Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day 4

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 – Mt. Hamill, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

Starting the day in front of the Mt. Hamill Tavern

Starting the day in front of the Mt. Hamill Tavern

Today was tough. Really tough. As I prepared to leave the Mt. Hamill Tavern, a farmer smiled with a mischievous glint in his eye and said, “Have all the fun you can handle.”

Fun indeed. With temperatures in the low teens and gusts up to 28 miles per hour, the wind chill hovered just above zero. Add in the fatigue I felt from the previous two days, and it was impossible not to be apprehensive about today’s 18.8 mile trek to Stockport.

The elements did not disappoint. The wind was brutal, particularly against the right side of my face. I alternated using my left and right hands to shield my face against the wind, and then would take turns warming my fingers by balling them up in their respective gloves.

After four miles, I was eager for water and desperate to pee. News reports of the risk of frostbite to exposed flesh discouraged me from stopping on the open prairie. At the five-mile mark, I was elated to find an abandoned barn in which to take shelter from the wind for a short spell. “Thank God for rural decay,” I quipped to myself sarcastically.

On the road between Hillsboro and Stockport

On the road between Hillsboro and Stockport

At the 11-mile mark, I arrived in Hillsboro expecting to find a restaurant, tavern, library – any place to warm up. Everything was either closed or didn’t exist, and the best I could muster was the partially-heated lobby of the Post Office. It was enough to give me the break I needed. An hour later, with the wind velocity reduced considerably, I was able to convince my aching legs to grind out the final 7.8 miles to Stockport.

Today’s conditions were the most dangerous I’ve ever trudged through, and tomorrow morning’s wind chill is forecast to be -17 degrees. Throughout the day, I asked myself the question I’m sure the farmer at the Mt. Hamill Tavern asked: “Why do such a thing? What’s the point in subjecting yourself to such horrible conditions?”

It’s important because what we have to lose is so precious. It’s important as a demonstration of the determination and commitment needed to fight the injustice of this pipeline. It’s important as a way to give hope and encouragement to the many people along the route who do not want their land condemned but feel they cannot prevail against the combined power of Big Government and Big Oil.

It’s important for so many reasons, including as a reminder of the essential goodness and kindness of people everywhere.

At the end of today’s walk, I am greeted by Kim Steele-Blair. She and her husband Tim run Bloom and Bark Farm, an organic farm providing food for 30 families in Van Buren County. They give me a hot meal over interesting conversation, a chance to do laundry, and a comfortable bed.

Life is good.

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