The Midwest is still uncharted territory.
Traveling alone: When you arrive at lodgings
and pigs are milling around in the courtyard,
and even if they aren’t, don’t assume
the innkeeper will be inclined to oblige you.
Separate accommodations: If you want
your own bed, be prepared to negotiate
because the rate will be dear and most likely
not include clean sheets, clean towels or soap.
On a budget: If the temperature dips
below freezing, make sure to keep a hammer
in your belongings to chip at the ice
in the wash basin that you will share
with the stranger who’s sharing your bed.
Meal plan: If food is included, make sure
you don’t eat anything that is still bloody.
Additional comforts: Should you decide
to settle into a chair by the hearth,
take care that the chair is not covered
in deerskin. Perhaps aggrieved at having
been skinned and eaten, deer find ways
to get even—fleas can drive you
out of your wits with itching,
Yet, the countryside is magnificent,
rolling plains as far as the eye can see,
meadowlark and pheasant take flight
from high prairie grasses; thistle,
milkweed, and goldenrod abound,
but watch out for the mud wasps
and vermin, because outdoor privies
are the custom, which, in some cases,
is only a pole over a trench.
On the road again, you may discover
clear streams that meander between
lush grassy banks. Oaks and maples,
especially when there’s a nip in the air,
are as stunning as you’ll see anywhere.
We are mighty proud of our country,
although less so of our accommodations,
but we wish you a fortuitous journey,
and if you arrive at your destination
within a month or two of your schedule,
consider yourself lucky.
From Midwestern Memories (Aldrich, 2013).
Used with the author’s permission.