Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


Day 8 Pleasant Run, IN
May 4, 2006; Sept. 11, 1838

The trip to Pleasant Run was one of the happiest entries in the journal. The route led over open, Champaign country “which circumstance rendered the traveling more pleasant than that of any previous day.” The sick among the party seemed to “be recruiting” and the writer of the journal hopefully reported “everything bids fair for a comfortable and prosperous emigration.”

The journal-keeper (Jesse Douglas was the scribe for the journal) went on to say on the Indians themselves as follows: “If we may be allowed to judge from the gayety of our encampments—the bright smile that gild the sunny faces of our unhappy wards, and the contentment which seems to mark the sufferance of imposed restrictions, we may safely calculate upon the pleasantest and happiest emigration west.”

Who knows what the reality was. Pleasantness may have been in the eyes of the beholder. Certainly it was not pleasant to Chief Menominee. He was still forced to travel in a jail wagon bouncing along caged up for no other crime than refusing to sell the land he rightfully had been granted by treaty with the US government. Certainly it was not such a happy occasion for the parents of the many children who had already died along the route. But camp was made at Pleasant Run, north of Pittsburg Indiana and 17 miles south of Winnemac’s old village. Pleasant Run is indeed a pleasant place today—a delightful shady creek emanating the invisible feeling that all trekkers understand: “Here’s a great place to camp.” If the journal writer reflects the majority of the party’s feeling we do not know. At least on this day there was one bit of good news: nobody died.

AS FOR ME I walked on past Pleasant Run. In fact this is why I have a bit of doubt about the journal writer’s positive point of view. He recorded 17 miles for the day and I whizzed through it in a half day while purposely shuffling slowly. I’ve done that—optimistically guessed my mileage longer than it was when I was particularly feeling good. But I really can’t argue with him. He was using dead reckoning and so am I, so until I re-travel this route. I’ll take his word for it for now and give myself 20 miles credit by mid-afternoon. (those who have trekked with me in the past will doubt these numbers too.) I’ll let Shirley Willard figure that one out. So far I’d say the journal has been right on the money, or rather mileage.

Whatever, I walked all day in the bright sunshine without my hat until my skin started to tingle. Why does sunburn feel so nice while you’re getting it? Last night’s Gummi Bears and Reece’s pieces had worn off by noon so I stopped at a farmhouse and offered to buy a can of beans or can of whatever. The woman inside happily returned and said, “You can’t buy it—it’s yours” then handed me a can of condensed vegetable soup. Down the street I opened the can and ate it cold. How good something tastes is directly related to how hungry a person is. I was hungry.

I walked pass the Pleasant Run campsite and walked right into Pittsburg since I was now feeling as optimistic as the writer of the journal. At US 421 I left the route and walked a mile or so into to the town of Delphi, Indiana where I treated myself to a huge breakfast erasing the aftertaste of the condensed soup, mailed some letters, and went to the Laundromat to take the dampness out of my sleeping bag. There I met Barbara Humphrey and we struck up a conversation about my journey. It turns out Barbara’s grandfather was a full blooded Pottawatomie and she told several stories that had been passed down in her family. Next I found the Delphi public library where the crew was especially helpful in letting me sit before a computer typing long after a ordinary person should have moved on.

During the evening I met Will and Marsha on the first gravel road I’ve walked on this journey. They showed me a morel mushroom the size of a person’s hand and once they discovered the intention of my walk they drove home and came back at dusk with a meal for me—Hot ham and beans, Macaroni salad, a couple of colas, a half pound of cheese, bread and enough napkins for a Sunday school picnic. “We just wanted to help you on your way” they remarked then headed back home again. Propped against a fence I feasted sumptuously then found a secluded woods at the edge of a field and slept it off. Or tried to, tonight was my first night accompanied by mosquitoes and several farmhouse dogs who barked the days news back and forth to each other until about midnight when they apparently ran out of the day’s gossip[ and we all went to sleep and let the mosquitoes do their work in silence. Thanks Will and Marsha for a wonderful dinner!

Just like the Pottawatomie experienced, today was for me my best day yet on this trek. Why? Was I influenced by their journal? Is it my anticipation of seeing Sharon tomorrow and the successful end of my first week’s walking? Or was it the spirit of place? The Indians believed some places bode ill or good will and that passing through those spots affected the person. So the modern Charismatics. Who knows? Maybe a combination of these things—but as I lay down tonight I felt better than any night yet. Curious.


Blogger JohnLDrury said...

It is great to get to follow along with you as your go. Trying to narrate your journey after the trek is done is so much harder. These bite size chunks are great! And the interweaving of their story and yours is a treat.

"Taste is relative to hunger" - that's principle I learned from you many times!

1:49 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

I am enjoying vicariously experiencing both the Pottawatomis' and your experience. Thank you for such detailed journal entries :)

7:37 PM  
Blogger Kathy Drury said...

I love your stories of knocking on someones door asking for food or a shower or whatever. I am always glad to hear that everyone I remember you mentioning over the years has just been so nice and caring etc...So if you are not running out of food why are you running on gummi worms and Reese's? I have to send you some Pringles to get you some salty snacks or something! Any food requests by the way? Any cravings? We'd like to send you something you've been wanting!

12:41 PM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

John: Thanx. Thanks to my hnd-scribbled notes, and my recorded nots while walking and the generosity of local libraries it is working!

Nikki: You bet! Happy to have you join this hike, if only in spirit.

Kathy: Yep--one of the reasons to do a thing like this--intentionally make oneself needy--it to experience a restored sense of how much goodness there is in the world (c.f. "prevenient grace")

2:49 PM  
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