Today, in easier times than those of the explorers on a religious mission and timber men in search of their fortunes, the Pere Marquette is spoken of in hushed tones by those who pursue fly-fishing for sport and amusement, rather than a necessary search for food.
That tiny patch of Iowa might well have been returned to corn production when the movie makers left town, but was not. It was preserved, haltingly at first, with nothing more than a rusted coffee can nailed to a post to solicit preservation donations, and now has become an industry, a revenue stream for both Iowa and big league baseball.
So, be you a Willie fan or not, when his 90th birthday tributes show up on television and radio this weekend, remember that he has in so many ways lived all of our lives and sung all of our songs in all our towns from Pittsburgh to Denver.
That was the street-level windows of the big department stores back in the glory days of Christmas shopping before Walmart and Amazon teamed to suck the last dime from us while, at the same time, squeezing the last drop of joy from the season.
His life span and mine, thus far, cover 133 years – 1889 to 2022 – and we, my father and I, shared the planet for only 29 of those years before his death.
Seventy-seven songs on the charts over the years, 16 number one hits, 45 million albums sold and number one female country artist of all time.