Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hitchhiking in Mount Vernon, IL

I am very late with this entry. No real excuses. Sorry.

Tuesday we traveled from Nashville to Bloomington, IL. Lis and I like to get out and walk and see stuff, so after a couple of hours on the road, I asked Magellan to tell me about some points of interest. As it turns out we were just an exit or so away from Mount Vernon, IL.

The AAA information built into Magellan pointed out that the Appellate courthouse was where Abraham Lincoln argued cases and also served as an emergency hospital under the guidance of Clara Barton during a tornado in 1888. Magellan also said that there was an historic village to see in the town. So we told Magellan to take us there. And she did. Right to the center of Mt. Vernon.

We looked around and didn't really see anything that looked like a replica of a village, and no real signs about the Appellate Court. So we parked and started wandering around downtown. Taylor and Lis periodically said, "There's an old building. Maybe that's it." And so we would walk to that, ultimately finding an old church and a couple of other buildings.

Finally we saw a postal worker and asked her. She directed us down a street, told us where to turn after a bit, and we set out walking.

What turned out later to be something like 2 miles, we ended up outside the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. We didn't go in there because we figured the village was on the other side, but as we walked by the center we were able to enjoy the many wonderful sculptures that dot their park.

Finally we came to a sign that sign that directed us to the go down one more street. At this point Taylor said, "I want to go back to the car." I suspect we all did at that point. It was in the low 90s and we were pretty hot and thirsty and sweaty. Bear was dragging along on his leash. I told the other two that I would go to the car and bring it back. I suspected that we had come the long way to our present location and my internal compass was telling me that I could turn around and go straight down the street we were on and find downtown. I assured Lis that I would ask someone.

And so I set out and, after about 3 blocks, I saw an elderly gentleman outside a house pounding a "For Rent" sign into the ground. We had noticed a mailbox right there that had the name "T--" on it, and above the mailbox was another sign that said, "The house that Jack built." I had commented on it to the others when we walked by the first time.

"Are you Jack?" I asked the gentleman.

"Yes!" he said, with a quizzical look on his face.

I walked toward him with my hand outstretched. "I'm Karen and I'm lost," I told him.

He chuckled a bit and then I told him I was from South Carolina, traveling to Minneapolis to visit family with my friend and younger son. We had stopped here to stretch our legs and ended up walking pretty far from our car. I asked him to confirm my suspicion about where downtown was, and he immediately said, "Hop in the car. I'll run you down there."

And so we moved his extension cords out of the way and hopped into his Taurus.

"So when did you build your house?" I asked.

"Oh, my wife and I did in '67," he said.

"So you've lived here almost all my life," I said.

"Oh, I think I'm about three times as old as you are," he chuckled.

"Now Jack, I doubt that," I said. "I'm 48."

"Well I'm 86, so I guess almost twice then," he laughed.

As we drove back to the car (and here I proudly mention that I was correct about its' location...thanks to my great sense of direction), we visited for a bit about our lives. He lost his wife in 1992 and has three living children. One lives about 40 miles away and the others close to 300. He's a retired boilermaker and then did some arrangements for land leases to oil companies. "I still do a little of that," he said.

And we got back to the car. We exchanged email addresses and I got into my car to go back to the others.

The village was closed and is obviously a tourist thing...but it seems well put together. I was disturbed by the real gravestones that are just leaning up against the church in the village. My theory is that if old gravestones fall over or break, they should be left on the gravesite if they aren't going to be repaired. There is a great cemetery by the village. But we were too hot and tired to do any more walking around, so we left. We never did go back to the Appellate Courthouse to look around. That's the real attraction there, to my way of thinking. I guess you can call for a free tour. We'll have to do that some day.

So kudos to Jack, of "the house that Jack built!" Great guy!

No comments: