After two nights and a day at my Sister’s, we hit I-70 and drove to southern Illinois to visit yet another Aunt and Uncle. This is my Dad’s sister on the French side and her husband.
As we cut through Missouri, we crossed the Missouri River. I was feeling kind of bummed. It was almost two weeks since we’d crossed in Chamberlain, SD, yet it felt too soon to be returning. Soon we drove through St. Louis and went back across the Mississippi River.
We had left the west behind.
My Dad’s sister and her husband were anxiously awaiting our visit in Ridgway, Illinois. My uncle’s family owns and farms a huge chunk of the county, and it was harvest time. He mostly grows corn and soybeans. This year had been one of the harshest as far as weather goes. There had been a nasty system of storms in February, and the rest of the year had been hot and dry. Yet, while we were there, a thunderstorm rolled in.
This area of Illinois, including Ridgway, was the site of a system of tornadoes on February 29th of that year. A tornado had destroyed the town’s Catholic Church. The only thing left of the church was the front entryway, and the century-old altar! The storm also destroyed several homes and shops.The farm workers were nervously watching the storm. One of them told me he’d lost his house on that February morning.
My Uncle told me that the weather service credited the demolished church with saving many homes and lives. The tornado had hit the large church directly, and the impact dampened the winds. Had the twister missed the church, it would have cut a wide path through town and wrought even more destruction. I got goose bumps. It was like God sacrificed the building to save the flock.
But this storm wasn’t nearly that bad. Soon the wind died down a little, and my Uncle fired up his grill and cooked us some steaks. They’d come from his cows, and there was something especially delicious about them. It was the best steak I ever had!
The next day, we drove out to my my Aunt and Uncle’s lake house. It’s on Lake of Egypt, south of Marion, IL. It was gorgeous! The sprawling lake shore is dotted by vacation homes. Some were huge summer homes, others were smaller vacation homes. The breeze blowing over the lake felt wonderful!
We stayed with my Aunt and Uncle for two days, visited more cousins, and then headed north, towards home. But we weren’t quite done with our adventure.
Along with seeing Mount Rushmore, the Boy had been dying to see President Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, IL since he was in first grade. We got to Springfield and found the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Lincoln lived here before he was president when he practiced law in Springfield. The four block area is made to look like an 1850’s neighborhood. It was really cool!
After strolling around, we got a map to the tomb, but the man who helped us told us it was closed since it was Saturday. But we were going to go see it anyway. After making a few wrong turns, and figuring out how to get back, we found the cemetery. The Boy had been sulking the whole way because he’d waited so long, and we were so close, but he wouldn’t be able to go inside.
Well, to our very happy surprise, it WAS open!
The Boy was happy. I was happy. Now, we could go home.