Monday, July 20, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon Drive and an Evening Visit

We woke up Friday morning to the most beautiful weather anyone could imagine. The weekend has been cool with gentle breezes, and every where people have been in their gardens, going on picnics, and relishing being outside in pleasant comfort.

We took off after morning worship stopping by the house only long enough for Gerald to get his camera. After a bountiful dinner at The Old Home Place at Goreville, we drove down I-57 towards Gerald’s goal of Horseshoe Lake hoping to see eagles there as we did several years ago. The eagles were not out and about, but the serene beauty there was worth the trip.

Because Illinois is such a long state, we have both northern and southern ecological extremes. At the very tip we have cypress swamps that remind you of the deep south rather than the Midwest. There is the Cache River watershed in Johnson and Pulaski Counties, where the state has three nature preserves, and we love going out on the boardwalks to see the l,000 year old cypress trees.

But today in even farther south Alexander County, we were seeing the fish and wildlife preserve the state has on this large lake shaped roughly like a horse shoe, which has long provided folk with places to fish and hunt. We were not there to do either, but to find places to enjoy and photograph.

We traveled along the lake stopping at various pull-over sites to view the algae covered lake with cypress knees and tall cypress trees knees growing out of the water. The green algae as far as you could see in many places looked like a perfectly kept lawn of grass with the buttressed cypress growing in park-like conditions. But when you walked out on the shaky boardwalks, you could look down and see the dots of black water beneath the green covering and occasionally hear a fish breaking the water. Except for the birdsong and an occasional motorcycle group, the peaceful quietness was as lovely as the view.
The only wildlife we saw today were the darting blue snake doctors and an occasional butterfly. In only a few places could we look out and see the moving blue water farther from the shore. At one breath-taking stop, there was no room for cypress as every inch of the water seemed to be covered with blooming water lilies.

Finally we left the lake and the few camping families at one or two sites, the kids fishing at the dam, and the cycle gathering at one picnic area. Taking Route 3, we headed back north and stopped in Thebes on the Mississippi River to see again the restored 1848 rock courthouse high on a hill looking out across the river to Missouri.

A handwritten sign on the locked door gave Saturday hours and the Sunday hours from 1 to 4. Either today’s volunteer did not show up or left a few minutes early as we and two men on motorcycles from Missouri were there shortly before four. So we could not go in, but all of us walked down the hill to see the columns on the river side and the staircase there leading up to the court room. The wide locked doors there would have taken us into the jail part of the building, and we saw the iron bars as we walked down the hillside.

Below and between us and the river were a lovely playground, a picnic area, a modern ball field, and the railroad bridge going over to Missouri. Since many years ago Gerald and Wolf Lake High School team had played baseball against the Thebes High School team somewhere along the river here, we explored that area trying to find a remnant of that memory of two high schools that no longer exist. We gave up and came on up through Anna going through the drive-in to quench our thirst and were back at Woodsong by supper time.

I fixed Gerald a sandwich and drove on over to our village for the evening church service since this had been my Sunday to teach the preschoolers during morning worship.

I had barely gotten in the house when Gerald said, “I want you to go up to the other farm with me. I want to show you something.” Only when we almost there did he share that Brian and Mary Ellen were down and Mary Ellen was in the camper needing a ride to Woodsong while Brian looked over his corn crops. Thus, the day ended delightfully with visiting at the kitchen table over bologna sandwiches and fresh peaches from a local orchard. When Brian arrived from the other farm, he had to visit with Gerald awhile, and Mary Ellen and I had a little more time to talk in the living room before they took off in the cool darkness for the long drive to their new home in central Illinois.

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