Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Day 87: Centennial Penny
Nome to Ames. 20.9 miles/1587.6 total
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Mardi Gras. I’m leaving from Nome, going through a couple of small places to get to the equally small city of Ames.
It’s clear and sunny, and the temperature is in the high 30s, expected to get into the low 50s. Let’s see if it makes it. There’s a strong cold wind blowing in from the west.
I spent the day off in Beaumont yesterday, and I can tell you that the city is alive and well, especially in the western and northern sections, where every imaginable big box store and chain boutique and restaurant line the affluent boulevards.
I went into the center of the city and visited the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. It has a very small permanent collection, including an Andy Warhol rendering of a Mobiloil sign, a couple of things by Robert Rauschenberg, the Port Arthur native, and two or three paintings by Paul Manes, a Beaumont native. Also they were having an exhibition of a private collection of African American art, including some very nice paintings from the 19th century and a contemporary one I particularly liked called “Dancing,” by Elizabeth Catlett.
Next I went to the American Fire Museum, filled with artifacts of the history of firefighting—old horse drawn wagons, hand pumps, nozzles, early motorized fire trucks—along with explanations of the various innovations as they came into being. Very nicely done. Beaumont, since 1969, has been the home of the American Valve and Hydrant Manufacturing Company, a major maker of hydrants.
Well, back to today. It’s going to be a day of walking in the country. Gradually the tall southern pine trees have become more prevalent. I’ve left Jefferson County and have entered Liberty County.
Here’s a find. A one hundred year old penny. A 1910 Lincoln penny—only the second year they made them. And it’s in good condition, with the lines on the sheaves of wheat clearly visible. The only trouble is that it’s been nicked quite a bit on the obverse and around the edges from being run over, which pretty much shoots its value down. Still, a great find.
The road has narrowed from four lanes to two and the pine trees have closed in on either side. And that, other than the penny, is the only thing worth remarking on so far. I guess it’s time to break out the iPod.
About halfway through the walk I enter the City of Devers, population 416. I see a new road kill species—a pig. A baby feral or wild pig, just a tiny thing, with black hair. At first I think it's a puppy, but then I get a look at the nose and feet, and sure enough, it’s a piglet.
And speaking of dead animals, as I walk into the 2 G’s Country Store and Exxon Station, out front by the road is what looks like the carcass of a wolf or a black German Shepherd. It makes me think of the black wolf that stalked Meriwether Lewis. It’s been there for some time, and only the head, with pointed ears and nose, remains intact and recognizable. Sort of like a very dirty dog-skin rug. The Indian proprietors of 2 G’s don’t seem to care that it’s there, right where cars and trucks turn in to the pumps. Maybe where they come from when a dog dies it stays in the spot where it died until the vultures and crows finish it off. Well, here too. Still....
Outside the store I go around to the porch on the south side and stack a couple of plastic milk crates and sit in the sun, drinking coffee and trying to soak up some heat. The dead dog is about fifty feet away. I’m still wondering whether it’s a dog or a wolf, but I don’t really care to check it out further. Whatever it is, it’s canine, and in a week or two it will be gone.
About twenty white faced cattle are grazing in a pasture west of Devers. Just to see if I still have the touch, I start singing “Werewolves of London,” and sure enough, those damn cows come up to the fence where I’m standing. Not walking, running. As I continue along they follow me, all the way to the end of the fence, a thousand feet down. I missed my calling. I should have been a cowboy.
I enter the next town, Raywood. This one doesn’t have a population on the sign, probably because it’s unincorporated. There are a few things going on here, nevertheless. Three gas stations, a rice storage place. A great big fruit stand. Scott’s Country Cookin’ Barbecue.
Nearing the end I enter Ames, population 1079. Ames has Cookie’s Soul Food Kitchen and Wickliff’s Gas and Grocery. Only there’s no gas. Ames is a mostly African American city, just as Devers and Nome are mostly white cities, but that’s about all I could find out about any of them.