Saturday, April 28, 2012

Running From Rural Illinois

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. This image ran through his mind as he stepped through the open door of the sharecropper’s one room shack situated in the overgrown farm field alongside the rail fence lining the very secondary rural two-lane. This was a side road with no center line. Farm fields lined both sides of the blacktop.

The two young men parked the old flat black 1958 Plymouth four-door along the drainage ditch, climbed over the fence and walked into the dilapidated wood structure back in 1968, while living in west-central rural Illinois.

The two would cruise the back roads checking our their newly settled haunt after moving in from Chicago to attend a small college set in a town of 150 people. One day they found an abandoned vintage Morgan automobile buried within a stand of tall weeds. It had rear directional arrows that were signaled a turn, as well as an all wood chassis. The car would have sought more attention in the hands of a collector, than in the destructive throws of nature; but there it sat hidden from most eyes.

On this particular day, the two walked through the door of what would have been the home of a person, or two, who suddenly left quickly without hesitation. Old print dresses, and worn shirts hung in an open shallow closet. Cans of food left unopened on shelves.

This home for a transient worker had a twin bed in the corner. A soiled crazy quilt with torn squares of cotton, wool, and corduroy patched together lay on the bed. An outhouse attached to the side of the old plywood wall provided those inside from running out into the bitter Illinois winter’s cold.

A water well pump adjoined the iron-stained porcelain kitchen sink alongside the knife scored grey speckled-on white linoleum countertop. At the end of what constituted a kitchen was a very used two-burner bottled gas stove.
Pots of what might have been dinner were abandoned on the gas stove, were dried and rotten. A closed Bible and newspaper lay open amongst forks, knives, and plates set on the table.

The two stood before the scene in haunting amazement drawing from deep impressions of what might have forced one to flee for their lives in the heat of this frightening nightmare.

Could this snapshot of lost time have happened in 1964, as was printed at the top of the newspaper? Was there darkness pending in that month of July as men in white hoods and burning torches walked the lonely blacktopped back road rousing sounds of anger and violence arousing mountains of fear as a mob approached the insolated shack?

Did the farm worker look out the kitchen sink window in horror as a stirring glow of flaming evil lit the night? Did she, and maybe another, grab their valuables, jackets and hats, before they ran, while never looking back as they escaped into the crop rows fleeing into the moonlight?

Where did they go? Who sheltered them? It was clear that whatever happened that night left that moment in time fully intact like a time capsule allowing someone to stumble upon this place to see it untouched and preserved as it once had been.