Two weeks till the election and McCain has been gaining ground in the polls. Exciting or what? Today in this crazy country it was sunnier, less windy and about 20 degrees warmer than yesterday. In Limon Library, where I rescued a sleepy butterfly, a highly excitable woman was running an activity with pre-school age children and I wished I was one of them. There was also a large calendar with a picture of a cow on it, along with the obligatory Stars & Stripes and Native American artwork. The woman in the library could well have been in charge of the insects along the highway as well, such was their industriousness. In Scotland most of the six legged workforce are dormant by late October, whereas today I saw plenty of beetles, crickets, butterflies and caterpillars. The sagebrush is gradually being replaced by beige grass in this High Plains Country. Britain of course is much more densely populated, but even so, it seems to me that most of my homeland is either used in some way or pretty. In The Wild West there are great tracts of no man's land, which only exist in a 'between' sense. I wonder how it would effect one's equilibrium and creative juices to move to such an open, nothingy sort of place? If you lived on a blank page would it fire your imagination or deaden it? It reminds me of a Hopper painting in which there is a gas station set against an eternity of corn. I have always wanted to step into such a world, which is simultaneously eerie and suspenseful. I wonder also if there's an inverse link between the barrenness of land and the human fertility. It would make sense that if you lived in a dull and/or desert environment, you might, at least subconsciously, desire to populate it. This is what I will probably remember about The West; as well as gas, guns and God.
Today I was missing English bitter and longed for a pint of flat, hoppy, brown liquid, served at room temperature in a good old British boozer. Some days I don't know how I reach my destination. I look back on the 60/70/80 miles that have been covered, and what with the wind and monotonous terrain, it seems like a miracle that I was able to keep going. Arrived in Kit Carson, a 200-strong town, with no library, and only one motel/restaurant. The elderly lady here remarked that I shared my surname with the local hospital. In the shop window of the one, small grocery store, I saw an advert for a three-bedroom house on the market at $72,500.
The weather turned nasty this evening; first there was snow, then rain, sheet lightning and gale force winds. As the lady in the cafe (where I was the only diner) said, “Good thing you got off the road”. Everything on the menu had a biblical name (well it was the Good Sheppard Inn) and I had the Samson Burger. The pantry and kitchen were in the same room as the 27-seater cafe, so I could watch my food being prepared silently and efficiently by Margaret and Stuart. 'No out of town checks' a sign on the wall said and there was an article about Margaret (aged 70) and her mother (87) who had recently retired. After the burger and a slice of pecan pie, Margaret told me all about the Indians, of which she was one, or at least fractionally. If you can trace your ancestry back to Indian blood, you get 'an Indian number' and if you live in Oklahoma you get a lot of benefits from casino profits. Oklahoma was where all the Indians were dispatched from the south-eastern states, along The Trail of Tears, in the nineteenth century. I had already wished I was heading further south and the more Margaret filled me in on Oklahoma's rich history, as well as her rolling, green hills, the more I wanted to go there. Instead I was lumbered with Kansas. Sorry Kansas, but that's the way I feel about you.
I had to be up early for a breakfast date with Margaret, as she was taking her mother to see a doctor in Lamar, where I was headed. Fay had seen many health professionals and tried all kinds of medical treatments for some kind of debilitating condition. In November she would be going on a 'prayer healing' vacation. “Did you want to stay in your room today? It's kinda windy.” Fortunately the wind was coming from the north and Lamar is due south of Kit Carson. I didn't have Margaret all to myself this morning, as a good-looking, young oil worker by the name of Dustin came in. He was a keen cyclist and offered to put me up if I passed through Great Bend in Kansas, which was only slightly off my intended route. There's a lot of oil in eastern Colorado and western Kansas apparently, and Dustin travels to various sites maintaining electrical equipment.