Saturday, May 25, 2013
Zeitgeist: A Trip to Save a Tractor
April 27th 2013, I joined my old friend Aaron on a trip from Lafayette, Indiana to Concordia, Kansas in order to salvage a 1941 Farm All tractor from mechanical doom. The trip was a physically uneventful success: we drove there, loaded up the tractor and drove back. Yet still driving there was enough for me to start thinking.
For most of my life I have either viewed myself as either a. never a tourist no matter where I was or b. always a tourist no matter where I was.
Example one: every time I would visit Chicago in my youth I did so with a sense of belonging there. I was never a tourist no matter how much I may have looked like one (especially when I was driving.) I was never in awe of the city when I dwelt within its streets. I felt as if I belonged there and this made me appreciate it all the more.
Example two: every time I go to Payless or Target or Walmart I feel like a tourist no matter how little I look like one (especially when I'm driving.) Everyone in the parking lot or in the store aisles seem like curiosities. I wonder who these people are, so unique and variant from each other. They are brought here out of necessity instead of preference. It seems an easy place to feel isolated in a crowd. An amused face in the crowd. A worried face in the crowd.
As Aaron and I cruised towards the west in a rented cargo van with a 3000 pound trailer hitched to its rear, I felt the unusual urge to tour the land we were passing through. We passed the Abraham Lincoln National Library in a van with a trailer that stretched the length of a semi truck. I thought we should stop there. We crossed a flooded Mississippi river into Hannibal, Missouri and passed a sign claiming Mark Twain's birth place was only so many miles away. I thought I'd really like to visit that place. We breezed past mile after historical mile and I kept thinking back to all the important or wonderful or awful things which occurred on the very land we were barreling through in our fast moving caravan. I wanted to stop at all of them. I wanted to find out what happened even if I already knew. I wanted to remember what I knew about these places while I was actually there. I felt the urge to be a tourist on purpose. A tourist for the dead.
We didn't stop at any of them. We were on a schedule, so there was no time. Instead, we discussed the historical significance of the signs we read as we drove or rode. Both Aaron and I are well versed in American history. I assume we both resigned we would have learned nothing new by stopping at these altars of American history and expansion. It may have been a vague sense of vanity or a vague sense of doubt.
I want to go back and see all these altars. No matter how gaudy or kitschy they maybe, I still find them wonderful. They are one wonderful part of something I truly, if not begrudgingly love: My Country.
I have never seen the Grand Canyon in person. I imagine it is beautiful and I may still see it someday. I imagine it will do for my eyes what the Mississippi river does for my thoughts.
Every river has a story.
Every river has a history.
The major ones in western world history are: The Nile, The Amazon, The Tigris, The Euphrates, The Ganges (sort of), The Thames
stop. I'm moving too far away from my original point.
The most important river in American history is the Mississippi River. The Mississippi river is the most awesome evidence of nature corresponding or clashing with American humanity. Everything that can happen to nature and everything that can happen to humanity thus far happened on the Mississippi river. It still remains for me to cross in a van. For now.
Wicked River by Lee Sandlin
Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
I remained sober during this trip. I made it a point, as an alcoholic would make it a point. remaining sober turned out to be much easier than expected. Thank goodness! Good old German blood holding back dwindling Native blood. Decent survival genes.
I left someone I was afraid to leave because I suspected I might lose them forever if I did, even though it was such a short time. Of course I have a paranoid streak; present me with someone who does not in some way and we'll both call them a fool. Of course, I discovered my paranoia was misplaced, as usual.
Thank you cell phone, even if you are responsible for this silly paranoia. The cause of and solution to all the world's problems. The opiate for the masses. Other aphorisms.
Landscapes are beautiful and almost effortless these days. If they are effortless, they may lose some of their punch. Even without the punch, they remain still beautiful. Effortlessly beautiful. Anyways.
Kansas reminded me of the wild west. I told Aaron it looked perfect for riding a horse through. He agreed with me as a teacher agrees with a student who told them something they already knew.
People create homesickness for me.
The place is wonderful too,
but the people in it are what truly matter.
Some places are more wonderful than others
when seen without people.
Some places seem more wonderful
when seen with people,
It is still the people who drive me.
And maybe the dog, honestly.
I have known my friend Aaron since I was a freshman in high school. I met him in physical education. They may call it sports science now.
The first conversation I remember was about how medieval archers gathered in a circle and shot at a single target in the center of their circle. He laughed. We were in the middle of an archery lesson. I found the statement strange, but still fascinating. This little guy with a slight lisp made me think about something outside of myself for some reason. I find the joke much more funny now.
He is getting married at the end of June and also has a crazy amount on his plate besides that.
The main thing I wished to accomplish on this trip was to help him with whatever I was qualified to do even if it was not very much. I was a little freaked out about driving the behemoth of a vehicle, but Aaron helped me through it. We are friends. I find it strange how rare this seems.
How rare it all is.
Aaron C. Molden