by cheri block
Deciding to make a bee-line to Chicago was Hizzoner’s idea.
With that decision, we turned off of our beloved Highway 50 at Emporia, Kansas. Should we drive through Iowa and come into Illinois at Molliene so we could tour the corporate headquarters of John Deere? Hizzoner pondered this the night before our departure over a sloppy vodka tonic.
Delicately, I suggested that until the backhoe attachment and the tractor back home were fully paid for, we should avoid all John Deere anything. No! Not even another hat. Delicate went by the wayside for emphatic.
Henpecked, the poor deprived Man of Green and Gold Implements went north and then east toward country where chickens might cross the road and where no one would be asking which came first, that chicken or its egg. We had decided to approach the buckle in the Bible Belt.
This meant Missouri, but for me, American literature teacher for many sorrowful years of Hester’s shame, Proctor’s hanging, Jim Casy’s death, Ethan Frome’s final dilemma, Frederick Douglass’ beatings, Robert Cohn’s humiliations, Gatsby’s death, and McMurphy’s electroshock treatment, Missouri meant one thing: the only somewhat upbeat book I have ever taught: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
“I know. Let’s go to Hannibal. It’s right on the way. I can just imagine what it must have been like to be young Samuel Clemens watching the paddle boats move up and down the Mississippi,” I said.
Let’s just say that a man knows when he’s beat and you cannot compare John Deere and Huckleberry Finn. So we headed east to Hannibal, Missouri.
As an aside, I’d like to share with you one of the sweetest lines in that entire book. Pretend you are in the car with us and I am rattling on about Samuel Clemens, my friend Jim, that rat Tom Sawyer and of course, the heroic Huck.
The Widow Douglass is trying her darndest to bring some tiny fleck of religion to a rough and tumble boy whose alcoholic father beat him just for the huck of it. Huck and Tom are going fishing and see this recreational opportunity as the perfect way to test the Widow’s religious tenants.
Huck prays for fishing poles, a good catch, and the like. The Widow intercedes and gives him a tongue-lashing.
“Why Huckleberry, we don’t pray for fishing poles and things like that. We pray for spiritual gifts like courage ( I’m paraphrasing here…) and hope and freedom and…
So, I’d ask my honors students, Would you pray for a 2400 SAT score or the courage to go in and do your best?
You know the answer, don’t you?
On the way to Hannibal, we made our what has now become our Highway 50 traditional visit to a coffee shop. This one was in Chillicothe (Chill-a-co-thee), Missouri. That day, something exciting was happening at Essential Kneads. Meet Captain Kirkendahl. Not officer, but Captain. His police car is parked in front of the coffee shop, so I ask what’s going on.
Is it safe to go in there, Captain?
Just be careful walking by the planter box.
Good thing this coffee shop was more than a coffee shop.
The folks there were terrific. Pleased that we had usurped the skunk’s best laid plans, they eagerly attended to our culinary needs.
Owner-Cook Darrell and his wife, Jill, along with hostesses Hannah and Kelsea could not have been more hospitable. (Jill in the center)
Hizzoner may have been thinking about a massage but I nixed that idea. We must get our booties to Hannibal, not on some massage table with some young girl.