I didn’t chat people up on this trip, I was too focused on driving 1700 miles over a span of seven days to stop and chat up the locals. Besides, everyone on the road kept to themselves except for the chatty couple on their way to Denver who were nice enough to tell me the road I was about to go one was actually closed. They didn’t bother to tell me why but I figured that out on Tuesday when I saw a road more or less underwater. The people in the Twin Cities are very friendly and outgoing. One nice young man suggested we “make out”. After I through up a little in my mouth I politely suggested he find someone at least twenty years closer to his age. I also mentioned something about his bad beer goggles. Besides the overfriendly invitation people were genuinely polite but curios to know why I had driven “so far from home” when they noticed the MINI van had Colorado plates. One gentleman was especially helpful near the Boyer river in western Iowa. It had stopped raining and I turned off highway 30 to explore a dirt road, railroad track and river.
As usual, I managed to be dressed completely inappropriately for the weather. It was a chilly 64 degrees and I had on shorts so when I would get out of the car I would dash out and then dash back in. I didn’t time my Boyer river stop just right and as I was taking pictures, it started to rain again so I ran up the hill to the car. When I started to run, a battered pick up truck turned down the road and he slowed as he passed me probably to make sure he wouldn’t flip gravel all over my legs (thank you) and then to offer up a piece of sage advice (no thank you):
“ You’re a long way from home and might not know no better so don’t fall in that river they found the bones of a gal down in there.”
Please don’t tell me I should have been frightened or menaced. Because weird Boy Who Wants To Make Out With Women His Mom’s Age was scarier than this grizzled sixty-ish fellow with a big toothy grin and obvious advice. I was pretty sure he wasn’t a mass murderer because if they found her bones in the river, she didn’t succomb to her death by falling into the river and if he were a mass murderer he would know that because he would have been the one to dump her bones in the Boyer. See? I did give it some thought as I had one hand on my door handle ready to open it into him if he even made a motion to leave that truck. And I’ve watched too many crime shows if I was able to jump to these conclusions and have a way out in the span of 30 seconds. But I’m a woman and I have to have a “way out” whenever I leave my house because that’s just the way it is. And this fact of life is one of many reasons why I’m not afraid to travel in Mexico or alone most places except the Middle East. But I’m digressing into political territory and this is supposed to be amusing.
A few hours later, I’m buzzing down highway 30 in the shadows of the biggest grain elevators in the world when I spy something very interesting on the opposite side of the road: a good old fashioned junk yard. It’s hard to find old-fashioned junk yards that aren’t surrounded by big fences and hungry dogs. I go a half mile before I find a safe place to turn around and then backtrack to the junkyard. I carefully pull in, trying to access just how stuck in the mud I’m going to get and luck into the less muddy path of two choices. I’m crawling the van along the road because I don’t want to get my shoes wet and I’m equally afraid a dog or a snake is going to jump out of the weeds and eat my face. Besides, I have a telephoto lens, I’m not Annie Lebowitz so I can shoot from the comfort of a dry car. As I’m starting my slow and deliberate turn down the less muddy lane, I notice a truck pulling in, too. Running next to the truck was a squatty, elderly looking dog who probably couldn’t eat my face but might nosh on my ear or nose so I roll forward and pull to the side to let the man pass me. I also thought it might be a good idea to ask permission to take pictures.
“I bet you want to drive up here, so I need to move, huh?” Was my MENSA-esque observation
“That’d be the idea.”
“Excuse me, do you mind if I take some pictures of that old truck over there?” (I wave my camera at him just to confirm I am a moron)
“I don’t care, it’s not mine.”
This concrete answer on the same day I was advised to not fall in a river made me chuckle and when I chuckled my verbose new BFF grimaced at me and–I kid you not–ROLLED HIS EYES. What? He’s twelve? twenty? sixteen? So I blithefully continue trying to chat this guy up in the middle of a muddy field. I was also reconsidering getting out of the car and needed to check one more thing before I did:
“Is that your dog?”
“Will he bite me?”
“I don’t know.”
” He seems friendly enough”, I said this as I noticed the old dog was looking adoringly up into the truck as his tail was about to wag off. But then I had visions of starting to open the car door and the dog flipping his demeanor on a dime so I stayed put. After Chatty Mac pulled around me I gave him the friendly little wave people share in the country. But it was returned in the form of an eye-rolling head shake and probably a muttered: “Jesus lady!”. I think he was one of those bachelor farmers Garrison Keillor talks about on Prairie Home Companion; either that or he has a wife and six daughters who natter constantly and he just wanted to be alone in his truck at the bottom of the hill by the junk yard. And then this damn woman from out of town comes by and wants to talk to him about that damn old truck sitting in the weeds.