We knew we were onto something good. We’d accepted the first picnic as a fluke. From that minute on, every week we would look forward to whatever company picnic came along. There were wild company picnics. At some of these picnics, twenty-five thousand people would show up. The Riesling Chemical Company and the Sinclair Oil Company because of all the steel mills around. I became an aficionado of picnics. I could tell the cheapy companies and the companies that were in trouble and the companies that were having labor troubles when the big, heavy, tough guys from trucking would show up wearing hard hats. Every picnic had its own character.
Every one. And then came the ultimate. One of the strangest things that ever happened to me in my life, and it came about in this summer of picnic crashing. We had gone to nearly every picnic. With Schwartz, Flick, and Bruner, I’d gone to what must have been fifteen picnics when this happened way at the end of summer.
It was still hot out in the Midwest—any place out in the Great Plains—and you are very very aware and conscious and attuned to the environment. Late in August, when the sun is sitting there about four-million miles across and there’s a kind of brassy quality to the air, and the steel mills off in the distance have been belching blast furnace dust into that atmosphere day and night, day and night, and it hangs low, the air has a curious kind of orange/red/gray/greenish cast and the sun hangs at a peculiar angle in August. Late in August and early September.
And at night, when the moon comes up, man, that’s something to see. Because the moon gets unbelievably enormous. It’s because of the curious invection currents and how the light is bent because of the heavy atmosphere that’s hung low in the heat. In hot, late August and early September in Indiana, I’ve seen the moon stretch almost from one end of the horizon to the other.