to keep the land in the family or followed the Biblical rule of marrying the brother of the deceased husband or sister of one's deceased wife. In that area, widows and widowers did not stay alone for long and remarried several times. Another interesting fact is that most of the weddings took place once the woman was very much pregnant and often only a couple of months before giving birth to the first child, sort of as if the husband needed confirmation that the woman could bear children before tying the knot. They did not however marry their siblings. Egyptian pharaohs did that.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Everyone is missing the point on the 144,000. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this number of people will get to live in heaven, but they do not believe that they are necessarily the descendants of Jacob and his twelve sons. Rather, they believe that the 144,000 will be made up of Christians, from early times to the present, and, one assumes, many Jehovah's Witnesses. Since that's such a small number, even a Witness can't know if he or she will be among the 144,000 or instead will live forever in an earthly paradise. That is what Michael was referring to, and that is why I said one couldn't know for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I thought Michael was referring to the 144,000 (12000 from each of the 12 tribes) referenced in the book of Revelation.

S, I am not sure what you mean by "What or who you would say you are or how would you define yourself?" I suppose it would depend on who was asking and what information they wanted. For example, I was standing outside a hotel enjoying a cup of coffee, a cigarette and the warm spring sun in Oslo Norway. An American approached me and asked if I spoke English. I said that I was American. Thereby informing this person that I did speak English, but that I was not Norwegian and unlikely to be of much help. ( I found the question curious because, although they exist, I never encountered a Norwegian who did not speak English).

Recent research is indicating that there was greater genetic diversity before the rise of nation states. People were able to move around more freely without national borders. For example, Batavian Legionaires manned Hadrian's wall for two hundred years. Anguish

Anonymous said...

S, I forgot to ask whether you knew if marrying siblings was a Greek practice brought to Egypt by the Ptolemies, an Egyptian practice adopted by the Ptolemies, or a nasty habit originating with the Ptolemies? Anguish

Anonymous said...

My question was related to your comment about your mother being ecstatic about her Jewish ancestry which technicallly might make you Jewish in the eyes of Jews. So would you yourself say you are Jewish? ethnically what ? and religiously RC, Baptist or what ??? I know someone who defines himbself as a Catholic atheist. So what do you say you are?
Ramses II married his daughters well before the Ptolemies reigned over Egypt.

Anonymous said...

What I said was that my mother would have been ecstatic if she learned that she had some Jewish ancestry. She did not. To the best of my knowledge,I have no Jewish ancestry. I usually find myself "definig" myself on hospital admission forms where I check the block labeled caucasian/white and the block marked protestant, but only if I am in the mood. I never would be more specific to an unknown person. Anguish

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry, I read the tense wrong up there. But OK, how do you know you have no Jewish ancestry? Maybe you could take a DNA test and make your mother happy. I didn't really need you to tell me that you are Caucasian and of Protestant origin. I had that much figured out plus a few other things.

Anonymous said...

S,Note that I qualified my answer as "to the best of my knowledge". In short, there is nothing I know of in my ancestry which would raise the slightess suspicion that I might have any Jewish ancestry. I may take a DNA test as I am fascinated by the National Geographic project. Hoever, the results will have no effect on my mother's happiness. My mother is dead,but thank you for the concern over her happiness.

I apologize for providing the information about me. I didn't realize that you are oh so very prescient. Anguish

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for the way I may have sounded in my previous post which was put up there before you revealed your identity to Peter. You had seemed to express doubts about his ancestry and I was just returning the question. It was a joke! I'm not prescient. From all your comments along the way, I learned that your grandmother was probably of German origin (pronunciation difficulties, first generation immigrant ?). In Norway, someone asked you if you spoke English, assuming maybe that you were Norwegian. So I imagine that you may look Norwegian hence Caucasian. You know the Bible pretty well which to me is typical only of Protestants. You say Revelation not Apocalypse (so not RC). You are or were a smoker, you are interested in knives hence more likely to be a man than a woman and you worry. That's all...

Anonymous said...

Hello S, An A+ for your detective work. My grandmother came to the US when she was 21 with her parents and siblings. Why she had that pronounciation quirk, I do not know. Both her parents spoke English. Her mother went to nursing school in Boston Mass. I've found that RCs have a more intense but focused knowledge of the New Testament. I trace what little I know of the bible to my reading it out of curiosiy.
Regards, Anguish

Anonymous said...

Hello S, I was pretty tired when I wrote the above comment and forgot a couple of items. My grandmother came from Nybro, Sweden. You noted that I orry which strikes me as more of a female trait. Mothers always seem to worry. But balancing knives against worry I would opt for male. Anguish