Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stories From the Road

Monday on the drive home, I took a little 20-mile shortcut from the coast to connect to the highway I wanted.  It was a lovely drive alongside a placid river, through this verdant, lush valley, so green it was like we'd stumbled into an Irish enclave, an ethereal, hidden place where the Fae come out to dance at night under the moon.  Big farms, small steadings, a valley perfect for growing things.

Mom and I are quiet, admiring the scenery as we pondered our own thoughts, then as we came around a bend in the road, Mom starts chuckling at this herd of cows she spots out her window.  I look, but see nothing exceptional, just a herd of cows.

"What?" I ask.

"Every time I see cows like that, it reminds me of my grandmother."

"Did she raise cows, or something?"

Mom laughs.  "No, not at all.  One day Grandmother was taking us home (five kids) from Seattle back to Kent (a Seattle suburb),  and we were making too much noise, fighting, being children.  She was losing her patience, so to make us behave, she told us if we were very quiet, she would show us a special herd of cows."  Long pause. 

 "And...?"  I look over at Mom; she's far away, back in time, once again a little girl, in a car with her sisters and baby brother.

Smiling, she says, "Grandmother said if we stopped fighting, and stayed quiet, she would show us a herd of cows with no legs."

"No legs?"

"We got off the highway and drove into the country, and there, sure enough, were the legless cows.  Grandmother drove very slowly, pointing them out.  We were completely amazed, our noses pressed to the car windows as we drove by and no one said another word until we got home."

I'm still slightly puzzled, but before I can ask her to explain, she points:  "Look!  More legless cows!"

I look, then we both burst out laughing as we pass a herd of cows, resting peacefully in a field.

Clever Grandmother.


Mom and I continue driving, make the connection onto the highway, and eventually find ourselves passing through this small town that I recognize.  Alan and I drove through this place on our way to see my mother when we first got to America.  I spot the A & W Drive-in and now it's my turn to chuckle, and Mom's turn to ask what's funny.

Back in time we go, to a hot summer's day, about 18 months ago...

I see the drive-in ahead and tell Alan to pull in.  "What's an A & W?" he asks.

"The A & Dub has the best root beer, and I haven't had one for years.  They serve it in freezing cold mugs, ice sheets melting down the sides, and that first cold bite of root beer is just about the best thing ever.  Pull over!"

There were three picnic tables out front, so we got out of the car, claimed the last available table, and I went to the window to order for both of us: burgers, frosty mugs of root beer, and fries, then as I'm standing there waiting for the drinks, this thundering rumble of a Harley echoes against the building and my heart sinks. 

(Bear in mind that I've been out of the country for over a decade, and I feel like a foreigner; everything is weird to me, the food, the accents, the driving on the wrong side of the road, everything.)

Oh boy, out of the corner of my eye I see this huge man get off his motorcycle.  Alan is sitting at the picnic table with Ozzy as the biker dude comes up behind me, where I'm just getting the root beers, and I swear, he blocked the sun.  Alan and I are both tall, but this guy was at least 6' 6", maybe taller, and outweighed us by 100 pounds easy.  I turn, two mugs in hand, and find myself staring into the upper chest of this massive, leather-clad mountain.  Ah crap.

I raise my head, he looks down, our eyes connect, he sort of snarls, "That your dog?" and does this quick, sharp gesture with his chin towards Ozzy, sitting quietly on the bench next to Alan.  But wait.  Hold on.  Is he going to make fun of my dog?  Am I imagining the sneer on his face?  Well, my hackles rise, disregarding the fact this guy could have squashed me like a bug.  Mother hen in me puffs up; fear recedes.  Don't be dissing my boy.

"Yes," I say, belligerent, as I wonder how fast I can run to the car after I've doused him in two frosty root beers; and damn, can Alan grab Oz and follow me before it's too late?

He reaches into his leather jacket--I tense, thinking holy shit, he's going to shoot me--and the most amazing, bizarre, hilarious thing in the world happens.  He gently pulls out the tiniest, sweetest little Chihuahua I've ever seen.  She couldn't have weighed 2 pounds including her wee pink shirt.  Yes, her pink shirt.  He lovingly cradled her in the palm of his enormous hand like a piece of fine china.  "If your dog's friendly, you think I could sit with you?  Yours is about the right size so she won't be scared."

To say I was speechless would be an understatement.  I think I nodded my head, though I don't remember.  I was so focused on this giant of a man with his tiny dog, and the sudden startling turn of events, that it took me awhile to wrap my head around it all.  Alan waves the guy over, and for the next hour the three of us, and two little dogs, sat in the summer sunshine at the A & Dub, eating, talking, laughing, and honestly?  Having a great experience as our lives unexpectedly crossed paths for a brief moment in time.


Mom and I are laughing when I finish my story.  I told her I learned something really valuable that day:  Never judge.  Just because someone looks like the Devil's minion, until you have all the facts, don't judge them by how they look.  You never know.  The baddest dude in town could just be a marshmallow with a tiny girl tucked close to his heart inside his leather jacket.

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