We emerged, thankful, from the heavy rain when we got on I-80 heading west out of Chicago. On I-55 to St. Louis, the flat lands ahead in a grey mist looked like we were driving into oblivion or maybe the Twilight Zone when we were just coming up to Springfield, an oasis of hills and woods.
Had Abraham Lincoln stopped here and put down roots thinking, at first, it was a mirage after traipsing through corn, corn, corn, corn but then realizing it reminded him of the hills and woods of his old Kentucky home?
My motto is “We pass none; we are passed by all.” We have a hybrid and time. My goal? The best average gas mileage ever recorded over one-hundred-thousand miles. The car is at forty-thousand. We have miles to go before we sleep. Other drivers do not share my goal nor do they appreciate it, but I try to stay in the right lane.
Because I am going so slow, I see a dead animal in the left lane. Facetiously, I ask my wife if she would like me to stop and move the mutilated body to the grassy shoulder where it can deteriorate with dignity or until the road kill cleaner-uppers come by. I tell her I think old, honest Abe would have stopped.
In the motel, I read a poem about a woman who did just that in the town of Joshua Tree. She moved a still warm but dead, small animal off a road and placed it in the shade under one of the few trees available in that desert area. However, apparently there was no traffic to get in the way and she did it thinking doing something for an unfortunate, possibly still alive animal would help with her grief.
Lincoln experienced quite a bit of grief. If the road had been a two-track and his wagon was the only one on the road, I bet he would have stopped and moved the animal to the side of the road in the shade under a tree. I don’t know if it would have helped with any of his substantial grief, but I think he was just the kind of guy who would have done something nice like that.
One of the differences between Joshua Tree, California and Springfield, Illinois is the availability of trees. I don’t think there are even a lot of Joshua trees in Joshua Tree. Lincoln would have had an abundance of deciduous trees and not a few pines to choose from.
Another difference is that the poet wouldn’t have had to drive past much corn, if any.