Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Strange Things I Have Seen


The country is way stranger than the city. Way.
When we lived in the city, everything was sort of the same.
Baskin Robbins, Einstein's Bagels, Kroger, Target. They're all over the place, and they're all the same. Everything is really neat and tidy. People get mad if children ride bikes over a corner of their lawn.
Here people think nothing of turning an entire backyard into a huge BMX track.

In the country you go to "Rick's 2-Fers Party Store", and the ice cream place is called, "Lumpy and Goomers". And we have an annual Tractor Pull, and boys from the high school walk around in overalls and John Deere baseball caps there. Trucks are for haulin', and if your truck doesn't have a few finely placed dents here and there...well, you're sort of suspect.

Seriously.
It's so weird and cool.

So anyway just yesterday I saw three strange things.

First I saw a tractor pulling this huge tractor-wheel by chains. There was a child sitting in the middle of the wheel, which was on its side and being dragged through the dusty shoulder of a little two-lane highway. He looked like he was having fun and getting really dirty.

Second, I met a man at the I-Scream shop (we eat a lot of ice cream in the country), who started talking to me, animatedly, on the topic of baldness. I had never seen him before in my life. He didn't really introduce himself, he just started talking about the male pattern baldness that runs in his family. He chuckled and lifted his hat because he's about seventy and still has hair. Then he sucked some air through the sides of his teeth, glanced skyward and shook his head with a smile. I felt it might be my cue to speak and said encouragingly, "I guess it missed you, huh?" He let all the air out in one gush and leaned over to slap his knee like that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard and shook his head while he laughed loud and long, and then got real serious and quiet all of a sudden, leaning in toward me,
"You know my uncle?"
I did not, but like anyone else would do, I nodded.
"BALD AT AGE TWENTY-EIGHT!!" he roared and laughed and laughed some more. I just stood there, looking at him with this crazy smile on my face, my eyes wide. I was thinking how nice it was to be happy like that.

Finally, and this was walking home from the ice cream place, I saw this person on the horizon. I thought it was an old man because he was all bent over and moving really really slowly, but I kept my eyes on him as I got closer because it looked like he maybe needed help crossing the street or something. He was in the middle of the street for a really long time. Then I realized, as I got closer, that it was a woman with a helmet on her head, and two ski poles, and some sort of long roller-blade-except-not things on her feet. Right then I was sort of entranced by the whole image, especially after the kid on the wheel and the not-bald man. I was smiling as she drew near, except that she didn't really draw near, it's just that I was walking towards her so it seemed like she was moving a little bit. She was not. She was this summer-cross-country-skier person in full gear. Head to toe pads, full body suit. And she was really really bad at it. I thought it must be her first day because she looked pretty athletic, but she was obviously having a painful time.

So on an ill-advised small-town impulse, I stepped out of my hermitish self for a second to hail her with a wave and a nod. I even spoke and called out, "How's it goin?" Apparently it was going really well and this was only her third week she said with a smile and turned her head as she rolled past me (at this point there was a dip in the road and she was actually picking up a bit of momentum). I thought she would roll on by and that would be it. But no, she stopped herself deftly with those ski poles (actually, she stuttered to an ugly stop which I immediately felt responsible for and quickened my own step away with another wave and a hearty, "Good luck!").

The woman continued to balance herself with head turned my way though, and kept talking - about the sport (which is actually sort of cool), and her attempts to learn it, and how she was looking for other interested people in the area so they could start a club, and the whole time I was going, "oh no, oh no, oh NO" and backing away while nodding, walking backwards but continuing to give polite signs that the conversation was ending...but she kept talking. She was a Talker. At one point I realized that I had backed away so far that there was a huge telephone pole directly in the visual line between us, blocking her entirely from my view. I had to sort of crane my head around it to see her. I felt foolish about this rudeness on my part and stepped out from behind it sheepishly, and just stood there with a big high closed-mouth grin, nodding and shooting my hand out occasionally in an attempt to give a casual wave goodbye, but then letting it fall uselessly to my side in surrender. I think I might have missed a few things she said as I froze into a statue of blankness. My mind tends to shut off like that in the presence of Other People Who Talk Alot, but mercifully she was beginning to roll again and seemed unable to keep her head turned backwards in a comfortable manner. I started a little when I realized she had stopped talking and jerked back to reality enough to yell out another robust, "Well good luck!" like a parrot cawing out the same phrase again and again it seemed all I was capable of at the time.

On returning home I reflected on the beautiful strangeness of the world. I'll bet those city people are strange too, they've just got it covered up a bit more.
I like it here in the country where the dirt is right near the surface, and the trucks are denty, and the strange people like me ride wheels, laugh too loud and get from here to there any way they can.

7 comments:

Lisa Yik the Chick said...

Wonderful, quirky country people. You and Joann both wrote about country living, cute! I wouldn't go back to city living for anything. I like to visit but I need the country to feel real.

Joann said...

I love quirky. It's so real and unpretensious. (no idea how to spell that.) You're right that city people are probably quirky, too, but they keep their quikiness to themselves, hidden behind their perfect lawns and privacy fences. In the country we're free to be quirky!

First UMC said...

I can see you backing away from the lady and then realizing that you couldn't see her behind the telephone pole. And then coming forward with that....what did you call it...close-mouthed grin. I can SEE you doing that. So descriptive.

Ok, I"m sorry if I"m posting this 3 times, but it keeps bringing me right back to this page! It isn't saying that there was a problem or that I need to fill out my info. differently....it just comes back here to this!!

cjs said...

loved Other People Who Talk A Lot.

makes me want to live out in the country!

Molly said...

Hahaha, I can picture everything! You are totally the "Happy Hockey Family Moves to the Country" :)

Kulio said...

I forgot about the Hockey family! ha. :-)

kool kenna said...

I like the non bald man the best. Did you tell him about my dad?