You know that song “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man?” made popular by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash? If it doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sure you would know it if you heard it, but the version I love the best is the Texas version by Brian Burns. Maybe because out of the 90 or so places listed in the song that he sings about the Lone Star State I’ve been to most of them, and that got me to thinking. There is way more to traveling than just ending up where a reservation awaits you, more than the fancy places to eat or hole in the wall joints that you stumble upon that makes your road trip all worth it.
After all the back-roads I travel, I always reflect on more of what I saw and experienced rather than the place I stayed, the food I ate or the “must see” and “have to do’s” the final destination offered. I’m a people watcher, and that doesn’t stop no matter where I am. I guess its more than just people watching. I like to take it all in, all the smells, colors, and sounds around me, the little things that not everyone notices or miss because they are in a hurry to get from point A to point B. But I believe that everywhere I have been, every person I have encountered, and everything I have witnessed along every travel was in fact put there for a reason.
Many years ago I had a blowout on a Sunday morning heading west on I-20 just east of Abilene, while traveling with a friend and my 2 children. After getting the vehicle safely on the side of the road, we concerned ourselves with getting it changed and on to our destination. But God had other plans, and all of a sudden there was a car who stopped and out stepped an older couple. They were country if ever I’ve seen country folk, and I know, because I’m country folk, too.
These two strangers (who soon became friends) were on their way to church when they stopped to help us, I can’t remember the man’s name but the woman’s name was Faye and she loved life, she was a survivor of breast cancer and told us that she didn’t have a problem taking out her “imitation bosom” and throwing it across the room at her cat because it was about to attack one of her chickens! I’m assuming the chicken was in the house, too – I seriously can’t make this stuff up. Shortly after, another truck stopped, it was a friend and fellow church member of theirs, and he, along with others that had stopped, soon got us patched up good enough to make it on to Abilene where we were going to have to buy a new tire. But when they finished, they wouldn’t take any sort of payment, but did invite us to Sunday service, and we went. I don’t think I have ever felt so welcomed like I was there. They gave each of us a cool soda to drink along with a delicious pastry, and then we sat among the church members like we had been going there since the first day it opened. I listened to the small community’s preacher deliver the sermon that I knew I was supposed to hear. It changed me. My outlook was different towards lots of things. I guess God wanted my attention… and he got it.
On a separate occasion, I was in FAR and I mean FAR west Texas (it may or may not have been in Terlingua), where the heat that comes off the pavement is like vapor from hell. It can bite you like a rattlesnake and take your breath away just by walking outside. This day, it was just my sons and I and we had stopped at a convenience store to get a little gas, snacks, and something cold to drink before reaching our destination. My oldest, had already paid and gone outside while I waited in line with my youngest. This was a very small town, the epitome of the old west, the very place that my children and I love like no other. As I listened to the local man in front of me and the cashier talk about their upcoming bond election and the weather, I noticed my oldest outside talking to someone I couldn’t see, I could just see that he was looking down toward the pavement carrying on a conversation. At first, I thought maybe the heat had gotten to him, but then as I moved up in line, I could see through the store window a man in dusty clothes with a tan, weathered, deep lined face talking back to my son like they were old friends.
I wasn’t frightened that something bad was going to happen, I didn’t think he was fixin’ to be abducted, it was a surreal feeling, a calm, it was something pure, something good. As we paid for our items we walked on outside to the car, not trying to interrupt their conversation. The man seemed a little unsure of how I was going to react to him talking to my young teenage son when without missing a beat, my kiddo introduced his new acquaintance to me and I shook his hand and told him how nice it was to meet him, and he seemed to sit a little straighter than a few seconds earlier. I cannot remember where he said he was from or where he was heading, but when my oldest gave him the two cold bottles of water he just bought and the snacks he shared with the man, he looked right into his eyes and said, “Young man, you don’t know me from Adam, but you have treated me like someone you’ve known all your life, you showed me respect and didn’t look away from me, but instead you interacted with me like a human being, and didn’t shun me like a stray dog. You are a good man and I thank you for your time.” My kiddo shook his hand and wished him all the best and told him that he hoped they met again someday, and maybe they will.
Once, we had taken the family to Galveston, and as always, someone forgot something so we made a Walmart run and while my husband and one of our 4 kids ran into the store, I decided to stay in the jeep, not wanting to go in dressed in beachwear. I’m sure glad I did. If you don’t already know, a beach town, is always a great place to people watch for so many reasons, and this day was no different. But as I sat there with the AC blowing on my face, I witnessed a mother in her late 40’s push her son who was probably 11 or 12 in his wheelchair out to her very outdated van where she picked him up and put him in his seat, all the while making sure that the tube in his throat was secure. This took her about 25 minutes, and it was hot and humid and every bit of 110 degrees. I could see the concern on her face, I could see the worry and strain that had been taking its toll on her for what I’m guessing, all his young life. I am a firm believer that God puts you exactly where he wants you to be when he wants you to be there. I needed to see that woman that day. I needed to be reminded just how blessed my every day really is, not that she didn’t feel blessed with her life, we just had our own worries, different solutions, and the same goals, to raise the our kids the best we can, and give them every chance they deserve, be their voice until they have their own, and be vigilant and strong even when we feel the weakest. I watched her until she drove off from that parking lot, and even though her face was tired, they laughed together, and his smile seemed to brighten even the brightest day.
Now, I don’t know what ever happened to Faye, I hope she is well and still cancer free throwing her bosoms at crazy cats, I hope the homeless man found his destination to be welcoming and warm and was able to stay. I hope the woman and her son are doing well, I want to believe that her reality has become easier and his health has improved 100%.
I have been to many places in this great state, lots of them more than once, twice or even more. But, it’s not where you travel to per-say, its what you experience while you are there or the time it takes you to get there.
Be observant, be kind, and be grateful.
Oh Stacey, you just paint pictures with your words! You are a very gifted writer.
Thank you sweet lady!!!!!!