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  • Heather Tanguay

Aug 6 - 7: Wyatt Earp and Clayville Curiosity

Updated: Aug 18, 2019


Monmouth, Il town square

Aug 6: I decide to take a detour. I think I have a few extra days to visit friends in Davenport, Iowa. Instead of going mostly east and a little north to St. Louis on Route 66, I drive due north toward Iowa.


At midday, the Blue Frog and I hop to Monmouth, IL, 40 miles from Davenport, and stop to charge. While there, we discover the friends, with whom we have been playing FaceBook tag, live in a different, much further away city. I realize we must turn south.


Disappointed as I am not to see the friends, the detour is wonderful. While the Blue Frog is charging up at Citizen's Lake RV Campground in Monmouth, MO, I spend the afternoon talking with Hank about electricity and Hank's life, first on a dairy farm and later as an electrician on a big hog farm. When his bigger brother suddenly left the farm to enlist in the army, 9 year old Hank and his slightly older sister milked 86 cows every day, both before and after school. They got up early, he says when I asked how they managed.


He says always he had a curious mind, so he collected as many old radios as he could lay his hands on, wired them in sequence to the generator in the barn, and played music to the cows while they milked. It was not surprising, then, that he became an electrician as an adult. He was pretty much done with milking.


Hank tells me about solar electric car racing. He describes 100% solar cars build by students racing far distances over varied terrain. He says he read about it in Mother Earth News. I am impressed. To me, this seems an exciting mix of creative thinking + innovation + competitiveness = innovation + broader interest = technical advances.


Hank's wife, Margaret, who is in charge of the campground, has been out quilting with friends. When she gets back, she, Hank, and I spend another couple of hours talking about their children and grandchildren, their annual trek in their big RV to California and Texas for the winter, and the great number of people who live full time in RV parks. The campground has 30 sites: 20 people pay for 30 days -30 days -30 days, on and on. People in other RV parks have told me the same thing. We agree that for many working people, RV parks are the most reasonable option in tight housing markets where genuinely affordable housing construction is infrequent or nonexistent.


(Left) The 1848 birthplace of Wyatt Earp in Monmouth, IL. (Right) The more visually interesting but apparently un-famous house down the block from Earp's.


Aug 7: On secondary roads at a happy 40 mph, heading from Monmouth to Springfield, I see a man in homespun building a fire behind a fence. He looks more like a re-enactor than a modern Amish farmer. I stop.


This is Clayville, an almost 200 year old inn and farm. Because of the age of the inn, it is supposed that Abraham Lincoln, in his lawyer days riding the 8th Illinois Circuit, might have stopped here for a bite to eat or shelter from the rain.


A volunteer group of adult teachers and local teenagers give me a tour of the buildings. Madison Broadwell (2nd image, slide show below, maroon t-shirt with her friend Adam in purple) is the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of the original owners, a fact she and her family have discovered only in the last few years. Many of the people at the farm today helped to pull the farm out of the mass of trees and creeping vines that had completely obscured it from the road for many years.


They are expecting a busload of 1st and 2nd graders. They will do hands-on 19th century activities: cooking in cast iron pots over an open fire with the man who inspired me to stop, doing chores such as beating rugs with a wooden paddle and washing dishes by hand, and crafting leather and bead necklaces and braided yarn dolls. "We are a bit short-handed," they say. "Can you braid?" I can. " Will you help?" Well, sure.


Click here to see more images from Clayville.

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