Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Middle of Nowhere

"Like the Indian went with the horse," was one of my dad's favorite descriptions of some of the local roads that seem to meander from one place to the next with no seeming logic to account for why they were put where they are. He was right, of course. Many of the roads that connect places like Shickshinny and Nescopeck were built along Indian trails. And the Indians, not to be given quite as much credit nor blame as dad seemed to think they deserved, built their horse paths along the trails animals made in getting from place to place through the woods and around the water. I was thinking just that as I took a leisurely ride yesterday evening to Nanticoke and then farther south through Glen Lyon to Mocanaqua. (The title of this post reflects Mocanaqua's obscurity. It has no website. Not even a Wikipedia entry. It does, however, have a dubious definition in the Urban Dictionary.)

These are the same railroad tracks that run directly behind my house some 20 miles away.

A long freight running at even 30 mph would beat me to this spot if I were to leave the house when it was rolling past and race down to Mocanaqua as fast as I could. All the stopping I'd have to do while running through the various municipalities along the way would put the train, like the trusty old tortoise, far ahead of me.

I remember being of pre-school age and having my mom's much younger brother tell me that he'd been to Mocanaqua with his buddies the evening before. I refused to believe that there was such a place with an odd name like that. Indeed, there is, though a slow blink while riding through and you just might miss the town entirely. I did a U turn right here after I snapped the trackside picture and then started to retrace my route back.

My phone rang while I was riding back and luckily I found a peaceful place to stop at a well kept cemetery. I got off the scooter and walked around as I was talking, and it didn't take me more than a few headstones to tell that I was in a Polish church cemetery. I learned to sing in Polish over 30 years ago when I was in a polka band and recognized the unique combinations of vowels and consanants in the surnames of those who were at rest there. I commented during my phone conversation that I saw a stone that was elaborately engraved at some distance and I made my way toward it as I continued talking. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that part of the engraving featured a motorcycle rider.

The inset in the upper left corner of the picture shows some of the detail on the stone. To the immediate left of the dog the rider is poised on his bike and behind him is a trophy on a shelf. I'm guessing he did some fancy riding in his time in addition to having served in the Army and having been a body builder which are also documented on the stone. I couldn't find an obituary online, but I became curious about his life and times after having visited his grave. Obviously he was well loved by whomever commissioned the headstone.

I was about 15 minutes from the tracks when I heard the distant whistle of a southbound train, but I didn't feel like adding another half hour to my trip to try to beat the engines back to Mocanaqua so I rolled again through Glen Lyon and then onto the road that would take me back through Nanticoke. I wanted a sip of the mess of diet soda that I had in a bottle on the back of the scooter (Mess in that it was a combination of at least three different diet sodas.) and stopped in a parking lot at the local community college. There I saw a MSP course in progress and paused to get this shot.

I'd been watching my shadow all evening as I rode and felt the same wonder and amazement I felt when I saw my own shadow on the cycle for the first time. Of all the shadows I might have thought I'd ever cast back when I spent a lot of time thinking about the rest of my life, that one of me on a motorcycle would have been among the very last. Riding the scooter continues to be something relatively out of character for me. I surprised just about everyone I know when I got the first one, including me.

I hope I still have some surprises left up my sleeve for myself. The good kind, of course!


D.B. Echo said...

Brandon Zerfoss was the son of a teacher at John S. Fine. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on the Shickshinny-Mocanaqua bridge. (I had to ask my brother, but the name was very familiar.) He was probably a freshman when I was a senior.

LCCC is just down the street from my house. But then again, a few months ago you posted a picture from directly across the street from my house!

Joe said...

Wow, D. B.! It sure is a small world! I'm wondering if the photo you're talking about was the one where I was next to the snow bank on Kosciuszko St.

Thanks for the info on Brandon. I'd been hoping it wasn't a motorcycle accident that took his life when I saw the bike on the stone, but unfortunately it was.


D.B. Echo said...

Yep, that's the one! It took me a while to wrap my brain around that picture, because there was a neighbor's house in the background seen from an angle I'm not used to seeing it.