One could not have asked for a better country view on the drive to Fort de Chartres. Acres of cornfields and soybeans, broken only by freshly harvested wheat and rolled hay. Breathtaking!
Unlike most part of Illinois, Kaskasia Trail has undulating hills, bluffs covered with emerald trees and graceful winding road. The lush foliage reflects the fertile soil left by the floods of the mighty rivers here. It is nothing but idyllic, reminds you of good old days when life was so much simpler albeit filled with trials and tribulations. It was the first road in Illinois which connected all the French colonial French villages in the early 1700s. Before the city rat would get nightmares when a door was kept unlocked when its residents go to sleep.
Nowadays it remains an area where people help and trust each other. When townspeople do neighborly things only spoiled by encroaching city folks trying to get away from the city and dreaming of country life. Here, the center of their lives is the church, mostly of German descent. The French community, after the area was ruled by the British and didn’t want to be ruled by them, moved to St. Genevieve and St. Louis across the Mississippi River.
When the Germans left their country in the 1800s to escape religious turmoil and persecution they settled here. I was in the midst where the majority of the people are Lutherans, Methodists and other protestant denominations. Not that it matters much, my paternal grandfather was a Methodist, but I find them no different from me, a Catholic, if anything they seem to be more God-fearing and compassionate. They prayed and sung many of the songs I did in my church. There is a big Catholic presence there too, the Jesuits were the first missionaries in that area.
The only difference that stood out was my cousin and I were the only brown-skinned people among them. Now my cousin can account for the .05 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander in a county predominantly Caucasians. To be accepted and welcomed warmly makes one feel special.
Our drive to Fort de Chartes that lazy morning was not uneventful though. While I enjoyed the ride through winding roads, once in a while broken only by a road-wide farm equipment that crawls slowly like a turtle, you have to open your car windows and inhale that fresh air. No sense losing your patience here, this is not a place for harried folks. Appreciate that there are still places like this where the cell or a watch is simply not necessary.
We stopped by an old Lutheran cemetery (Holy Cross Lutheran of Monroe County). Except for a few new tombstones, half had those miniature obelisks. Inspired by a friend’s (Louella) blog about old tombstones, I got curios and read the dedications on them. How comforting those words to one’s loved ones and one can only imagine how much those departed were missed by those they left behind. Most of them were centuries old. I wonder, did they ever say as much to each other when they were alive? In some you can capture a glimpse of how they died, in the revolution or in Union battle.
There are no new settlements in this part of the state if you discount the new subdivisions springing up in Waterloo. The cemetery is well kept, maybe the Lutheran church nearby takes care of the upkeep. I wonder if any of their descendants still visit those tombs of their ancestors from a century ago. Does anyone still offer a prayer for their souls?
Across the street was a run-down clapboard house with three old barns. I wish I could just stop each time I see one. They are no longer repairing or rebuilding wooden barns. They are getting extinct, relics of a past. The new ones don’t appeal to me but these old barns got more character. They have history – they were witnesses to a way of life that will never come again.
Typical of me, I took several pictures of the barn. Not happy with what I got (one is never satisfied), I wanted to get a closer shot. So my cousin drove around the church and we turned back where we came from and stopped on the road in front of the house where I could have a good vantage view of the structures. Then I heard the lady of the house asked if there’s something she could help us with. I told her I was just taking pictures of the old barns. To my surprise she suddenly turned hostile and told us that we can’t take pictures and if we insist, she’ll shoot us!
My cousin asked me if she heard it right. I said yes, she’ll shoot us. Kill us for taking a picture of old barns? I was not taking pictures of her house. There’s something not quite right. The threat does not equate to the gravity of my action. Maybe I should have asked her permission first.
Someone suggested it could have been she’s not seen brown-skinned people before. Maybe not! But even then, I wasn’t trespassing in her property and this is the 21st Century. We know though we couldn’t reason with people like that and we left. Although we made another u-turn as that was the only road going to our destination.
Before we passed the house, we got stalled by a semi or whatever you call those farm equipments. I knew no sane people would shoot us, that was just an empty threat but I will never forget that incident. It is something to laugh about.