Friday, December 29, 2006

Off the Bus

photo by Laura Murre

Though I was not born in the backseat of a Greyhound Bus, nor even in the back of the Model "A" Ford panel truck which served as the family transport in those days, I do enjoy a bit of ramblin' from time to time. Just back now from a most pleasant journey which included some holiday visiting with family and friends, some glum weather, some food and drink, some solitary wandering on a frozen lake. Memorable conversation. Unforgettable smiles.

And the joy of the road. Oh, not the faceless fourlane that made up a lot of the trip, due to the need to get along across the state and a bit of the next, but the little, broken-backed winders that I love to jog off to when I can. The roads that lead slowly past the tumbledown farms, all their possessions out in the air, like books with their covers torn off. Stories right out in plain sight. The two '66 Chev pick-ups, one with its hood open, cannibalizing the other, which lies on its side in defeat. Both near-overgrown with burdock and nettle. The ancient manure spreader, its chain apron broken in mid-field, still half-loaded and with ten year old brush growing in it. Dead tractors and the rusted implements they once pulled, their uses now all but forgotten. The tidy and simple house next door without electrical wiring, its neat outbuildings, the Amish buggy in the yard.

And the collections. A row of Massey-Harris tractors. A lot full of Pontiac Firebirds. Steam threshing engines. Sheds covered with antlers and hubcaps. And, if you're very, very lucky, there may still be a little cafe with walls of grease and calendars, tended by two old women, one permanently hunched over the grill, the other, plump and cheerful in spite of being the last of her kind, serving good pie and weak coffee and allowing that it feels like snow's a-comin'. Order the mincemeat, strike up a talk - this could be your last chance. Ask about the abandoned one-room schoolhouse down the road, the abandoned cheese factory across the street. The abandoned dreams she once dreamed. Tip her well and consider yourself fortunate.

You will be richer upon your return.

- Ralph Murre

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