Here in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest, waterways were especially pivotal to Underground Railroad history, and movement to and across those waters highlights the remarkable bravery, determination, and resourcefulness of escaping slaves as well as their allies. The Old Northwest (the Midwestern territory designated by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787) was central ground for abolitionist struggle in the middle decades of the nineteenth century because of its location on two liquid borders. The line between the slaveholding country of the U.S. and the free realm of British-controlled Upper Canada (or Canada West), and the line between the slave state of Kentucky and the free state of Ohio flowed through this region in the form of water. The winding rivers and ample lakes that characterized the area’s geography and marked the boundaries between and among colonial-European states and Native nations also became physical markers, signs, and routes of the Underground Railroad.
“I don’t think this wind is ever going to stop,” Jamie said.
“I can do a rain dance if you want something else to happen,” Lewis said.
The wind sounded hollow, and we all stopped talking as if we’d decided to just sit and listen. We were the only people on the beach, but the wind searched for us, and it wrapped that blanket tight around our bodies as if we were the only people in the world.
So there I was: a Mormon girl in Republican Orange County during the Reagan years of the Cold War, watching the jets and helicopters traverse the skies over the orange groves, witnessing with my bodily and spiritual eyes the last hurrah of the Southern California military-industrial complex.
The No Coast Derby Girls skate at Pershing Auditorium in downtown Lincoln, fifteen hundred miles from the Pacific, eleven hundred from the Atlantic, and two blocks from the Nebraska State Capitol, a domed sandstone tower locals call, with a mixture of affection and scorn, “The Penis of the Plains.” The building dominates the landscape like something out of The Lord of the Rings, but in lieu of a lidless all-seeing eye there’s a red pulsing light that warns away low-flying planes. That light flashes between the legs of the Sower, a nineteen-foot statue bestriding the Capitol’s dome, frozen in the act of scooping seed from his massive groin-level pouch. Inside, the walls gleam with mosaic murals portraying bull-necked Teutonic farmers harvesting golden fields, their sturdy wives and grim children pitching in. Manifest Destiny is taken seriously around here. Everything is goldenrod and indigo, vermillion and emerald, and the figures in their fertile landscapes hang foreshortened and humorless above the viewer like Titans. The style might best be described as Übermensch Socialist Agrarian. In fact, one of Hitler’s intra-bunker memos detailed his plan to move the capital of the Nazi empire to Lincoln after conquering the United States and to rule the world from its Capitol, under the aegis of the virile Sower.