[imgbelt img=road.gif]Nearly forgotten, the Spoon River Valley re-emerges as a testament to the enduring quality of small town life.
[img:forgottonia.gif] [source]Timothy CollinsA fading “Forgottonia” on a barn near Ellisville, IL, marks a semi-serious effort to secede from the state four decades ago.
Faint memories of American literature in high school: Little did I know that I would end up living on the western edge of the Spoon River Valley in Illinois, made famous by Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology.
Masters wrote the anthology in 1915. It is a post American Victorian story of small-town life, told through poems spoken from the grave. These are not always the voices of paragons of virtue; many lived pretty seedy lives. So much for the myth of pure rural life, especially when there’s a dot on the map called Babylon.
The Spoon River is typically Midwest muddy greenish brown. It winds across about 160 miles of Western Illinois through the deep, black prairie soils. The nearly 1.2-million-acre watershed is mainly in five counties and supports hundreds of thousands of acres of corn and soybeans, as well as towns and cities and forests and pastures in wide valleys and rolling, low hills.
The valley is a microcosm that manifests the people-driven global changes across the Upper Midwest: large-scale agriculture that employs fewer people, lost factory jobs, an aging population, and on and on.
But then, there is the landscape, sacred because of its natural bounty and the life it nurtures. This is where the First People lived, hunting, fishing, farming, and burying their dead. Its lie between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers offers wonderful opportunities for preserving the landscape and its woods, wildlife and wetlands while promoting sustainable agricultural practices.