Oregon, Part One

By Bub 

A woman behind me at a Greatest Grains checkout line responded to the woman behind her who had remarked 'Oh, that carrot cake! Looks delicious!!' By explaining, 'It's OK. Hy-Vee's is better. But it's a moral decision." I was sick of people who made 'moral' decisions but had never been promised everything only to have that promise broken and realize that promises are inherently empty. People in rural areas have settled on their own reality. They know they will not inherit the world, but they are happy to rule with the world they inhabit.

I decided to visit the most remote town within reason. I chose Oregon, Illinois due to its proximity to Castle Rock state park and its promise to deliver the things that stole away my best friends and gave my daughter's fleeing biological father refuge. I don't think I am emotionally capable of visiting Oregon, the state. But, I felt I was ready to visit Oregon the town.

I stopped to ask for directions to the state park, once in Oregon, at the first gas station I saw. Behind the counter was a south Asian couple - an older man with a close shaven beard and his beautiful wife who wore a red blouse. I smiled at him and said hello. He did the same to me. I turned and smiled at his wife. She smiled back. He scowled at her. She looked down expressionless and touched the closed cash register. I turned back to him.

"Can you direct me to the Starved Rock?"

"The what?"

"The state park - the, oh sorry, I guess it's Castle Rock. Can you tell me how to get there?"

"You want the state park? Which one - the one with the Indian statue, or the one with the rock?"

"Well, both I suppose." An Indian statue? I had heard of and even seen replicas of totem poles, but I had never heard of any statues stone cut by North American Indians.

"Well, the statue park is right around back, up that road right there," he said pointing up that road right there, "and the Castle Rock is down Highway 2 - take the street right up front to the second stop light and turn left on Route 2".

I followed his directions.

The statue park was known as 'Lowden Park' presumably named after the Lowden Indians who would have occupied the ridges and hills above the river there before the genocide. The park was similar to other state parks in northern Illinois - thickly wooded, little undergrowth, partitioned lots for camping - except that there were arrow signs offering the promise of the 'Statue'. I followed the signs past a few itinerant families of bail jumpers, foreclosure victims and ethnic gypsies, deep into the woods until I came up to a cliff - then - The Statue. It was not an Indian statue, it was a statue of an Indian. It was a statue of an Indian that I later learned was conceived by a white man that had no contact with the indigenous population which by the time of its creation had already been driven out of the area to make room for his ancestors to raise a sculptor.

At the base of the statue, which was an impressive height overlooking the Rock River valley, was a group of children being lectured to by a young graduate assistant from the local university. It became clear they had committed some horrible crime and had been reserved an especially cruel punishment and were now here being forced against their will to learn about the history of a statue that had never meant anything to anybody. They were 'inner city youth' that lived closer to dock yards in Gary, Indiana than the Sears Tower or the John Hancock Building. Still, the geographic dissimilarity to their homes no doubt elicited a response similar to that of an unfortunately associated Afghan accountant stepping onto the shores of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Being the only visitor to the statue there of his or her own accord, I inconspicuously joined the group of children sitting on the ledge facing the statue, backs to the river. I only caught the end part of the lecture, about the statue being hollow and originally built with a vent in the neck to regulate air pressure. This vent was filled seventy years later to prevent birds from filling it with feces and disease but the statue began to crack and warp. Apparently throat-slit, feces-filled, and diseased is the optimal state of an of an Indian statue.

At the end of the lecture the children were led to the back of the statue to see where a stairwell used to be. I took this opportunity to separate from the group and jumped up on the ledge to get a better view of the valley and the statue. "Old dude's gonna commit suicide," someone said in jest. Who was he talking about, 'old dude'? I admit it hadn't occurred to me until then but once he said it I did consider it as a viable option - among equals; getting down and continuing my journey, living in the forest by the river possibly in a van or under a tarp, forming a tech start-up that makes those skateboards that can fly from Back To The Future. That first option was struck down when I realized the 'cliff' was more of a steep hill than a 'jump off here to your death' cliff. I understood that I would only be severely bruised and scraped and not communing with eternity. Both would suffice, but either alone seemed pedestrian. I stepped down after emphatically taking it in and walked back to my car in disgrace. I inexplicably wished I was child being punished.

Continued tomorrow...

A full version of this article will appear in the upcoming issue of CUPBOARDS magazine - a kitchenware and cabinetry trade publication. CUPBOARDS is hosting a 1 year anniversary party to mark the release of its third issue on Saturday April, 2nd at Rozz-Tox in Rock Island, Illinois from 7-9pm. Please attend if you are able. There will be live music, art, refreshments, and of course, CUPBOARDS.


  1. I have never been to Oregon, yet so many doomed towns just like it. Choosing which carrot cake to eat is the most difficult moral decision I have made since I decided to support the land invasion of Libya.

  2. This makes me want to go see Indian statues and any other statues that Illinois has to offer.