I am sitting in my low rent motel room just northeast of St. Louis, contemplating the extraordinary nature of this golden day and enjoying a delicious repast of Cheez-its, Diet Pepsi and fresh roadside peaches (this photo is for you, dear Dave). It's hard for me to believe how fabulous my day was - I feel like I must surely have exceeded some limit on fun that's supposed to be in place.
Brooke and I slept in a bit this morning after another ultra late night and headed off toward Billy Tripp's place shortly before noon. As we drove toward the town square of Brownsville just down from the Mindfield, we spotted an elaborately lettered sign which stood sentry at the driveway entrance of a beautiful old home. The sign promised all sorts of delightful produce. Intricately planted flowerbeds lined the driveway and beckoned us toward the back verandah where a cornicopia of home grown produce was arrayed in colorful and orderly rows. The real find, however, was the delightfully effervescent proprietor Doris. She had Brooke and I ensorceled from the very beginning. Doris just loves people and it's obvious in her open and generous demeanor. Brooke and I had a ball chatting with Doris and meeting her dog Dumplin'.
Doris has owned Dumplin' for 8 years, and calls him her "little man," which I found very apropos - Dumplin' very definitely has the countenance and bearing of a little man, and a sweet one at that.
Brooke and I couldn't resist picking out all sorts of delicious things from Doris's verandah - fragrant cantaloupes, ruby red tomatoes, slim young cucumbers and a single green pear. After I vanquished my opponent I Don't Know, I relented and had Doris measure me out a pound of shelled purple hull peas. I'm currently cyphering on how to best cook them on the car manifold in the next day or so, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. In fact, please feel free to use the comment feature of the blog so EVERYONE can enjoy your suggestions.
After Doris tallied up our shopping spree, she reached inside a well worn but beautiful cigar box she uses as a backyard cash register to make change. When Brooke and I remarked on how unusual and lovely the cigar box was, Doris beamed and explained with obvious fondness that it had belonged to her dad and that she thought he'd be tickled with how she was using it.
It was obvious from the smile on Doris's face and the light in her beautiful eyes that she had enjoyed our visit as much as we had. I left having a deep sense of being in love with people and how amazing they are. Doris is the very essence of why I go around meeting people - she's a real gift to humanity.
We waved fond farewells to Doris and got back on the trail to the Mindfield. I had read the evening before that Billy lived in the shop behind the Mindfield and didn't mind meeting folks if he wasn't busy, so I drove through the gates with high confidence and a hopeful heart. As we walked up to the shop, Billy appeared in the doorway and greeted us with a shy grin. We introduced ourselves and told him we had visited the previous evening and had wanted to meet him, which seemed to please him.
Brooke and I spent the next couple of hours shooting the breeze with Billy, a good bit of which unfolded in comfortable chairs perched on the lovely second story deck overlooking Billy's private salvage yard. Pretty much every sentence Billy uttered added to my respect and admiration of his mind and character. The three of us chatted easily and deeply, and the time just seemed to evaporate, unlike the glistening sweat that continually beaded my brow. Dang it's humid in Tennessee! I can't imagine how Billy musters the courage to stick weld in this weather.
By the time we left, Billy had showered us with gifts (including a copy of his book) and just as we were about ready to leave, he asked Brooke to read a bit of his writing aloud for us to enjoy. It was a magical moment, the three of us gathered together on the remote island of Rural Tennessee Metal Shop, listening to a river of melodious words, enthralled with the nowness of what we were experiencing. These are the moments that truly make my life extraordinary and I enjoy each and every one of them.
After consulting with Billy on a good place to stop and have lunch, Brooke and I left on a mission to find Helen's BBQ - a local favorite according to Billy. His instructions carried us along a country road where we found a dilapidated building whose homliness did not seem to daunt the continual flow of eager customers one iota. When we entered the dining room, we found a gentleman sitting at one of the three tables, chatting gaily with the steady stream of customers. I asked the gentleman (whose name turned out to be Reginald) what he would recommend and he didn't hesitate a moment before nominating the pork shoulder, which suggestion I gladly heeded. In return, I was served a fragrant mound of fork-tender shredded pork sauced with "hot" sauce (which actually was a tiny bit spicy), pork and beans with real pork, slaw and some white bread. I drank TWO Fanta Oranges with my meal I was so parched. BROOKE, on the other hand, ordered BBQ bologna! She was served a sammich that featured a 3/4" thick slab of bologna, skillfully grilled on the BBQ grill. It was delicious too, even though it didn't rate quite as high on the visual scale as some of the other meaty delicacies.
Soon after lunch, Brooke and I were sadly forced to part company - she in the direction of Blacksburg, VA, via Nashville and I in the direction of St. Louis. After I watched her drive away into the distance, I busted out my map to figure out where I was headed. I found a little road on my map that snaked right along the Mississippi and thought it looked well worth a try. As I was studying the vicinity, I noticed a tiny dot labelled "Nutbush" along my route. "Hmmmm...." I wondered to myself, "Isn't Tina Turner from somewhere around here? Could it possibly be the same Nutbush *she* sings about?" And just at that moment - I swear - right on cue in my wonderful movie, a Tennessee state highway sign appeared by the side of the road like a undeniable portent.
After a brief stint on the Tina Turner Highway, I crossed over into Missouri and headed north toward St. Louis. My plan was to stay at a downtown hotel and visit the City Museum late - they're open until 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights! Driving by myself through the confusion of criss-crossing freeways took it's toll, however, and I ended up in Illinois before I knew what had happened and decided to stay there for the night instead. I was way too tired from all the fun I'd had to have any more, the City Museum would just have to wait.