Last week I wrote about driving blue highways and back roads on my way to visit you in Fort Scott. It struck a chord with many friends who told me personally or emailed that they also love to set out and just drive, seeing where it takes them.
Then I remembered the jaunt you and I took together that didn’t turn out at all like we’d planned. Dad was still alive and had his caregiver with him, so you and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s for an early Friday evening dinner. We had our usual good time and ordered an extra to-go meal for Dad. But instead of driving back to Fort Scott right away, we decided to enjoy the beautiful evening and play a game of “Which way now?”
At the exit of Chicken Annie’s parking lot, you chose first. “Turn right,” you said, “let’s follow the lilac bushes along the road.” So I turned right. We were in a semi-rural area north of Pittsburg, KS, just a few miles from the Missouri line, and the countryside was gorgeous.
When the lilac bushes thinned out, we came to an intersection. Being a really good daughter, I let you choose again. You decided we should turn left because it looked like some pretty trees off that way. It also took us onto a narrow dirt road, but you were right, there were lots of pretty trees. On and on we went, turning right, turning left, traveling beyond the gullies where strip mining had been taken over by woods, and abandoned houses were overgrown with vines. It was still early evening and I kept thinking that all we’d have to do was turn and drive west until we eventually came back to the highway.
We made our final turn onto a side road. You chose it for the remaining dots of yellow flowers on forsythia bushes tucked between the fire-red blossoms of pyracanthas, bordered by straggly cedars. At the bend of the little road, the flowers ended, and a different view took over.
Several pickup trucks–looking like they were held together by rust and mud–were parked at odd angles in the clearing. Bearded men in ball caps leaned against the truck bed holding a keg of beer. They’d been enjoying their drinks for awhile. Rifles stood at attention against the side of the truck, and the men did not look glad to see us.
You leaned forward, peered through the windshield, smiled and waved. You whispered to me, “Oh, my, this isn’t good.” Damn straight, I thought, though I didn’t say it. That moment wasn’t the time for reminders against cursing.
Scenes of the movie DELIVERANCE gave me chills, and as I threw the car into reverse I thought maybe I heard the sound of dueling banjos. I’ve never driven so fast in reverse. You were a great help, watching through the windshield, saying, “I don’t think they’re coming…oh wait…no, I don’t think so,” as we sped past the cedars and forsythia and pyracantha that no longer seemed as delightful.
Later, when we finally arrived back with Dad’s meal, as the caregiver heated it in the microwave, she asked if we’d had a nice ride. You smiled and said, “The flowers were lovely.”
That’s your trademark, Mom. Enjoy the adventure, whatever it is, and remember the good parts.