I downloaded an ebook app to my phone now that I’m not flipping through Twitter when I have toilet- and elsewhere-based downtime. These days I’m going through the Mary Roach Best American Essays anthology, and yesterday in my chiropractor’s office I came across this gem, about a carp-catching festival for avowed rednecks in Bath, Illinois:
Tall cottonwoods, ash trees, and maples shaded the shore, which was rutted black mud firmed up in places with heaps of new sand. Crushed blue-and-white Busch beer cans disappeared into the mud, crinkling underfoot. Aluminum johnboats, some camo, some not, lined the riverfront in fleets. Fishing costumes involved headgear: army helmets, football helmets with face guards or antlers or buffalo horns, octopus-tentacle hats, pirate bandannas, Viking helmets with horns and fur, devil hats with upward-pointing horns, a hat like a giant red-and-white fishing bobber, a Burger King crown. Competitors had their faces painted camo colors or gold or red or zebra-striped. Bath, Illinois, was first surveyed by Abraham Lincoln, and on August 16, 1858, while campaigning against Stephen Douglas in the race for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech to a large crowd in Bath. He took as his text the New Testament verse “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” One hundred and fifty-two years later, the Confederate-flag halter tops mingling with the American flags among the tournament crowd would have puzzled him; likewise, the pirate flags.
Would love to make research fire the reader’s mind up like this. And also be funny.
The whole story is here.