So there I was, sitting at my desk Thursday afternoon going through my normal routine when the phone rang. “There’s this lady walking down Route 50 dressed all in black. I’m curious and I think it would make an interesting story,” the lady on the other end of the line said.
I’ve received several similar calls over the years. Sometimes the walker, or runner, or biker, turns our to be doing something for a worthy cause. Just as often though, they’re looking for a free handout – a place to sleep, some food, or better yet, money.
Figuring the latter was most likely the case, I piddled around a bit, then decided I better grab and a camera and go see if there was any story to be had from a woman walking down the road dressed in black. A couple miles or so out of town I spotted a figure in black off in the distance. So I pulled into a parking lot, grabbed my camera and notepad, I waited for the figure to get closer.
As a little woman, dressed entirely in black from her sandals and socks to her robe and the hood pulled over her head, drew closer I snapped some photos. When she was almost beside me I tried to ask her a few questions. But she never answered, or even acknowledged me. She just kept her eyes on the ground in front of her and kept walking.
I shouted another question as she walked on by, but she never even flinched and continued on her way.
I’d never had that happen before.
Well, that was wasted time, I thought for a moment. But there were a few other people in same parking lot waiting for the woman, so decided to ask them a few questions, like why they were interested in what the little woman was doing.
What I found out, especially after returning to the office and looking the little woman up online, was that the fact that there was no story was a story in itself.
Mystery, obviously, intrigues people. Lots of people.
So many, in fact, that shortly after I arrived at work Friday I found myself seated in my office with a WLWT reporter and cameraman as they interviewed me about what had transpired between the little woman and I the day before.
There wasn’t a lot to tell, but like I said, that’s the story.
Curiosity killed the cat, they say.
It’s odd. An apparently homeless person can walk down the road in rags and no one even seems to notice. But a woman dressed in all black, and hauling black bags, makes an appearance and everyone wants to know what’s up.
Throughout the day I heard all kinds of speculation, some good, some bad.
I wondered if she could be doing some type of study, or maybe a research paper, walking around to see what kind of reaction she gets. If that’s the case, she gets an “A” for effort, especially after learning that what appears to be the same woman has been spotted the last couple months Kentucky, Tennesee and Virginia doing the same thing she was here.
More than likely she has some type of agenda. What it is we may never know, but maybe it’s none of our business. Maybe she has nowhere to go. Maybe she’s a little confused. Maybe she just likes the exercise. Maybe this is her way of seeing part of the country. Maybe she just wants to express her freedom to go wherever she wants to go. Maybe she likes the mystery she’s creating. Maybe walking is her way of escaping some past problem.
Whatever she’s up to, I wish her well. She apparently means no harm and she almost appears to be praying as she walks along. But she walks dangerously close to the edge of the road and was reportedly spotted walking down Columbia Parkway the other day. That’s not safe. It’s not safe for anyone, let alone a little woman, to be walking by herself in some of the places she’s walked.
Really, like everyone else, I have no clue what she’s up to. But I do know this – in this country, unlike many others, she has the right to walk pretty much wherever she wants to walk, as long as she’s not infringing on the rights of others. And that’s a right not to be taken lightly.
The black wardrobe raises some speculation, but there’s no law against wearing black either. Ever heard of Johnny Cash?
So maybe we should all just look at it like Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited, who said that as long as she’s not bothering anyone else, his department was not going to bother her either.
Good luck little lady. Be safe. I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for.
On another note, if you read this column last week, you know I wrote about some remembrances of Pigeon Roost Road just south of Hillsboro. In that column I said that I was most likely first attracted to the road because of its name and that I wondered where it came from.
I got an answer this week.
Verda Mae Peters, who I wrote a story about last year dealing with her part in the March on Washington 51 years ago where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, dropped me a letter to fill me in.
Turns out Mrs. Peters has lived on the Pigeon Roost Road for 30 years and when she first moved there she had the same questions. So she did a little research.
“Before the passenger pigeons were shot to extinction they roosted in trees on this road in such great numbers that the branches bent to the ground, hence its name,” Mrs. Peters wrote.
I always figured the name had something to do with pigeons roosting on the road, but I never knew the full story.
Now I do. Thanks Mrs. Peters.