Friday, September 30, 2011

Day One-Hundred-Twenty-Six, That'll Do, Pig

There are a number of mothers who worry about me. Not all of them are my own. I hope none of them are too awfully put out to learn that I have a cold. Another one, yes. I enjoyed a week of good health, or very nearly so. And a good healthy twenty-year run before that. Perhaps I was overdue.

So extend to me your sympathy but there is no cause for concern. I have a rather drippy nose. That never killed anyone. And what do you expect for Heaven's sake. I have been four months out of doors. Sweating and filthy, I eat in saloons. I live on society's fringe. Bugs crawl on me. I poop in the bush. It's no life for a gentleman.

Not one of my fragility. I am a delicate flower. A hothouse orchid. A china doll. It's easy to hurt my feelings. I need to be cared for like a princess. I like marshmallows in my cocoa. The great big ones, you understand. The little ones melt too fast.

But before anyone organises a cocoa party, I can in fact do without. All I've got is a runny nose and a slightly upset stomach. I'd rather be in bed at home, but that's almost always the case. A little suffering will make me strong and take my mind off my heartache.

It will be in the thirties tonight. I do manage to stay warm. I've got a hat that ties under my chin and a new pair of furry pants. And a good heavy shirt and two pairs of socks. My hands are just a bit cold. But only because I'm typing this nonsense. A man suffers for his art.

It's the morning I'm not looking forward to; my tentpoles sap my strength. They are blasted cold and my tent will be wet. There are all kinds of clips and zippers. And every one of them hurts my fingers. It cannot be done in gloves. I've suffered much worse otherwise, but it's just such a pain in the ass.

That said, I did have a fairly good day. I put in twenty-two miles. And maybe two more hiking this way and that, looking for good things to eat. I should look upon my wooze as a good way to save money on food, but feed a cold, they say. And there's always this business of getting recharged. The brave pioneers had it easy.

I debated long ago a solar recharger, but I wasn't sure it would work. And it cost rather much and it would by now be smashed into all sorts of bits. My poor backpack has a rather rough life. I think it will last the trip. But then it goes into storage until we raise enough funds to open the James Museum.

"His actual backpack. Ooh. Ahh." We'll sell replicas in the gift shop. And James T-shirts and picture post cards. I think it will pay for itself. The real money will come when we open the theme park.

You Must Be At Least This Tall to Ride the Wild James.

Seven not wholly unpleasant miles took me to Coon Rapids, Iowa. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't so terribly hungry. It's the pizza I had last night. Pizza never fills me up. Pizza and bananas, I don't know why. They are two foods that make me hungry. Beer, too, gives me a powerful thirst. Love always makes me lonely.

I was disappointed with Coon Rapids on a number of counts. To begin with, it was well off my highway. You'd think they'd have the decency to put themselves in my path. And, while no one was really mean to me, they weren't all that friendly, either. As if somehow it was this traveller's fault that they live in Coon Rapids, Iowa.

It is a town of some 1200 people, with not much to show for it. Their one restaurant was a sandwich shop. I could have been better impressed. It was better than Subway, that's all I can say, but Subway, as we all know, sucks.

I have made a lifetime study of sandwiches and, while I don't expect anyone to come up to my level, it really isn't that hard. My friend Elsie made me a sandwich the other day and it was fantastic. But you don't see her opening her own sandwich shop. Not yet. She's content to be twelve.

And they had some cartoon for three-year-olds blaring on the TV. Like Barney, but squeakier. There wasn't a kid in sight. The walls were a tribute to their high school teams, covered with old uniforms. I hope they washed them, was all I could think. It was like eating in a locker room.

I did, I think, get some clue as to why I have good days and bad. My best walking days are the ones where every couple of hours I meet someone who's nice to me. I need that positive energy. I'm sorry; I guess I'm just weak. Kwai Chang Caine walked all over hell and everyone treated him rotten. But he was a lot more centered than me. He had better teachers.

From there I hiked to Bayard Iowa. I liked it much better. It's a much smaller town but friendlier. I walked into Shack's, a bar. But not a bar. It's a restaurant. You can buy it. It's for sale. One-hundred grand, or quite a bit less, depending on how much they like you. You get a big old building in the center of town and a stream of steady customers. A number of whom are cribbage players. They can be trouble but still.

It didn't seem like they were very glad to see me, but I was soon befriended by Marilyn, the boss. She made for me her famous pork sandwich. We're getting into pig country now. I've been eating sausage, it's easy to forget, but as a rule I don't eat pork. This stems not from any religious conviction but from a fine documentary I once saw.

It was about this baby piglet who lost his mama and was adopted by a quiet but good-hearted farmer who taught him how to herd sheep and he was really good at herding sheep even though he was just a little pig and in the end he won a sheep herding contest and everyone was really impressed even the old dog who didn't like him very much at first and the farmer's wife who wanted to eat him but then didn't.

It was a fine sandwich, I'm inclined to believe. They're popular around here. Truth is my stuffly nose had by then made it impossible to taste anything. It chewed up pretty well. I said it was delicious but I was just guessing. I'll come have another one day.

I did enjoy talking to the folks there. I did learn something interesting. This RAGBRAI, the famous bike ride across Iowa with its tens of thousands of participants, is maybe a bit different than I imagined. I thought it was a bunch of stuck-up jerks in garish jerseys and foo-foo shorts who never say hi to anyone. No. It's a bunch of drunken maniacs riding from bar to bar, causing trouble wherever they go.

"It's like the Hell's Angels rolling into town." Those are in fact my words, but I thought it would be more effective as a quote.

Golf, fishing; even hunting, I'm afraid. It's all about drinking beer. Hey, remember that time Dick Cheney got drunk and shot that old man in the face? Good. Never forget.

I learned too that yesterday was a bad day for harvesting. Poor Billy Bergman got sand in his eye and there were something like seven big fires in the state. I guess all combines, especially the older, gas-powered ones, spit out sparks from time to time. Usually the farmer will just climb down and stomp them out. But yesterday, with the big wind, these fires got out of control. The state finally put a ban on harvesting until the wind died down.

Today was better, or so I'd suppose. Damn cold now, however. Thank you again for tuning in. I bid you a good night.

"That'll do, pig" means "I love you." Not enough people got that.
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