Meryn said to turn south at Route-528 but Hamilton wanted to head on up to the Ashtabula turnoff. I guess he knew, since I did, that President-elect Abraham Lincoln (en route from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C.) sought to tame the crowd that had gathered on the train platform, there, in February 1861, with a few remarks about his wife’s headstrong nature.
We went south to Route-322 then east, and stopped at Windsor, Ohio, for breakfast. The café turned out to be a pub. A man at the bar had set up a smoke screen and sat inside it with his beer and a bourbon chaser. I wasn’t sure I could stomach someone else’s cigarette for breakfast but we gave it a shot and ordered the special. It came with coffee that alone was worth the $US2.50 we paid for the meal. Eggs with biscuit and gravy, which is to say, eggs with bread soaked in white sauce and a piece of toast on the side. It was edible but not my cup of tea.
Two men drank coffee on either side of the beer and bourbon man as he whinged about his wife. He talked of a local teenager who had allowed some fellow for whom there was a warrant to drive her car while she sat in the passenger seat. The police pulled them over, searched the car, and found four loaded guns. So both were arrested and arraigned on various charges including intent to commit a crime. The young woman couldn’t understand, he said, why she’d been charged.
A stocky black man in a stylish white hat with the brim turned down all round appeared in the doorway. He shaded his eyes, sizing up the situation before sidling over and speaking softly to one of the beer man’s coffee drinking companions. The fellow offered the excuse that his truck was overloaded and he couldn’t drive at 80 miles per hour like those others who leave late and arrive early at 8 am. Then he gathered up his belongings and made a move for the door through which the overseer, if that’s what the black man was, had entered. The other fellow who’d had coffee went with him, as did another who had turned up shortly beforehand and sat at the bar.
The barmaid filled the beer man’s whisky glass and topped up his ale. Continuing to chain-smoke, he tried to tell the overseer about the woeful wife but the black man, disinterested, was merely polite. We were almost ready to leave when the beer man finished off another couple of cigarettes, downed a full beer and then the whisky, bade goodbye to the barmaid and left. Moments later, a semi trailer pulled up at the crossroads outside the pub and Meryn and I looked at one another with one thought in mind: who was driving that rig?