Oh Ohio! – Day 5

Today I had the worst breakfast I’ve ever had in the USA so the names and locations in this tale have been changed to protect the guilty.  But the food was not the worst part (there are happier bits later in the blog).

The coffee wasn’t good, the eggs were only OK, the toast wasn’t good and the home fries were poor.  But the place had a sort of lack-lustre character about it. There was no waitress, only, shall we call him Gerald (not, definitely not, his real name)?

Gerald’s regulars were all men above the age of, I guess, 60.  Some came and some went but at any one time 80% of them had baseball caps on, and at any one time about a third of the baseball caps were John Deere.  We are talking rural Ohio here.

And that’s important because rural Ohio is different from urban Ohio. Ohio is a bit like, in political terms, my home constituency of  Corby.  How – you might ask? Answer – it’s a swing state, like Corby is a swing constituency.  The voters of both change their minds when the country changes its mind.

Ohio is very good at it too.

Most of Ohio, geographically, voted Red in the last Presidential, which confusingly for we Brits means it voted for the Right not the Left.  Only the cities were Blue, and the three main cities are the three Cs; Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.  But lots of people live in cities and so the overall vote was Blue (for Obama the man of the ‘Left’).

It’s rather like that in Corby too – Corby votes Labour, the small towns vote one way or the other and the countryside votes Tory.

Where I had breakfast, quite a poor breakfast, was rural and probably Right-leaning.

When I arrived and sat down there was talk of potatoes and racoons as garden pests – they could have been Countryside Alliance members for all I know.  Then one guy pipes up, let’s call him Clarence, and asks:

‘That Obama done good. Done reduced tax on us. What do you think of him now? He done good.’

This remark may have been uttered to get the torrent of disagreement that it evoked – Clarence struck me as that type.  One of Clarence’s friends said:

‘Don’t trust him. Good at playing dumb.’ which I have been thinking about all day.  Very profound.

The conversation then turned to agricultural matters for a while before Clarence said he had bought some metal monkeys and they were rare (Can’t get ’em on the internet’) but he was prepared to sell, at  profit, which he suggested was over $25.  He talked about these two monkeys for a while, and the crowd got interested (and so was I but trying not to show it) so Clarence got a monkey from the car.

It was an ugly little thing, hollow cast, and certainly a monkey.  Clarence said it was made of ‘that yellow metal’ – someone said ‘gold?’, and Clarence smiled.  I don’t think Clarence was anyone’s fool.

There were offers of $2 on the table already but Clarence was holding out for more to recoup what he said he had paid for them – I don’t think Clarence was any sort of fool.

There was apparently a little bit of yellow showing and the conversation centred on them being brass monkeys.

One man said ‘It’s dark’

Clarence ‘Scratch and you’ll see it’s yellow’.

Other man ‘Scratch Obama – what colour’ll he be?’.

Clarence and others ‘Still black’.

Someone ‘Monkey here looks like Obama – might be his ancestor’.

General laughter, then someone asked for wheat toast and gravy.

I don’t think you’d hear that sort of talk in Beans in Oundle!

I am quite shocked at the hatred for Obama in some parts of the USA.  I have seen roadside signs saying ‘US threatened by foreign leader – Obama!’ and ‘Obama bringing down US economy with spending policy’.

Now the latter is a fair economic debating point but even I, as an ordinary citizen, haven’t bothered to make a sign criticising the boy-Osborne’s duff economic policy and put it in the garden.

Is it just a political difference? Is it fuelled by the fact that Obama is young? or good looking? Maybe the fact that he is clever is the problem. Maybe it’s all of these and more. Maybe, dare we say it, it is at least partly because he is black?

It was just an overheard conversation over a bad breakfast – but it left a worse taste in my mouth than did the breakfast.

But happily I met some really nice people, who were really helpful, and put me in the direction of Dysart Woods where there is a chunk of old growth forest.  I stood by oaks and beech that were around 400 years old. When the passenger pigeon was still at its most abundant these trees were alive.

Some trees there have been dated to 600 years old – before Columbus arrived.  This forest may resemble the forests before Europeans invaded America.  Certainly some of the trees probably had passenger pigeons perching in them over the years.  If they could talk they would talk of the rivers of pigeons passing by unpredictably and in search of acorns and beech mast.

There is more to tell of these woods and the impact of our management of them on passenger pigeons – but that’s for another time and place.  But it’s late, and I need to sleep and dream of ancient forests and rivers of pigeons flooding the skies.


5 Replies to “Oh Ohio! – Day 5”

  1. I have found people in rural US to be generally extremely friendly and hospitable but they can be surprisingly visceral in their attitudes to Obama, gun control, crime and punishment and anything they consider to be ‘socialism’.

  2. Hmmm, Mark you mention you haven’t ever got so annoyed by Osborne&co to but a sign in your garden, but let me ask do you have any birding related stickers attached to your car? Also people in this country put signs up, ever seen signs in the countryside saying “Support Fox Hunting” or “70% of people don’t back the fox hunting ban” etc. Sadly politics in the US is so dominated by “party politics” for such a long time that it’s gone from passive to aggressive (next time try and stick up for Obama and you’ll see what I mean about aggression) and sadly it’s making it’s way over here, there was a bloke who on tv said “what ever happens in the USA, socially,politically or media related will transfer to UK roughly 5-10 years later”….

    1. Douglas – thanks. The thing that struck me about these signs is that they were one=offs. Home-made. Takes quite a lot of commitment to do that. And commitment is good.

  3. What you’ll no doubt be acutely aware of is just how far from the sea you are ! It’s hard to imagine for us in the UK just how ‘mid’ the midwest is – a huge, gigantic nation with far out rural areas a different world from the well know east and west coast cities.

    Now, for another, thing – get these waitresses working, mark ! When you’re out in the real rural areas do ask about the settlement date of the small towns, because that’ll tell you when forest clearance for farming would have been happening – I suspect you could learn quite a lot as Americans are often well up on their history – not so much for them to remember !

    And it is a contradictory country which is quite different to be in than read about – in all my time in the US I almost invariably found people hospitable, friendly and helpful with a lot of ‘can do’ spirit.

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