Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century
Kickapoo Center is gone. By 1896 what was once a bustling town with a school, church, post office, sawmill and a few homes was overshadowed by Viola to the north and Readstown to the south. A major state highway ran through the town and crossed the Kickapoo River, heading in a northwesterly direction toward Viola. One mistake the early settlers made was locating a town in a floodplain. Now it's a corn field that floods often.
When I moved here, the state highway was relocated to the north. The road that is our driveway ( the old state highway) was simply named KC lane, if you booted up directions on Mapquest. The town is well known among local folk. It appears on more detailed maps of the area. If I tell anyone I live in Kickapoo Center, they know what I mean.
My wife and I go to the town meetings for monthly entertainment. Dawn says they remind her of the TV show Green Acres. A classic moment is a band of three local malcontents who accuse the town board of preferential treatment in seal coating town roads. Seal coating involves mixing tar and gravel and paving the gravel roads which still predominate the area. When one of the town councilmen points out to "Tommy" that the road to his place is not seal coated and, therefore, there's no"special treatment" for town board members, Tommy holds up his hand like a traffic cop in Times Square and says, Don't wanna argue. Dawn and I turn that gesture into a comedy routine. If we disagree on an issue, one of us will quickly hold up a hand palm out and quote Tommy. Don't wanna argue.
The town votes to change the name of our road to Kickapoo Center Lane. The town chairman orders a green and white metal name plate. He furnishes a slick aluminum pole recycled from a mobile home for the post. All that's left of Kickapoo Center is the school. It was moved up from the flood plain and mounted on a new poured cement basement. Although it was a one room school as late as the 1960's, you'd never guess it was a school from its outward appearance. The last owner spent thousands refurbishing a shabby white exterior. We obliterated any interior remnants. The boys and girls bathrooms in the basement which were still hooked up to an old septic system, were eliminated when during six inch rains in spring, the drains for the boys urinal and the sink in the girl's shot geysers of water. Last year's flood that brought water up to the house and washed away an entire woodpile, brought more refinements to the basement. There's still an old slate chalkboard and an obsolete intercom system. Remolding the upstairs bathroom, we find that the plumbing, an afterthought in the days of outhouses, was laid on top of the existing floor. We replace shabby linoleum,white paneling, a platform covered with a brown shag rug and the old ball and claw foot tub with a new shower stall.
A neighbor says that the cypress tree foundations for the old bridge across the Kickapoo still remain. Carol Hansen's grandparents house which was a shallow depression in the north field that is now our 10,000 sq.ft garden, is filled with two truck loads of sand. We erected a white, 10X20' canopy over the sand pit for an onion drying shelter. Our granddaughter and the Pooch play in the sand there. The Pooch loves to bury his front paw up to the elbow in mole tunnels in the sand. For years I've been trying to obliterate the peonies that grown in the second garden plot. Rototilling, I'll dig up an occasional brick or foundation stone from the front porch of the residence. In the flats below the rock berm that separates our east fence line from the floodplain, there's a cement box. I imagine it's a remnant from the post office or church.
I've met a few older people who taught here or attended school in Kickapoo Center. Now in their 80's the memories are dim. A resident at the retirement home where Dawn works as activity person, remembers a dance hall with canvas flaps for walls which could be rolled up on warm summer nights. At a Christmas party she tells me, "That's where I lost my clothes." Her daughter sitting across the table exclaims, "Oh Mother!" Mom explains. "Someone took my coat by mistake."
As a former fourth grade teacher, I had an interest in as well as being required to teach history. A Native American friend teaches at the university. His course on Native American Dreams and Visions was extremely popular. Buildings, he would tell us, imprint feelings of people and events. When I write fanciful stories of gnomes getting off a canoe at the bend in the river below us, I am only changing French voyagers to gnomes. The last owner of the old school claims the place is a vortex. We lived in Sedona with four identifiable energy centers. One Dawn claims to be able to feel the energy radiating from the earth. Vortexes in Sedona were either electric(pulsing) or magnetic.
I have serious doubts about the claim that Kickapoo Center is a vortex. I do know that the placement of our home is propitious in terms of Feng Shui. Dragon and Tiger. I can't explain why previous residents were either crazy or alcoholics. The latter I can confirm when Ron my neighbor and I find my woodpile washed up against a fence line a mile away. Littered around the pile were empty pint bottles of vodka. Ron says the old man who lived here in the late 1990's would throw the empties on a pile at the south fence line. I'm still investigating a rubbish burn pile in which I excavate almost a dozen ceramic arms, legs and faces of dolls. Was there a fundamentalist family living here opposed to dolls? I find a plastic pumpkin pail under the porch. I attribute the initial carved in wooden sills and writing in other locations as bored schoolchildren. yes, there is a presence here.
I'd not intended such a long description of Kickapoo Center. It's snowing(again). More gosh, golly, and gee whiz flows from the good guy on the right shoulder. The guy on the left shoulder is cursing profusely. My morning ritual-staring out the kitchen windows- and daydreaming is in full throttle. I momentarily consider becoming a Benedictine Monk. Why not? I'm effectively a hermit. I dismiss the thought as influenced by the book Father Joe by Tony Hendra. A scroll down a list of a dozen other flights of fancy, including getting out of this God forsaken trap and moving to a warmer climate with a reminder via Father Joe, that God has not forsaken me. Watching 17 juncos and five cardinals feed below the squirrel proof feeder, I discover that, when disturbed, they leave one stooge behind. The same thing happens at the deck feeder when Pucci jumps out from his hiding place under the stairs. "Hey Buddy," I telepathically tell the bird, "There's a cat waiting for you below the deck. Watch out!" Luckily, the Pooch isn't very successful.
On an afternoon walk with Pucci, we stop to talk to the horses next door. I ask Ron if it's OK to feed them some apples . Telling Ron about Pucci's latest antics, he laughingly scolds the Pooch for hunting birds. I add, "If there's a bird who is that stupid to land in a feeder next to a tiger striped tabby, perhaps the gene pool needs to be refined." We reminisce about riding our lawn mowers in sunny, warm, late afternoons. Ron says," On those hot, dusty days I remember this ice and snow."
I need to get out of the house. Driving to the Amish for eggs is a good excuse. Driving steep, hilly side roads, ones which I can't ride the entire grade without stopping my bicycle and gasping for air, I disturb a flock of turkeys feeding in a bare cornfield on the top of the ridge. Turning on School Road, 6 crows fly off in formation. I try to remember the kid's rhyme about crows. All that comes to mind is that it's one crow short of a murder. For once Titus is home. The "girls", as he refers to them, are busy preparing lunch(in this area it's dinner). There's a pan of browned buns sitting on a counter. I hand the patriarch an empty egg carton. Merry Christmas, I say. He laughs. I've brought my camera with me to explain my current dilemma. I can't get the cabinets off the wall. His youngest, a girl about four or five scoots closer to look at the pictures. She's wide-eyed. It's determined that the cabinets are not installed in the usual manner. Time lines for my new cabinets are discussed. His wife gives me an "eggs" look. Yes, I tell her. Titus says the eggs are two-for-one today. Pullet eggs? Yup, they're small, he says. All my questions are answered or remain The Great Mystery. Another man arrives to discuss cabinets. I do not want to impose upon lunch. I drive off to a larger town 18 minutes away to shop for dinner and cat litter. Life in Kickapoo Center at the turn of the 21st century.