July 11, 2021: A Perambulation Through an American Landscape

Chapter 2

     On Monday morning, Charles went to work, telling me to start looking for a used refrigerator and get things more settled. However, over the weekend I had lost about ten pounds hauling furniture, my stomach was growling, and our sandwiches were gone. I decided to take a walk over to one of the few businesses in town, the Main Street Inn, and have breakfast.

     By eight in the morning on this, the beginning of the work week, there was no sound except the warm wind sighing through the trees and the call of birds. The periphery of the town was a six-foot wall of corn, a close, green horizon rising upward to meet the blue sky. The air was fresh, except for the smell of road tar and an occasional whiff of dead wildlife in the underbrush.

     I walked down our street, passing an unprepossessing 1950s ranch. The street began to slope gently down toward a creek. I turned and passed an odd property on the corner. Although the house looked almost too small for human habitation, the property was neatly kept. In the yard were a dog run and a 1940s camping trailer, in a silvery color, with curved lines. The trailer was parked, apparently forever. Next to the house was a well-tended garden. Nearby, a few pairs of jeans and some children’s clothes were carefully pinned on a clothesline.

     I reached Main Street, the north-south street on which I’d driven into town two days before. I turned left and crossed the bridge over the creek. I stopped to look at a broad expanse of prairie tallgrass on either side of the waterway. In the middle distance, old maples flanked the creek, which meandered westward into the brightening corn fields. Between the creek and the nearby railroad track, a dead spur, there were three trees laden with apples. Next to the railroad tracks was a grain elevator. I crossed the tracks. Beside them were traces of a parking lot, with weeds growing between the cracks. A simple, painted sign still announced that passengers had arrived in “Broadfield.” I crossed the main highway leading west out of town. I looked both ways before I crossed. I didn’t need to.

     I began to walk down what had been a block of shops. On the corner was the most imposing of these structures, an old stone building, perhaps once a bank. Over the doorway, carved in stone, was the name, “A.C. Gunn.”  Through the windows of each storefront I could see piles of leftover items, as if the shopkeepers had left suddenly. Only the coin-operated laundry seemed to be in business. A handwritten sign in the window said the key could be obtained at a little white house across the street.

     On the other side of the street, next to the house, was an imposing stone building. The lintel bore the carved words, “City Hall.” It looked permanently closed. At the end of the block, where Charles had said there was a restaurant, were a few parked pickup trucks.

     I reached the restaurant and peeked in the windows. There were about eight older men in duck-billed caps sitting together at a large, round table. Charles had said it appeared to be a decent place. I went inside. Suddenly, the men looked up. Then their eyes returned to their circle and they resumed their talk.

     My eyes adjusted to the dark. In the back of the room were a bar, a darkened, large-screen TV, and some pinball machines that provided the only illumination in that half of the establishment. The waitress smiled at me and came over. I said, “I’d just like a little breakfast.” She said, “Sure honey, just make yourself at home,” and brought the menu.

     I ordered a light repast of eggs, sausage, pancakes with butter and syrup, potatoes, toast, juice, and coffee.  She brought the coffee. I sipped. It was nicely air-conditioned in the restaurant, and except for the low sound of serious and subdued male conversation, it was quiet. I felt I could stay there quite awhile.

     On the way home, I waded into the tallgrass next to the railroad tracks to look at the apples. They weren’t ripe yet.

     When Charles came home, I told him he had competition. He raised his eyebrows.

     “I am in love with Broadfield,” I said.