Saturday, July 19, 2014

Reflections on America - and Americans

Last month I was driving out west on vacation with my family when I crossed over the Nebraska - South Dakota line.  At that moment I had officially visited all 48 of the lower states.  I will also turn 48 this September so I found myself thinking, "One state per year.  Not bad...." 
After spending several days in South Dakota we traveled through much of the rest of the western states, the Pacific Northwest, Canada and then back home.    During the more than 10,000 miles of driving that we logged I had plenty of time to let my mind wander.  One of the resting places of reflection was on the various people I had met in the lower 48 states over my lifetime and on this summer trip.
One person that came to mind was a young man in South Dakota who let us park our car in his barn to get out of a major hail storm.  He had no way of knowing if we would rob him or act like jerks.  He simply waved us in and offered us a cold drink to boot.  Ironically, a few weeks later my wife and kids were at the Calgary Stampede - the largest rodeo in the world - when they heard the name Chad Ferley announced as one of the participants.  Mr. Ferley, as it turns out, is one of the world's best saddle bronc riders.  He is also the guy who let us in his barn weeks earlier.
In Washington we met the owner of a lodge who was cleaning up a storage shed on his property at around 11PM.  We could not find a place to camp for the night, his lodge was full so I asked him if we could pitch our tent out in the grass near his lodge.  I offered to pay but he refused to take money and told us it would be fine to sleep there for the night.
In Minnesota - at Glacial Lakes State Park - we talked to an employee of the park about camping one late night when we were once again struggling to find a place to sleep.  He told us the campground was full but offered to let us camp anyway in an area not normally used by traditional tent campers even though we would be arriving hours after his office closed.
In Oregon there was a man who found my wallet lying on a bench in a gym locker room who sought me out to return it.

In Jackson, Wyoming I ran into former Vice-President, Dick Cheney in an Albertson's grocery store while he was selecting some milk.  He was very pleasant to talk with as I shared some economics stories I tell my students about his work in the Nixon Administration.
In Seattle there was a guy who gave us a free oyster shucker to help us with our dinner when they were clearly marked $15.
In Alabama there was the vet clinic that charged us nothing when we brought in our new puppy (yes, we picked up an abandoned dog in Montana and drove him back to Florida....) who had swallowed a bone.
In Olympic National Park there was the camp host who let me ride around on his golf cart to find a campsite that would be more private and quiet than the one we almost got stuck with. 

Another camp host in Cape Perpetua State Park along the Oregon coast kept bringing us free fire wood.  He was a retired police officer from Fort Worth, Texas who saw my Oklahoma Sooners sticker on the back of my car.  He said he wanted to "help out an Okie."
In Wyoming we met a lady who came upon our campsite and politely pointed out that we had taken her reserved spot.  Not only was she super nice about this transgression but she ended up giving us a free gift from her shop when we got to know her a bit better during our stay.
This is not to say that we did not meet a few jerks and imbeciles along the way but it is true that our country still has people who are genuinely giving, charitable and thoughtful.  It is nice to know that those folks are out there - in every state.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you had those encounters. It appears you had a great time with your family this summer. I'm glad.