Maynard's Cafe, Noted for Steak Dinners
Viola, Illinois • August 8, 2009
Posted on February 11, 2010, from Fayetteville, Arkansas
She said it used to be a granary. Today the handsome old structure is a landmark. The actual D & D Farm Center is housed in a modern steel building, a stone's throw to the north of the old granary. She said she and her husband own the property and the business, which sells animal feed and also processes grain in a mill.
She was agitated because I had stopped — it was midday under the late summer sun — to take pictures of the granary, which towers above the two-lane asphalt of Illinois 17 in the village of Viola, population 950. Venerable old U.S. Route 67 passes through town only a few thousand yards to the west of the landmark. Follow it all the way south and you’ll end up in Mexico.
"Can I help you?" were the words she shouted from the cab of her pickup truck. I know those words. They aren't meant to be helpful. They signify a veiled challenge. An experienced traveler hears them every now and then. My learned response is immediate. I say No thanks I'm leaving, or words to that effect— and I don't tarry. There's no winning the quarrel that shall surely ensue if the interloper chooses to stand his ground and justify.
I picked up my tripod and walked purposefully toward my vehicle, muttering something like Don't worry I'm outta here I'm just a photographer interested in this cool old building. I stopped in my tracks when she changed her tone. She drove right up next to me, smiled (kinda), and began to backtrack. She was lean, focused, serious. "Hey, it's ok. Go ahead and take your pictures. I thought you were from the government."
The government? She said government agents were putting up sticks with day-glow orange flags all along the highways hereabouts. What are they going to do? I asked. She couldn't rightly say, but it was hot, and Obama paranoia was running rampant in the conservative rural heartland. It couldn't be good. “The government’s getting outta hand,” she said. Taxes were said to be rising like mercury in the thermometer. I was sweatin' mightily from the heat, wanted to get on down the road.
Usually I like to ask a few questions, take notes to guide me through the narrative, but after I found out Janet Fett's name, just for curiosity’s sake, I said Thanks I appreciate it I'll be on my way. Leaving town, I could see the government sticks in rows beside the highway, rising from the earth like corn stalks.
The old granary at Viola features two advertisements.
The one for GUARANTEED KENT FEEDS in black, maroon, and yellow promotes the products of Kent Feeds of Muscatine, Iowa, an old-line concern that produces vittles for pigs, horses, dogs, cows, chickens, cats, goats, sheep, and a few other domesticated animals I'm sure I forgot to mention.
The other ad, fading and partially obscured, touts the virtues of Maynard's Cafe, "NOTED FOR STEAK DINNERS." I like steak dinners, but given the condition of his sign, I doubted that Maynard was still servin' up platters. It was already noon thirty. My reserved lodging in Watseka lay hundreds of miles down the highway. With the refrigerated air blasting, I shifted into high gear and raced into the void.
L I N K S :
Village of Viola official website
A photo of the granary by Pete Zarria
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Thursday, February 11, 2010