Good Neighbors?

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What does a town do with two of its “citizens” that nobody really wants next door? Why, you put them together on the outskirts of town. In this small Southeastern Illinois town, that’s exactly what they did with the refinery keeping company with the local cemetery. No doubt the cemetery was first, and just as no doubt, its residents didn’t complain decades ago when the refinery came to town.

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Kentucky Woods

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Today I visited the Audubon Museum, located in the John James Audubon State Park, in Henderson, Kentucky. I spent and enjoyable, but sweaty, couple of hours there:

“Most of the time I wandered the trails that wind through the 335-acres nature preserve portion of the park. Audubon spent from 1810-1819 living in Henderson (the town that wraps around the park) and roaming the woods in search of birds and other wildlife to sketch and paint. One presumes he walked some of this same area, but there’s nothing in the brochures that offer that fact.”

Sittin’ With Abe

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Vandalia, Illinois, doesn’t normally register as a center of historical significance. But, as it turns out, it is a significant place in the career of one Abraham Lincoln. Vandalia is where Honest Abe began his political career in the 1830s, and the rest, as they say, is history. The shot of above is the local “must shoot photo-op” with the old state capital in the background. This bronze statue of Lincoln sitting and reading, dedicated in 2001, is probably the most famous citizen of this once-significant center of political influence.

You can go to sleep now knowing you’ve learned something new about ‘ol Abe. I’ve performed my patriotic bit for the day…

On the Road Again

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned traveling through the Midwest, it’s that you never know what you’ll see. I’m on the road again, this time on a 12-day jaunt through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Most of my stops are smallish towns, so it’s a good chance to witness the heart of middle America, at least through these states.

moosepeek.jpgToday’s drive took me to Griffith, Indiana, where I found this misplaced moose atop a taxidermy and outdoor furniture store. He was quite authentic looking, so I’m pretty sure he is (was) real. Still, no small feat to get him up on the roof for all the world to see his splendid rack. And like those eerie paintings whose eyes tend to look right at you regardless of where you’re standing in the room, this moose dude seemed to keep an eye on me while taking his picture from the sidewalk below.

Tomorrow I head off across Illinois, my destination just east of St. Louis. I’m hoping that area has recovered their electrical power lost from the recent example of another great Midwest tradition: vigorous summer storms. I’ll be sure to keep the camera ready on the passenger’s seat while I travel down highways braced by fields of tall corn plants. Who knows what I’ll find, but if it’s interesting, I’ll post it here.

Kudzu Gone Wild

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Unlike that ever-popular late-night-marketed DVD, “Girls Gone Wild,” I doubt watching Kudzu grow will ever be as exciting as nubile college coeds doing things their mothers told them not to do. Yet, if you’re a botanist, I imagine these images to be nearly as thrilling.

Kudzu covers the hillside

On a recent trip into Northern Mississippi, I was surprised to see the extensive green carpets of this out-of-control weed. Initially imported from the Orient back in the 1950s for erosion control by well-meaning local governments, the fast-growing ground cover will cover literally anything it finds in its path (the image immediately above was a large hill entirely covered by kudzu). And since it can grow a foot per day, it doesn’t take long for killer kudzu to remold any landscape, choking and smothering any tree it covers (as evidenced by the topiary-like stumps in the top picture that used to be trees).

Watching it grow...

I’d seen this nasty stuff around Houston, where some bayou banks are literally a solid green carpet of kudzu, with no other vegetation recognizable. I didn’t realize it has extended north, but apparently it’s all over the south. Wikipedia sums things up pretty well in this paragraph:

Kudzu is sometimes referred to as “the plant that ate the South”, a reference to how kudzu’s explosive growth has been most prolific in the southeastern United States due to nearly ideal growing conditions. Significant sums of money and effort are spent each growing season to prevent kudzu from taking over roads, bridges, power lines, and local vegetation.

Its everywhere...

Not much escapes its wrath...