Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The GNJR Day Five: The Denouement

My breath was visible in the cold air when I checked out of the Village Inn and started walking south on Church Street (Highway 15) at 8:00 o'clock Monday morning. Naturally, I was stiff and sore as I made my way towards my great-grandfather's grave site on day five of my journey. My mind went back to last night's fright. When I walked up to the motel, I was immediately impressed by all the cars I saw filling the parking lot. Well, I thought, this place must be a better than I had assumed. I was quickly disabused of that impression, however, after I entered the room.

Once inside my prized palace, I found out the place was in fact a dump. I had come an extra fifteen miles, some of it in the dark, so as not to stay at a rat-hole in Ackerman only to stay at a rat-hole in Louisville. I barely had my pack off when I heard loud, angry voices outside. And thumping. The room shook with the thumping. Then I noticed the door had been kicked in and only partially repaired. Who does that? The safety latch thingy had been broken off and not replaced. Holy crap, I thought.

I wedged a chair under the door, hoping to make it secure, turned the lights off, and peeked out the window where I saw what seemed to be unsavory activity that made me uncomfortable. OK, I was frightened, so frightened I thought I might not exit the room all night, even to eat. Finally, I did muster the courage to leave the room and walk the 100 feet to the restaurant for supper, which I enjoyed immensely. Also, the restaurant helped me relax a little but not totally. Then I went back to the room, took a bath, and put on my night-night clothes. After a little TV time, I crashed like an airplane with its wings shot off. 

Now, the next morning, I was free and safe but tired and weary. Day four had been a trip-long 30.54 miles with lots of running. Fortunately, it was not even a mile to the Masonic Cemetery where I walked straight to my great-grandparents' graves. There I shot a short, emotional video, said a prayer, and thanked them, George for his successful journey and Lou Ella for my name. She named all her sons after authors, my granddad after Zane Grey. I felt like my journey had reached its logical conclusion. This is where it should end, I thought, but I had already announced Noxapater as the ending point. So I left the graves and made my way back to Church Street.

George Henry Quinton's grave

On the way through Louisville, I passed the lot where my maternal grandmother's house sat. A business now occupies that piece of land, but in my mind's eye I could still see the large old house and the yard, front where I played football and back where I ate figs. A bit farther I came to another lot, this one empty, where my paternal grandmother and then an aunt and uncle lived before they all died in faith. The April 28, 2014 tornado took away the structure but it, like the business on the other lot, was powerless to sweep away the multitude of my memories. The Christmas gatherings and summer nights I slept there with Mamaw flooded my consciousness. I remember her putting a chamber pot in my room at night, but I never wondered why until I got much older. Her house had indoor plumbing, and the bathroom was only a few feet away. She would also dust the room with some kind of insecticide, probably DDT, that she manually pumped out of some type of sprayer I haven't seen since I was a boy.

When I got out of town, I realized the final leg of this journey was going to be a really slow one. It didn't matter. My brother-in-law, RT, was to pick me up at Aunt Mary's house around noon time. As long as I made it there by then. A couple of miles south on 15 brought me to Flower Ridge United Methodist Church where my paternal grandparents are buried along with some other kin folk. I stopped and visited the graves. I have never been much of a grave visitor, but as I have aged that has changed a bit.

Flower Ridge Cemetery

Highway 15 from Louisville to Noxapater has no shoulder and is heavily traveled. That made running difficult. My fatigue made running almost impossible. In fact, I only shuffled 1.7 miles on day five. It was just a slow, anticlimactic walk, and it took all morning for me to cover the 10+ miles to the little village. I was mightily relieved when I came to the city limits sign and knew my journey was almost over. Another half mile and I was at Aunt Mary's. I shot a short video outside and then went inside and hugged my aunt, the last of my dad's siblings. I took off my pack and shoes and sat down. RT arrived a bit later and we ate some lunch before he drove me home. I did not put shoes back on for the next twenty-seven hours and that was too soon.

Selfie at 100 miles.