Just before the junction of Hwy 59, there was a curious sign (with an arrow pointing south) designating: “Mountain Getaway”. Well, that was very informative. Thank you very much, Oklahoma. It was a very scenic drive, up and down and all around through the western edge of the Ouachita National Forest. There was some color, but, alas and alack, most of the trees were evergreens. The odometer clicked over to 198,000 miles. The highway leveled out, and I had time to contemplate how different my two friends were – Nick the Recluse, and Howard the Entrepreneur (he had always been a “mover and shaker”, trying to scratch out a living). Yet, the two had that one common trait – a knowledge and appreciation of nature’s omnipotence. I guess I do find a scintilla of similarities in all my friends, and that’s usually just enough. From there on, it’s just accepting them as they are. I can truthfully say my friendships have been based on not how much we’re alike, but on our dissimilarities. Well, enough of the philosophizing. I made it to Broken Bow where I pulled in to my “reserved” spot at Wal-Mart. I had come full circle, and it was time to thank The Lord for doing so.
The next morning, it was biscuits and gravy at the adjacent McDonald’s. I had a short way to go and a long time to do it. I lengthened my breakfast by scanning a newspaper and panning the locals. There was one group of blue-collared guys gathered around a table having their mid-morning coffee, and it was apparent they were indulged in their daily ritual of story-swapping. I tried lip-reading: “Joe Bob, that bird dog you sold me ain’t worth the tits on a bull. He couldn’t flush a toilet.” Then I thought about my ol’ buddy, Charley Lambert, and how he and his cronies would meet every morning just to “chew the fat” at, where else, but the local McDonald’s. I don’t like sitting in restaurants by myself, but I have to say, that was one exceptionally enjoyable morning.
I finally extracted myself from “Broken Neon” (remember all the missing letters in the signs?), and headed south to Idabel where I took a different route back to Paris on TX Hwy 195. Down the road a piece, just as a diversion, I decided to take the Business Route through Commerce. I parked in the town square, unhitched the bike, and proceeded to pedal around the peaceful little township. You know, biking can be the most simple and purest form of sight-seeing. What struck me was how a town of 8,000 inhabitants could feel so “isolated”, so detached from the troubles and turmoils of the “outside” world, like a town that time had forgot. As I wheeled around the neighborhood streets, I got this feeling that every day of the year was the same for these people. However, I did happen on one peculiar place – The Chapin House – a mirror image of the two-storey, brick mansions on Swiss Avenue in old East Dallas (with their huge front porches and port cocheres on the side). The curious thing was that it had a sign in front reading: “Bed and Breakfast. Commerce’s One and Only.” I could certainly believe that last statement. I found Mr. Chapin at home, and he was gracious enough to explain how he had retrofitted the mansion (wasn’t all that big a deal). I thanked him for his time and pedaled back through Sleepy Hollow to the town square which, incidentally, still had brick-paved streets.
I meandered south on FM (that’s Farm to Market for you Easterners) 513 to East Tawakoni. By now, I had outrun the southward spread of the fall foliage – the drab-green trees were still in their waiting-for-fall stage. The Denigers welcomed me back like it was some sort of Homecoming. They assured me I would have a place at their Thanksgiving table. I had traveled 1200 miles in 9 days, but it seemed like only yesterday that I had left them. In a way, I did feel like I had returned “home”. I called Mom to let her know where I would be for Thanksgiving, and she understood (bless her heart). She did placate me by saying she would be with a friend, so everything seemed to be copasetic. We spent a pleasant evening together, with the Denigers hanging on every word as I wove my tales of the Ozark odyssey (a wee bit of exaggeration there). Eventually, I climbed under the covers, and thanked The Lord for getting me back safely to my friends.
While Carolyn was slaving away preparing the Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to reciprocate in my own small way. I surreptitiously set up a chair in the back yard and sketched an ink drawing of her house. Just before sitting down, I presented Mrs. D with her surprise. She was overwhelmed, as I hoped she would be. I said, “It’s a `Thank You’ card for all your hospitality.” She said, “I saw you out here, looking like you were drawing the house, but I didn’t expect anything like this!” We sat down to a moveable feast. I offered to say grace, thanking The Lord, of course, for all the goodies before us, but especially for all our freedoms that we had been granted (after all, wasn’t that what the original Thanksgiving was all about?). For me, the outstanding dish was the green bean casserole prepared by Todd’s wife. I leaned over to her, and with an affected effeminate hand gesture, said, “Rachel dear, you must give me the recipe.”