First Walk

March 8th, 2005

Friday March 4 was Isaiah and my first walk together of the year.

I got home just a few minutes before five thirty, but the sun is staying up longer these days so there was still plenty of time for us to get out and about a bit before twilight brought a chill to the air.

“Would you like to go for a walk, Son,” I called as I came in the door.

“Sure- let’s go!”

He pulled his windbreaker on and after checking in with mom and little brother, we hit the sidewalk.

“Which way do you want to go, Son?”

“This way,” he pointed south, “no that way!” he shouted pointing north.

About two blocks up the street we ran into our old buddy Tony walking towards us. We remarked about the nice weather and went on our way as he went on his.

“I thought this street was the brick one…” Isaiah said looking down the street to our left

“Nope the brick one is the next one. We’ll turn and go down it. It’s right up there.”

Though you may not know it, Alton Illinois is a very historical town. Some say the first armed conflict of the Civil War occurred here when an angry mob burned down the warehouse in which abolitionist preacher and newspaper publisher Elijah P.Lovejoy was watching over his new printing press after two others had been destroyed before he could use them. There are many houses here well over one hundred years old. In fact there are houses in town which still have rooms in their basements that were used as hiding places for escaped slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad.

In addition to these and numerous other points of historical note, Alton can boast the presence of a good number of brick streets. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of rhyme or reason to where you’ll encounter one, either. If you live here, of course, you know where they are and it’s not that big a deal, but an out-of-towner could be driving along and all of a sudden realize that the noise they are hearing is the hum of their tires on bricks.

Isaiah and I both prefer brick streets. They’re just more interesting. They take more work to walk down, but the work is fun.

We had turned onto the brick street Isaiah had been looking for and were half way down it when he stopped to pick up a ‘walking stick’.

“That’s not much of a walking stick, Son. It looks like it’s more of a hassle to keep from tripping over it than it is a help.”

“No, it’s a good one…. But this one’s better!” He dropped the crooked first one and picked up another that was at least straight.

At the end of the block we turned left and were walking along a street paved in a more modern fashion but which was parallelled by a brick sidewalk. As we walked along, Isaiah enjoying using his walking stick, he made a remarkable pronouncement.

“Did you know that we are walking in a prehistoric jungle?” He pointed to the bricks of the sidewalk which had a decorative geometric pattern made into them, “And those are the writings of ancient people. I know because I’m an archeologist.”

“Really? What do they say?”

“I can’t make it all out, but it’s something about dinosaurs… Look- there’s an allosaurus over there! Walk quietly and he won’t bother us…I hope.”

Luckily we were able to traverse the jungle without ending up in a dinosaur’s stomach and when we came out the other side of the temporal rift, we found ourselves right in front of the middle school near our house. Isaiah wanted to run a bit in the athletic field so we went around back of the school.

“Come on, Dad- let’s race!”

“You go ahead. I’ll watch.”

“Oh, come on. I can’t race by myself. Let’s race to the steps over there and the one who wins will be in charge of the rest of our walk.”

We tied in our race to the steps and Isaiah started running around in the field. He tried to get me to race him all the way across to the other side of the football sized field to the bleachers on the other side, but he met with no success. I was satisfied to watch him burn his calories. Eventually he came back over, sides heaving, exhorting me once more to run with him.

“We need to get going, Isaiah. It’s getting later and it’s starting to get chilly. And I’m ready to be home.”

“But I’m not ready to go home. I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before!”

“I’m afraid there is almost zero chance of that happening tonight.”

“I want to go on an adventure.”

“If you can have an adventure on the way home, go for it but it’s time for us to start heading that way.”

As we walked up the hill around to the front of the school on our way home Isaiah continued to talk about adventures and distant places.

“Hey, I know. This can be Spain. The adventure will be the story of Isaiah and Grandpa Roger walking home from Spain.”

“That sounds like a long walk. Can I come with you?”

“Sure, we can use all the help we can get.”

It was a good thing I did, too, because we came across more dinosaurs on the way home. They didn’t bother us, though. It’s kind of funny. Dinosaurs are kind of like bees (you probably didn’t know that) in that if you don’t bother them, there’s a good chance they won’t bother you. Especially since humans are so small, a full-grown man would be barely a snack for a big dinosaur.

By the time we got home I was ready to sit a spell and relax but Isaiah wanted to play in the back yard. His request was denied by Ruth, though, because it was starting to get dark.

We’d had a pretty good first walk of the year. We’d stepped across eons and continents and arrived home just in time for my favorite early evening TV show. You can’t get too much better than that, but I bet we’ll have a whole lot more walks this year that will come pretty close.