Reflecting on a civilization hundreds of years ago
Cahokia Mounds
by Jack Corbett
This is where I lived, where I exercised where I drank close by at Dollies Playhouse and where I thought a lot about what once was


Another late night and once again I had lots of beer. Started at Dollies, left Dollies for Miss Kittys, then it was back to Dollies. This time I closed the place. Woke up at 8:30 with just over four hours of sleep under my belt and started the little coffee pot in the motel room's restroom. With time on my hands and planning on hitting Miss Kittys late afternoon and Dollies into the night I went out, had breakfast, washed my Miata and headed for Cahokia Mounds just several miles away.

Brilliant day. Sun shining and the Miata is handling perfectly, an extension of myself. Its engine is sounding just right and I want to take her somewhere far away with my shirt off catching a tan in its little cockpit. Instead it is to the Cahokia Mounds only several miles from Dollies. Once, just seven hundred years ago there were 20000 inhabitants living here, more people than the City of London could boast. Rising above the interstate and the Collinsville Road I am taking is Monks Mound, looming over a hundred feet above its base. Thousands of Indians labored to build it of earth, basket by basket for four hundred years. At its top lived the Great Sun, the unquestioned ruler of his subjects below having the power of life and death over all.

Dozens of lesser mounds are close-by. Some were used for burials. Others for high ranked families to live on. I turn right and drive into the parking lot for Monks Mound but it is still closed until the new steps are completed. So I drive over to the museum just a half mile away and park. Been there at least a half dozen times but the weather was colder then. This time I want to walk through the area to try and visualize how it once was. Putting my shirt back on I go into the museum to ask a question or two about the trails through the park. I cannot climb the mounds I am told so I head out of the building onto a path covered with wood chips. Taking my shirt off I walk in shorts towards the twin mounds, both sixty feet high. The wood chips soon end but the trail continues past the Twin Mounds into a wooded area.

Just before I enter the woods I almost stumble onto Mound 72 where 18 young women's bodies were found  with four young men headless without their hands. No one knows for sure what happened then but it is believed that the men and women were part of a mass human sacrifice to honor the Great Sun. I almost get on my hands and knees and look across at Monks Mound which seems always present, dominating the area....trying to imagine what it was like living then.

A few moments later I am entering a large wooded area and my body is by now catching very little sun. There is lots of underbrush all around me and large oak trees rising nearly a hundred feet above me. No noise of a highway nearby. I am lost in the moment....walking through the woods, the birds singing all around me.

And I remember.....I remember growing up as a little boy with the timber on three sides of our house. Back then I almost lived in the woods behind our house, sometimes camping in the trees for a week at a time. Of fishing in the little pond back there and hunting rabbits and quail during the winters. We had horses back then and I was very good for I had been on a horse since I was seven.

How different from where I am now living----on a farm, the area practically devoid of trees. Which is why I planted over two hundred trees around my house just to live the way I used to. But it is not enough I almost say to myself. People like to go back to what they are used to and I am no exception. I grew up in the woods and I decide that I want to go back to a place surrounded by trees--acres upon acres of trees. It is quiet and I am looking at a great White Oak tree, realizing that my home is in the wrong place.

Ahead of me I see a swampy area. Through the underbrush I see a shallow little pond, the forest surrounding it. A hundred feet away from the path I come up to the water's edge and suddenly I am lost in a moment of timelessness. I imagine myself as a hunter or fisherman--an Indian living over seven hundred years ago. I would have spent hours there-- silent-- waiting for a deer away from whatever family I had-awaiting my return.

The trail was one large circle and after a mile I was out of the woods, Monks Mound once more within sight. I would go into the museum again to ask a few more questions and then go to Dollies and find out what was happening on the web site. A thought that had been nagging me for some time returned. The difference between now and then--of mens relationships with women and how it is decided who ends up with whom.

Big difference I decide. Now it seems that most good looking women and even the best women end up with the weak-------men without jobs. Stupid men. And even cowardly men who beat up their women. Today there seems to be so many women who have low self esteem and it has not been lost on me that few women can remain without a boyfriend for long, snapping up anything that comes their way. Is it because we are so permissive and open-minded that such mindlessness prevails?

Didn't happen back then or at least not very often. With a clearly defined social order in place and a value system most followed the mating game was far simpler. Men were admired for their strength and courage. For their ability to lead and to bring in the most game. Cowards and men not true to their word were despised. Women shunned the weaklings. But not always and those who chose unwisely were the objects of ridicule and sometimes if a man who was weak, or enough of a liar and a cheat, took a woman, both were exiled from the community.

Going back into the museum I asked who was responsible for taking care of the little Prairie garden I found near the end of the trail. Two men pointed at a woman around sixty and I kidded her about the tiny weeds I saw in the prairie garden. My kidding started a twenty minute conversation about native American prairie plants.

My little sports car almost cried out to me as I approached. Its top still down, it was begging to be driven along a curvy road, my naked back and chest absorbing the sun's rays. But I had too much to do. And went back to Dollies and into the world of the computer and strippers.



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