I have to explain why I’ve
used this photo of Hemlock Ave.
My husband and I drove from Davenport to Ottumwa
this past Easter Sunday to spend the afternoon with his mother. We went south
on Highway 218 until we got to Fairfield
and then turned west on Highway 34. When we got to Jefferson County,
he offered to stop at the various avenue signs that supply important names to
my work-in-progress mystery novel. I got some good shots of the signs for
Varnishtree and Smoketree, but missed Oakberry and Hemlock.
We’ve logged a lot of miles
on Highway 34. To visit both moms, I bet we’ve averaged a round trip between Bishop Hill, IL, and Ottumwa, IA,
once a month for nearly ten years.
Once leaving Illinois, Highway 34 becomes a four-lane divided highway
in Iowa and it’s
usually an easy drive when I have to do it solo. It offers plenty of time to
spin story ideas and develop plot twists. And then I come to Jefferson County
and its interesting array of signs for the crossing avenues. I’ve already
mentioned a few. There are plenty of others. Most fall within the range of the
typical tree names: Cedar, Beech, and Fir. But Teak? Isn’t Teak a bit of an
exotic wood for the Midwest? Then comes the
spice names: Nutmeg, Quince, Wintergreen. Those I can sort of rationalize, but Watercress?
And my personal favorite—Tangerine. I wouldn’t mind finding out more about that
So, on the way home we pull
to the side of the highway to give Hemlock its photo op. That only leaves one
missed sign. But that one, Oakberry, is closer to New London and too far out of our way for
I originally chose Oakberry
as a tribute to a dear Bishop Hill friend who loves acorns. And what is an
acorn? A berry from an oak tree—Oakberry. It will take a different route
to get that photo.
If I’d planned better, I’d
have taken all these photos before now. But planning and me…well, that’s an
evolving relationship. For now, I have to settle for these photos and a start
for this blog.