dead armadillos in the heartland

So, I set out this morning from Litchfield, Illinois, and within an hour, spotted the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. Oddly, coming from I-55, the first glimpse of the Arch is visible from behind a foreground, freeway-side landfill.

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Since I’ve never been to or through St. Louis, I took the opportunity to hop off the freeway and snap a few Arch photos (but being the last person on earth using a film camera, this photo is borrowed from the internet). I really liked that I could exit the freeway and within a minute or two park near the Arch. I also observed that it’s much larger and taller than I expected.

I had originally planned to go up to the top, but a friend told me the little cars are claustrophobic and click in a manner reminiscent the ascent of a roller coaster. St. Louis doesn’t have a skyline that would seem especially magnificent from above, and I didn’t really relish the idea of waiting in the growing line of tourists to go up in a freaky tram for a so-so view.

So it was off across Missouri, through Rolla and Springfield and finally Joplin, where I got gas, and found a Starbucks, which at that point, made me very happy. A few minutes back on I-44, I was in Oklahoma, where I paid at least $10 in tolls to cross the state. At least the roads were pretty nice.

I thought Oklahoma was going to be brown, flat, and boring, but it actually looks a lot like Wisconsin or Michigan, green with rolling hills. In fact, driving through southern Illinois is far worse than either Missouri or Oklahoma.

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I saw my first armadillo today. Actually I probably saw between 10 and 20. Unlike the one in the photo, however, every last one I saw was already roadkill. It would have been cool to see one wandering alive on the shoulder or something, as long as I didn’t have to swerve to miss it.

I called Fermin for some reason and asked him if he knew what an armadillo was. I pronounced those “ll”s as most Americans would, just like the L in my name. He responded, “you mean an ‘armadeeyo’?” I had to chuckle.

Yes, of course that is a Spanish word that has been adopted into mainstream American English with its own hybrid pronunciation. I almost never have the opportunity to read or use the word “armadillo,” so I had never really thought of it like that before.

Generally, I try to pronounce Spanish-derived words the way they should be said in Spanish, and other American-English words as they should be pronounced in American English. It’s funny because my name has a distinct pronunciation in both languages, and it sounds quite different. Fermin and everyone other Latino person I know calls me “Laura” as pronounced in Spanish, kind of like “la-oo-da.” The way Americans pronounce it, like “lora,” means “parrot” in Spanish.

Once, when he stopped at my house to drop something off for me when I wasn’t there, my dad commented that he didn’t think the person he was talking to spoke English. He said he kept saying my name over and over while my sister-in-law looked at him sort of funny. After I thought about it, I realized she probably first thought some man she didn’t recognize was in her house saying “parrot, parrot, parrot.” 🙂

It’s strange to be driving across America’s “heartland,” while heading to what will hopefully be the end of this god-awful immigration journey. It’s interesting to see town names like Peru, IL, Cuba, MO, and wonder how on earth a farm settlement came to be called the same name as major Latin American nations.

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Tonight I’m in Wichita Falls, TX, just over the border with Oklahoma. Tomorrow I will head south and west across quiet, rural west Texas toward El Paso. More later.  

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One Response to dead armadillos in the heartland

  1. jack Bruss says:

    Good posts, parrot. I mean Laura. 🙂 Keep writing – it is very interesting reading. Good luck at the Consulate.

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