Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Day 107: Obey All Rules
Silver Valley to Lawn. 20 miles/2006.9 total
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
From Silver Valley I head up U.S. 84 toward Goldsboro and Lawn, to a spot about two miles past Lawn.
It’s a bit overcast this morning, but the clouds are already beginning to disperse. When the sun comes out it’ll be hot—into the high 80s or more. But right now the wind is blowing so strongly from the southwest that it’s keeping things fairly comfortable.
The cedars and junipers that dotted the pastures on the way up from Austin have been replaced up here by some kind of small unattractive deciduous bush/trees that still haven’t leafed out in this early spring. They grow from the rock walls, in the fields, at the edges of the road, everywhere. They're the most prevalent tree around here, and I can't identify them yet--scrubby little things, with deeply furrowed bark. As soon as the leaves start to come out I’ll be able to tell what they are with the aid of my tree book.
The first place I go through is Silver Valley. There’s nothing left of it along Highway 84. I checked the internet for something on the history, and found a quite detailed article about it, but it comes down to this: it was here at one time, and now it’s not. Cotton farming, a gin, a few mercantile establishments, then a decline starting around World War One. That’s almost a century of decline. Now there are just the signs, at either end, about a quarter of a mile apart, and a side road going over the railroad tracks.
Today is a milestone of sorts. I will reach the 2000 mile mark this afternoon. It was around Jackson, Mississippi that I hit 1000 miles. It took me 58 days of walking to get to that point, and only 49 days to get here, although the total elapsed time for the first thousand was less. I imagine I’ll be somewhere over on the other side of Phoenix when I reach 3000. Who knows when that’ll be.
One of the things I liked about Eric Joffrion, the guy I met yesterday at the Coleman antiques mall, was that when I explained how I’m doing the walk he got it right away. No yawning, head scratching, or lapses of attention. In fact, after I gave him the thumbnail sketch of the logistics, he interrupted me and said, “so you just keep leapfrogging along, then, eh?” Which was exactly how I would have put it.
When he told me his name, and not knowing yet how it was spelled, I asked him if he was any relation to Montreal hockey great Boom Boom Geoffrion. He said “distantly,” by which I discovered he meant that all the Joffrions were probably related, and indeed descended from one or two original French settlers. Some anglicized the spelling to “Geoffrion,” but they were all Joffrions once. Sure enough, when I looked up Boom Boom on the internet, it said that he was a direct descendant of Pierre Joffrion, an early settler. Eric’s family emigrated to Louisiana in the 1700s, probably during the diaspora caused by the sincere wish of the English to be rid of the French in Canada.
As I’ve mentioned before, nowadays both Acadians and Cajuns liken their expulsion from Canada to “ethnic cleansing,” and I suppose it was, in a somewhat less gruesome way. But look at it from the point of view of the English: they’d been at war with France for the better part of a millennium, with no end in sight. Now they were competing with France for preeminence in the New World and had, for who knew how long, gained the upper hand in Canada. What possible advantage could there be in letting a bunch of Frenchmen hang around, plotting and engaging in their Jesuitical machinations? We can hardly appreciate how much of a nuisance to one another the English and the French were during the hundreds of years before their 20th century alliances.
While still rolling, the countryside has relatively speaking flattened out, and much of it is given over to cultivation. I see some winter wheat, but I don’t know what else they grow around here, and whether they still plant cotton.
I arrive at Goldsboro. Nothing to report here, either. According to Wikipedia, it had an estimated population of 30 in 2000. I imagine the estimate was necessary because it was impossible to know if some of those who answered the doors of their trailers were actually human or only nearly so. The only building on Highway 84 is an old, one-room stone house, which most recently was a craft shop. Now it’s boarded up.
Here’s something interesting. I see a sign as I enter a highway construction area (and I’ve seen others like this in Texas and maybe other states) that reads, “Obey Warning Signs. State Law.” Now wouldn’t you think that it would go without saying that if you disobey any highway sign you’ve broken the law? Could it be that in Texas there's such a thing as a highway suggested warning sign? "Reduce Speed, If You Feel Like It." I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, but the whole thing puts me in mind of an episode of the Andy Griffith Show I saw once, where Barney Fife has two or three people in jail (one of whom was Otis Campbell, the town drunk.) Barney’s pacing up and down in front of the cells, strutting in his Barney way. He says, “Now men, there are two basic rules here at The Rock. Rule number one: ‘Obey All Rules.’ . . .”
You know those crosses on the side of the road, where people have died in traffic accidents? Here’s a pair that are a sad as any I’ve seen. One says “Charley Sr., 1-1-65 to 6-3-07" and the other says “Charley, Jr., 1-9-81 to 6-3-07.” A father and his sixteen-year-old son, killed together.
I leave Coleman County and enter Taylor County. The pavement is a different color. This county was named for three brothers, Edward Taylor, George Taylor, and James Taylor, all of whom died at the Battle of the Alamo. Abilene is the county seat, although the first seat was Buffalo Gap, which, let’s face it, sounds a lot cooler.
Finally I enter the city of Lawn, population 353. There used to be a Shell station here. I can tell from the yellow and red canopy over the pumps. But it’s closed now. The only thing open is the Highway Grocery Store, where I go to cool off and get a cold drink. Most of the rest of Lawn along Highway 84 consists of buildings that are either falling down or have already collapsed, and most have loose pieces of sheet metal that flap in the wind. But over to the west of the highway, across the tracks, there appears to be something of a village, with a school and a playing field.
Lawn was the birthplace of a character actor named Sunshine Parker (Lloyd Olen Parker), who lived from 1927 to 1999. The article in Wikipedia says he was known for playing bums and old codgers. He was in Road House and Tremors, which might have been the high point in his career. He was in a number of other movies and television shows. And that's the news from Lawn.