Kaleidoscope Country






La Crosse Lumber Co (Louisiana, Missouri)

“Are you taking pictures of the murals?” the local woman asked as she passed me on the crosswalk.

“Yes,” I replied, “it’s the whole history and attitude of the area, painted on the sides of all your prominent buildings. An outdoor museum. Cool.”

“Well,” she smiled modestly, “the kids in the this town don’t care anything about their history. We can’t even make them learn about it or take any interest in these murals. We’re glad someone does.”

The tinge of regret in her voice I have heard in many places I have been. What’s left to us if our descendants don’t even care that we were here when we are gone?

But as people always do, she underestimated my age. I’m not a kid, and when I was, I doubt I would have found a small Midwestern town interesting, either. Certainly not if I had grown up there.

As Tom Waits wrote, “They say if you get far enough away, you’ll be on your way back home,” people do appreciate many things later in life once they’ve had enough experience to tie it all together.

Nowadays I don’t see anything the way I did in adolescence. Everything has an echo, a vibration, a reflection to everything else. And when the people of this town started making these murals, they put a little of that philosophy into their art, too.

Louisiana in missouri

For starters, the town’s name is Louisiana, but it’s situated in Missouri (but so close to the Illinois state line it’s kind of  in Illinois, too). And the shop in the picture at the top of this post has a mural, of itself, just at another point in its history. So if you look at it, you see a real and present lumber shop, and a virtual and past lumber shop, simultaneously. If you take a breath and think, it’s a meditation ready-made.


La Crosse Lumber Co. Mural (Louisiana, Missouri)

Then there’s the guy on the ladder painting a river scene on another wall mural. Wait, that’s not a guy painting a mural, it’s a painting of a guy painting a mural. They even added some shadow just to fool you (which it does if you are looking from across the street which is the only good vantage point).


Mural Painter (Louisiana, Missouri)

People say small town folk are unsophisticated. But the people of Louisiana know, everything you see is nothing but a reflection of yourself.


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