Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bountiful History

Rolling along the hillsides and farm fields of the Santa Fe Trail has proved more interesting than the flat rail bed of the Katy Trail.  These pilgrim days have been a lovely slow-moving roller coaster ride in a fascinating amusement park of history.

Leaving Boonville (there I am to the left) and the Katy Trail behind after the soggy snowy rain, the scents of the moistened flowers and blossoming trees have made up the pleasantness of days, truthfully interrupted by the more acerbic aromas from the freshly manured fields.  A late spring has made for delayed field preparations for what will be in a matter of months oceans of corn and soybean.  To keep company with the workings of the nose, the ears are assaulted with the orchestra of tirelessly busy birds and ground critters.  The European look of the land - green and rolling fields and forests, streams and rivers is soon to give way to the enormity of the foreboding 'West' that the pioneers in their oxen-pulled wagons faced 150 years ago.  The anticipation builds with each mile toward the afternoon sun.

Traveling in the method I do, I focus little on the details of the daily stage and let the more global scale guide me.  Consequently, arriving in a village - no, more curiously and correctly, a 'city', population 56 - like Arrow Rock makes for a delightful surprise at the end of the day… quaint, clean, spacious, adorably maintained with pride and care… like a thoughtful pillow mint in the finer establishments that says 'I care.'  Go off the beaten track by whatever means if you ever find yourself in central Missouri and see it.  Lexington was bigger, but similar.  Scattered around the path I've been taking have been stone monuments that I admire greatly - placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution society in 1909 to mark the defunct Santa Fe Trail lest it fall into obscurity.  That was only 35 years or so after the  railroads made the Trail obsolete.  What foresight they had.  Although there's no actual continuous footpath, I know I'm going the right way, and like the early pioneers, the right way had broad latitude.  I avoid the highways by taking the slightly longer and incredibly linear dirt farm roads between fields - tranquil, pretty, full of kind animals, and passing by plenty of farmhouses where I can ask for water.  Simple pilgrimin'.

In response to some comments, I can provide a few details of how I've actually gone about finding places to sleep traveling as the mendicant pilgrim I am… In larger towns, I look for a Catholic church, then some people of the church to explain my pilgrimage to Chimayo.  In St Charles, the very young religious sister who answered the door at the convent of schoolteachers for the adjacent Catholic school, was too timid to open the door for me, and even more timid to take my advice and call the local Archbishop to find out how to handle the situation she'd never encountered.  Without much concern, I simply waited for one of the priests to return, explained everything to him, asked for a stamp in my credential and spent the night on the sofa in his office since all the rooms of the rectory were occupied.  Patience of older people trumps timidity of young.

The next day's walk ended in the small wine-producing hamlet of Augusta where the local Catholic church was miles down the highway, the local Buddhist monastery was similarly miles off the trail, and while a woman I spoke with was calling around to find someone involved with the local United Church of Christ, her elderly mother spoke up that I could stay in her spare room as a favor of keeping her company for the evening.  Everyone's happy.

The next night brought me to a much larger town of Hermann with pleasant Catholic community who adored their priest; the priest, though eager to help and delighted to hear of my pilgrimage, was hesitant to invite me into his spacious home because of perceptions of propriety - pilgrim girls and pilgrim boys have different experiences.  A woman of the parish stepped up and got me settled into the local motel, which happened to be run by a kind Hindu family who fed me dinner, washed my clothes, and set me up with breakfast and fruit for the way… pilgrimage is a huge thing for the Hindus, who know it's poor juju to leave a pilgrim wanting.

Off I went to Mokane, a friendly village with limited offerings, and a Catholic church without a resident priest.  Finding a small meeting of parishioners breaking up, I explained the situation and offered that I could happily sleep in the parish hall where they were meeting - standard kitchen with tables and chairs for fishfries and socials.  They agreed casually, however, to improve upon the option, the woman with the key was also the local lioness and she thought I'd be more comfortable in the Lions Club hall - help yourself to what's in the fridge.  Hotdogs and buns for dinner and again for breakfast, and a few for the trail.  And plenty of coffee.

Thus it goes.  Every day's a new day.  None can be predicted or pre-arranged.  A night at the United Church of Christ basement hall (they don't even lock the door); another at the Methodist Church hall; another at the Baptist Church.  It doesn't matter.   Some priests let me sleep in the guest room of the rectory; others are more persnickety and find an alternate solution to the very simple condition of where the pilgrim will sleep tonight.  I'm never worried.  People are people; people are good.  A credencial is important.


Christiane said...

Love your simplicity!
Buen Camino my friend.

Linnea Hendrickson said...

I appreciate hearing the details of finding places to stay. I loved the part about the Hindi motel owners.
How do you get a credencial?