It’s Sunday, August 24th, and I have company this morning. It’s a family of fourin a minivan with Denver plates (the letter “A” being the first character). Colorado is one of the few states left where the county in which a vehicle is registered can be identified by the initial letter on the license plate. The occupants are obviouslyin dire need of a pit stop, as one of the kids gets out and runs over to the restroom shack, looks in and shakes his head, then runs backto the van and gets in.He’s probably informing the troops that the place stinks. My guessis they’ve been accustomed to luxurious HolidayInn plumbing rather than the likes of the antiquated out-house. Fortunately for them, there was a Port-o-Can planted on the edge of the clearing.
I’m able to scope the inside of the van from the wide-open cargo door, where theusual vacationer’s clitter (my conjugate of litter and clutter) has accumulated, i.e.,junk food and soda pop trash. It is moments like this that I indulge myself in ahypothetical situation: the family breadwinner has earned his annual two-week vacation,and has treated the wife and kids to a whirlwind sightseeing tour of the majestic west.They are on their last leg of the journey,and the old man can’t wait to get back home. He’s due back at the office tomorrow morning, where he’ll feign a yarn abouthow relaxing a vacation it was.
Meanwhile, the wife has rushed the ten rolls of film tothe PhotoMat after dropping the kids off at school, where they couldn’t be happier tosee all their friends, not to mention, being back in front of the boob tube watching their regular scheduled programming. It’s pure conjecture, but I bet I’m not far off the mark. Anyway, it’s fun to fantasize every now and then about people’s comings and goings when out on the road. Parking lots provide the best vantage points, whetherit be rest areas, truck stops, in front of McDonald’s or behind a Holiday Inn. I don’t want this to be interpreted as though I only observe from a distance behind a windshield. There are occasions when I feel gregarious at the auspicious time, like spotting a car with Florida plates and approaching them with the salutation: “Hey, you people are a long way from home. Where you headed?” Or maybe it’s: “What part of California you live?” I feel very assured with these lead-ins since I can relate with most parts of any state through all my “fan belt-setting” (as opposed to jet-set).
I crank it up and continue east for about 40 miles where I stop at the city park in Maybell (more deep grass to run in). The restroom facility is larger than usual,and upon further investigation, I discover shower stalls in the rear portion of the building. Well, timing is everything. I spent more than an hour showering, shampooing, shaving, and hair trimming, making up for a lot of lost time in body hygiene.
The pay-as-you-shower system was simply a donation box set on a pole in front. A two dollar bill would suffice…the honor system still prevails. The whole atmosphere was so refreshing. But as I was walking back to Ol’Blue, I couldn’t help noticingthe parking lot filled with cars and people and makeshift picnic tables replete witha cornucopia of Moffat County bountifulness. I askeda lady carrying a bowl of home-made potato salad what was happening. She said: “This is our Annual August MaybellCommunity Picnic. Everyone brings a dish of something…can’t tell what’s going to show up, but it’s bound to make your mouth water. Those ol’boys over there’ve been steamin’ pork and turkey all mornin’ and that’s worth stickin’ around for. Come on and join us”.
Their hospitality was overwhelming. I scavenged my refrig box for some contribution, and all I could muster was a can of pork n’ beans, a meager token compared to the sumptuous, homemade dishes prepared by the distaff side of Maybell. One of life’s unsolved mysteries is there are never two identical foodstuffs to befound at these bring-a-dish shindigs. My theory is women communicate telepathically prior to such potluck events, so no dish is duplicated. I notice one resourceful fellow has brought a medium-size skillet to suffice as a plate, so I retaliate by retrieving a pie pan out of my cook-out box, plus my own fork…a little saving on plastic and paper. I mingle and meet some of the locals, listening to their agribusiness gossip – the only real talk there is in this territory. Other than that, I would just relax and observe the whole ambience of Americana ati ts best, a midsummer ritual of Thanksgiving. What a beautiful afternoon! What a lucky guy I am!
I roll into Craig and stop at King Souper’s sister store, City Market, renowned throughout the state for its excellent produce. I pass Hayden Park and arrive in Steamboat Springs in the late afternoon in search of the Steamboat Art Company, the office-residence of one Suzi Brackin (sister of a long-time friend from Dallas). To my surprise, Suzi’s niece greets me in the store.
Wow, she has really maturedinto one attractive young lady since I last saw her in Vienna, Maine, where I spent a memorable Christmas in 1990. Sunday is Suzi’s day off,so Sara gives me directions to her mobile home just outside of town. Now I haven’t seen Suzi since 1990 either, during the same visit, so I’m a little anxious. Any nervousness quickly dissipates as we give each other a big hug. My initial remark consists of “Suzi, I’vefinally tracked you down. Every time I talk to sister Dodi, she’s got a new address for you. Seems like I’ve been chasing you over half of Colorado.” She admits she’s been somewhat transient, and now she’s thinking about moving to Austin, Texas.
Rick, her man-friend with whom she shares their wheel estate, wants to skiddoo to Seattle. Again,Suzi is at another crossroad. She has no car,so I half-seriously offer her a ride to Texas, that is, if she doesn’t mind a protracted odyssey along the Front Range with various campsites in mind. I’m trying to be as diplomatic as I can, and I assure her she’d be a great traveling companion. I can tell we’re at an impasse for the time being.
Fortunately, Sara arrives and we get a reprieve from the seriousness of the situation. We sit on the front porch, rehashing thegood times back in Maine at Billand Dodi’s restoration project called home (an early 20th century, two-story, clapboard-sided dwelling with no inside plumbing). But it hadone helluva heating system:a cast iron “all nighter“wood-burning furnace in the basement. Still, I opted to bury myself comfortably under layers of blankets in Ol’ Blue rather than a restless repose on the living room couch.
I recall how we regaled over the bowls of my contraband “Wolf Brand Chili”. Bless her heart, Dodi remembered that indeliblead “How long has it been since you had a bowl of hot, steamy Wolf Brand Chili? Well, that’stoo long”. We indulged ourselves in raucous games of Scrabble, infused with intrepid attempts to win points by counterfeited wordspelling, e.g., Sara’s lame effort to pass off “rem” for “rim” (obviously thinking about the Afro-American pronunciationof a wheel-rim).
I literally fell back in my chair laughing at that fearless test of her opponent’s mentality. She got a kickout of remembering that. Sara leaves Suzi and me to ourselves, and we get back to the more pertinent issue at hand, that is, which way is she headed? All I can say is “Lead with your heart”. I leave her with that, and retire in the van, which fortunately has another legal and level resting place for the night in front of their home. I have a feeling that Suzi and Rick are going to have a long night of introspection. I say a little prayer for them….