Batting 1/3

Last Friday, I stood outside on the driveway chatting with my grandson as he added fluid to his sacred diesel pickup truck. Suddenly, I heard a familiar noise coming from above. I saw the vee formation of a gaggle of Sandhill Cranes flying past high overhead. Their distinctive noise identified what they were. They are often misidentified as Canada Geese because of their flight pattern. I called Lovely out, too, so she could also see them. She saw them, but being vision impaired, she didn’t really understand what I was getting excited about.

Later, she and I went for a brief walk, and I told her that we would see the birds the next day. Again, she didn’t understand what I told her, but she knew we would drive to Indiana. We left at ten the following day to go to Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Preserve in Medaryville, Indiana. Luckily, it was sunny, which made driving in the countryside enjoyable.

Even though I had used a GPS to navigate, I became a little confused when we were within two miles of the preserve and stopped at a service station for instructions. The lady I asked was accommodating and excited to talk about these magnificent birds. “I live across the road from here with my Uncle, and they stop in the cemetery behind his house. I saw a flock take off early this morning at breakfast.”

Five minutes later, we arrived at the parking lot of the viewing area. It was sunny, windy, and bitingly cold. It wasn’t lovely weather to be bird-watching in an open field. The two-story viewing stand was a short walk away, so we hiked to it to get a closer view. About a thousand birds bunched up along a tiny creek that meanders through the field. Some were standing with their heads tucked under their wings, probably sleeping, while others were pecking at the creek, searching for a snack, and still others danced about each other as though courting. Luckily, I brought binoculars, which made them closer to view. The flock was a hundred yards away from the fenced viewing area. Since it was so cold, we cut our viewing short and hurried back to the warmth of the car.

Lovely and I sat looking out through the windshield using the binoculars when three birds appeared out of nowhere and landed in the flock. Then four more came down, and the stream of arriving birds continued. I opened the sunroof and looked up into the sky, and there they were, a vast flock circling downward, then landing to join their friends. The cranes will fly as high as six to seven thousand feet, rising to twelve thousand feet to cross mountains and travel up to five hundred miles daily.

After watching the cranes land for thirty minutes, we headed out for the next leg of our day. We were only thirty miles from Rensselaer, Indiana, the home of Saint Joseph College, my Alma Mater, for the first two years of college experience. The GPS guided us through towns like DeMotte, Hebron, Roeslawn, Monon, Remington, Rensselaer, and Collegeville. All are etched in my memory from when I traveled through them to get home for the holidays. Along route 231, we passed through field after field being harvested for corn. The traffic encountered is the long thirty-foot-long dump trucks filled with corn going to the storage silos. Between the corn fields were acres and acres of solar farms and a few scattered windmills with the blades turning. Indiana’s top three crops are corn, soybeans, and electricity. Power has to be considered a crop because once the panels are installed, the rich, fertile black soil is unusable to grow anything. We, as a culture, choose electricity over feeding the world.

We entered Collegeville after passing through Rensselaer from the North. A wave of nostalgia passed over me as we approached, and I spotted the bell towers of Saint Joseph’s Chapel at the entrance to the campus. The nearer we got, the stranger things became. I expected to see at least a few of the eleven hundred students everywhere, walking, carrying books and backpacks as they crossed from buildings to the library and the dorms. It is a ghost town. I tried to enter the campus from three separate drives; all were blocked off with heavy concrete barriers like we see on the highway separating lanes. I finally found a road that took us around the back door of the campus. A public highway that encircles the campus. There is not a single car or soul to be seen anywhere. When did this college close its doors? Maybe it was because of COVID-19, but I didn’t get an honest answer until I searched for it online.

Saint Joseph’s College was founded as a private college in 1889 by priests from the Passionist Order. They formally closed the doors one hundred and twenty-eight years later, in 2017. They were in debt for one hundred million dollars, with only twenty million coming in. We all know you can’t run a business that way. Sadly, I turned around and headed for the next stop on the agenda, which was to get lunch. Before we left to visit, I figured we’d find a nice restaurant in Rensselaer, a town of 6300. I asked Garmin for suggestions and decided on Somebody’s Bar and Grill. We walked in, got one whiff of the place, and decided against it. The odor reminded us of smoke, beer, and greasy food. Our Second choice was Joan’s Kitchen, across from the courthouse. It looked nice but was closed. I spotted a sign for Interstate 65 and headed for it. We ended the trip by dining in Frankfort at a well-known, comfortable place.

My batting average for this trip is .333; birds, yes; College, no; lunch in Rensselaer, no. If I were playing Major League Baseball, I’d be paid at least half a million dollars a year with that average.

One Response

  1. Sorry to hear about yr college downing shutters!

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