The Great American Grid


In this case, though, there was a route that shaved a few miles off the distance to Webster City. It took us through Lehigh, a small town on the Des Moines River. We had been driving on arrow-straight highways, through the tableland of corn and beans. A grain elevator, a water tower, and a few trees in the distance meant a hamlet was coming up. and we would slow down a bit, take a right-angle turn, or drive straight on through. When we came up on Lehigh, though, the road began to curve and, just as unexpectedly, to descend. We followed the contours of a hillside into a valley and drove along the winding river. It was damp down there and wooded; it was like Connecticut. Norma said this place had always given her the creeps. We were up and out of that valley quickly, back on the familiar straight roads and flat land.

Norma had me sleep in the west bedroom that night. I turned back the patchwork coverlet and slipped into bed southward. In that dreamlike state you sometimes enter right before sleep, my head lay over the Canadian border, my feet were in New Orleans, the fingers of my right hand played with the waters of the Pacific, and my left hand pointed home.