The carcass of old car, a '60 Fairlane perhaps, sits in the middle of a dry creek bed a short distance south of the Victoria Glades parking lot. There are two ways to get there. If it hasn't rained recently, follow the creek bed. Otherwise, pick your way down a faint path leading off south from the parking.

The car is smack dab in the middle of the creek, upside down and stripped of everything forward of the firewall and of everything else once fastened to the body. I'm not even sure if it was a convertible, or if the roof is crushed or buried. I'm not sure it was a Fairlane, but that's as good a guess as any.

I suppose that at one time it might have been cool, since tail fins will do that, even for a four door. It's not hard to imagine it, fresh from the showroom, some guy's pride and joy. Bright paint. Nice hub caps. The top down, his gal in the passenger seat, Jerry Lee Lewis on the AM radio.

My mother had a Fairlane, a big late sixties fastback. She used to haul my brother and me to scout camp in the thing. We'd stop for picnic fried chicken at St. Francois State Park on the way. That Fairlane is gone too, and the memories aren't as bright as they once were.

For the Fairlane in the creek at Victoria Glades, all of that is all long gone. Every last bit of it: paint, chrome, cool, pride, even the memories. All of it, scoured off down to bare rusting metal. Eventually the remaining bits will be gone too, but not for a while.

Trash can be a bit of a puzzle. Later in the day, at Valley View Glades, I came across a a half-eaten bag of microwave popcorn. At least they carried the microwave out. But tail fins? Here?

Big junk requires infrastructure: some suggestion of a road, or a path through the trees, or some outline of an impromtu salvage yard. Was all of that erased by the now reemerging woods? Or was the Fairlane stripped somewhere else, then washed downstream by an especially heavy thunderstorm? Or has it been there since the third day, the conveyance of the creator, left to rust after the work was done?

I suppose I should be as offended by the Fairlane as I was by the half-eaten bag of microwave popcorn, but I can't be. A popcorn bag is evidence of a petty and unimaginative sloth, and so is contemptible: it tells us what we already know, and in a particularly crass way. But the Fairlane, on the other hand, took some effort.

And so the Fairlane can speak in way that a popcorn bag can't. The Fairlane can announce, in a tone reserved for the obvious, "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

And it can also say, less obviously, and much more quietly, "Look, and closely: this place is not valuable because it is unmarked; instead, its beauty rises from its having been repeatedly marked, and from those marks having been in turn erased, sometimes fully and other times partly, again and again, until what is left is as blurred--and as clear--as a long used and badly cleaned chalkboard."