Monday, January 31, 2011

started raining tonight, and it's supposed to be this massive storm system sweeping through the midwest and especially the upper midwest where it's not unusual to get a foot or two of snow at the end of january. but this is the southern midwest, closer to kentucky, where it hovers around the freezing point, can't make up its mind whether it will turn to ice or not, and if it does, it might just as easily melt right away into a slushy mixture of dangerous and just very wet. in this kind of weather one wouldn't dream of taking a car out over a purely dirt road like the one that heads off into the hilly fields right near our house, but now that i know that there is this old shell of a building, an old haunted poorhouse/asylum, tucked into the trees, i can even see it if i cast a glance when driving through there, and, in the middle of the winter when we are tired of the same old roads, back and forth through town, a place i'd never heard of, never imagined, seems impossible to resist.

ah but i'm a public blogger, and the place is off-limits, clearly marked so to speak, and i'm a respectable person, so i probably won't park the car off the road and go tromping back there anytime soon. for one thing it's fairly well documented; i already know what it looks like, so the only question would be if there are really ghosts hanging about the place, and why would i be any more likely to see or hear them than i ever was? people don't want people tromping around places like that; it doesn't help, somebody else's graves are out there, and they aren't ours, aren't even marked, for the most part, and aren't really going to tell me anything. it's just a place, tucked back there in the fields.

now the question remains about the animals. it was, at one time, an animal lab; a short time, but when we do bad stuff to animals it's kind of like doing bad stuff to people. and now, animals cross those roads regularly. the deer shoot across chautauqua and cause car accidents regularly. the possum, the very face of ghosts by themselves, occupy the top of the hill there at chautau and mclafferty, and come out most when it's really wet or it's really dry, and don't stop to give the humans even the time of day. there's an old story about dogs and wolves being crossed out there, but who knows that kind of stuff, dogs & wolves cross anyway, and don't need any special laboratory to do it. the geese continue to fly overhead, turning this way and that, arguing amongst themselves, as confused about the weather as we are; they clearly feel that the lake district where they are has some good points, but there are also clearly some benefits to taking a jog either north or south, or maybe east or west; and whichever way they choose, it never seems to be with total agreement or smooth passage. some of the young teenagers are clearly questioning authority.

so the obvious question to me is whether the animals are mixed up in this somehow, as if they know an abandoned farmstead, an unrestful resting place, when they see it; or whether their spirits are entirely oblivious to whatever passions we humans carry around, or make up as the case may be. in our own house we've had a complete turnover of pets; we now have two large dogs and two cats; one cat has only a single eye and a smashed-in face, and makes huge sneezes occasionally, at night or when the passages get clogged. from a twisted, one-eyed face she looks intently at us and we keep her indoors to protect her from the wild spirits that occupy the night in the neighborhood around. four other cats, and two other large dogs, have gone their way in the last few years, old beyond their time, succumbing to the inevitable, and there were also a couple of birds, but those were in cages, always complaining shrilly, throwing seeds at the floor around them, and biting anyone who came close; i couldn't take it, mostly because they were trapped; we couldn't let them out, or the cats or dogs would get them. ao their complaining sounded, to me, like it was based on their merely being stuck in their cages day in and day out. we gave them to a friend, but i'm not sure what happened after that, and i wonder about my own complicity in letting these critters meet a fate that they may not have met if i hadn't come and got in their faces.

same with the ones on the road; you never know they're out there until you're right on top of them, and sometimes it's too late; many many people have smashed deer in this area and nobody ever won in a situation like that. all i can say is, they're just about everywhere, never have there been more deer running around, zigzagging across the road at odd hours, waiting until you're right upon them and then jumping up and getting on your grill, daring you to pop them. we people have enough problems, trying to keep body & soul together during a depression, trying to raise kids in a world that tends more and more toward nastiness, war and pestilence. it's a cold world, mud and ice, and week-old snow all mixed together and making the critters a bit hungry and edgy waiting for spring, i imagine.

out by university farms the other day, right up mclafferty, a police car, with all its siren lights shining, but entirely empty, as if the patrolman himself had walked into the barn and disappeared. not a soul i could see anywhere near, in a place that usually only has animals anyway. and he reminded me: maybe he'd cut across the road, and across the field, via another all-dirt muddy farm path, to investigate a claim of tresspassers out on the asylum grounds, out beyond the pasture. i'm not about to explain to this guy or anyone else what i'm doing out there, so i probably won't even try, at least not now, but you go past these empty cars, or you see these animals, and sometimes you wonder. at the far corner, mclafferty and pleasant hill, my wife saw a cat one day, stopped, and a kitty jumped up into her engine block while its mother or companion skittered off into the woods; she saved it, but had to give it away because we'd already adopted our second and last. i'm lucky; i haven't hit or run anything over that i know of, but i sure have had a few opportunities, if i weren't concentrating, keeping my eyes on the fine yellow line that is sometimes faded away from years of being driven on. when i asked one time why the historical sites aren't marked around here, how come you could have an important town, one of the first three in the state of illinois, lie sinking into the woods, totally unmarked, on some farmer's land, i was told that the bronze historical markers are often stolen by people who melt down the bronze and sell it for scrap, this being the depression and all, and in fact it's been that way for a while, so they don't put bronze markers up anymore. this leaves a place, a place with a rich and colorful history, almost no mark, no reminder, of what transpired here before. and maybe that's just as well, because you give people an old shell of a house, or a foundation or something, and their imaginations take a runaway leap, and they write all kinds of stuff, i can tell you, about what that would signify. maybe it doesn't signify anything in the end, we, people and animals, are just zigzagging, going around these spots, turning this way and that, trying to figure out how to get through this last patch of winter, before it turns around, and we can see the sun again.

the path you've never taken, up over the rise and the dirt hill, shines sometimes in the morning sun, which softens in the dusty brown glade of dead trees that soon, with their spring leaves, will cover up everything. that sun, when it comes, reminds me that this is all just farmland, perhaps more so since it's run by the university farms which farms so intentially, in a methodical, scientific, teaching kind of way, measuring the quality of hybrid seeds and such, and teaching people how to manage an acre. across the road, in town, anything can happen; people can buy or sell houses at the drop of the hat and all kinds of unstable people might move in and change the landscape. but out there, you might have the same ag dude overseeing the property for years at a time, and maybe he cares about the wildlife scene, maybe he doesn't. some of these ag guys are practical to a fault; they'd move a brick, or even a couple hundred of them, if they had a single good reason; but, if they didn't, they might let it sit there what, a few decades or more, just sit there, with the animals nesting in the grasses, or in the shell of a brick house, nature overgrowing the place, because it's too much trouble to plow over a brick shell of any kind, and time is money, so to speak. my grandfather used to spend time with those ag guys, and i'd hang around holding onto his leg and listen, and sometimes when we drive past the place, especially the farms themselves over by where that police car was, i smell the fertilizer on the fields and remember those days. the corn there will grow again, i'm sure; it's the promise of spring, and then, i guess, we'll find out how well those hybrids will work out. careful, you might see a few snakes, out in the weeds, but they aren't likely to kill you.


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