Funny how the road will take you where it will sometimes.
I was traveling along toward Beloit, the first town I hoped to come to in Wisconsin.
I was on a road called Beloit Road in Belvidere, finally free of 18 wheelers and fast cars, more or less, for the first time since Chicago, and it was quite a relief.
I passed this guy sitting in his front yard in a wheelchair and we waved to each other and I kept going.
Then I saw a little coyote pup looking at me from the end of the guy’s fencerow, and I thought, “Oh, what’s the rush?” So I circled back and talked to the guy for a while, and told him I thought he had a den of coyotes living at the end of his fence row (I had seen where the little guy went to ground).
We got to talking and Dan told me he had been in a wheelchair for almost ten years since he took some generic medication for fungus on his toes, and it nearly destroyed his liver. No compensation;lawyers have been no help. US Senators have better health care, I guess.
I told him what I was doing and gave him a flyer about Standing Rock. He told me he had been driving a tractor over behind the Poplar Grover County Airport, by Woodstock Road, just before they built the new housing complex there.
“Was an old Indian burial ground,” he said. “Place was full of arrow heads. Saw an old Indian knife, too, but didn’t have a chance to pick it up. Would have been worth $100 if I did. The boss was on my tail or I would have filled a bucket full of arrow heads, everywhere you looked. I just got two when I went to adjust the outside guide wheel…”
I asked him about the name of one of the last side roads I had passed, “Squaw Prairie Road,” but he had no information on the origin of that one. I asked him how he knew it had been an Indian burial ground he had been plowing and he said, “Because they always used the high ground for burial grounds. Didn’t they? I hear they buried them in trees…”
Oh well, he liked to talk, but I had to go.
I headed off toward Roscoe and made my way out of Illinois on 251, a disheveled stretch of concrete if I have ever ridden one.
But had I looked to my left a little before the state line, I would have found Hohonegah Road to Hohonegah Froest Preserve, named after a Ho-Chuck (Winnebago) healer who married a white fur trader in the 1820s, after curing him of wasting fever when she was only 15. By the time she died, white settlers including the local postmaster referred to her as “the best person in Winnebago County.” They named four schools, roads, as well as the forest preserve after her.
Native women make history too. Not every patch of high ground is a burial ground, no place name should use the word squaw.