Within hours of leaving the bleak cityscape of Detroit, I’m in the gently rolling hills of northern Indiana. I go from the sprawling, broken city to the compact, quaint town of Angola. Indiana’s contribution to the pithy mottos adorning their welcome signs is “Crossroads of America”, which is surely code for “you don’t have to stop here, keep moving”.
What it does have, however, is clear open skies, which is perfect for why I’m here: the Geminid meteor shower, which peaks annually around the 13th-14th December.
While I wait for night to fall, I amble around the hub of the town, a monument to the Civil War:
There are also a number of dedications to Baron Von Steuben (being as Angola is in Steuben county), who was key in training American revolutionaries in what sounds like the best game of Chinese whispers ever:
“Steuben would write out the next day’s orders in German, Walker would translate them into French, and a French-speaking officer would then translate them into English.”
Based on my knowledge of how such things works (that is, episodes of Frasier), the Baron was probably not trying to teach them how to use bayonets so much as how to crochet. Not to mention, he wasn’t actually a baron.
Although it’s a comparatively small town, it has the same street that is, seemingly, in every town in America: a four-lane street dedicated exclusively to gas stations, chain restaurants with occasional supermarkets sprinkled in. They all look more or less identical. While here I burn a little time in a Walmart. In the UK, Walmart operates as ASDA, so there’s some similarity. For instance, both have the George clothing range, but only one has the gun section. Don’t get me wrong, the people who go to the “10 Items or Fewer” checkout with half a trolley bug me too, but I’ve never thought of solving it with a Sig Sauer M400.
Darkness has fallen and I’m off to the middle of a field to wait for the show to start. I’m far from the things of man and the temperature’s below freezing, on the plus side, there are no artificial lights for miles and the sky’s wonderfully clear. As I’m sitting in my dark car, I get the strange sensation of something moving outside. I’m stuck staring out the window and faintly spot, roughly halfway across the field, something dark moving against the slightly-less-dark open air. It moves a few feet and pauses. From what I can tell, it’s pretty big. It looks pretty stag-shaped. If it’s interested in the meteor shower, it isn’t interested in sharing my tripod and disappears within a minute.
The stars are beautiful in themselves and the show kicks off. Dozens of bright sparks falling across the sky, it’s wonderful, but tricky to capture on camera (there’s a slight streak up top of the photo below):