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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Road West: Conversation Sampler

Topic 1: Which is lovelier, a herd of cattle all one color, such as all white Charolais or all black Angus, or a mixed-color herd? David plumped for an all-one-color herd, and I could see the beauty in that scheme, yet when I saw mixed-color herds, they were beautiful, too, in a different way. It’s still a limited palette, after all: black to reddish-brown through the lovely tan of
Jerseys to the cream color of Charolais. That palette (and I remember thinking the same thing in southcentral France) seems to echo the colors of the rocks and earth and trees. And to digress from cattle, sometimes those rocks along the highway look almost fake, like the big faux rochers of the Buttes de Chaumont in Paris. Or so they struck me, and David agreed.

Topic 2: When pioneers were plodding west in ox-drawn carts, did they stop and settle down in Missouri because that’s where an ox died or an axle broke? David’s hypothesized thusly, while my speculation went in a different direction. Had they continued to California, I said, they knew they would have to cross serious mountains, so why wouldn’t they have looked around the rolling, wooded hills west of the Mississippi and said to each other each other, “Why kill ourselves dragging over mountains? What could be better than this? Pretty little creeks, clean water, rich soil, plenty of stone and wood for building.” That’s how Missouri looked to me. Very appealing, a place it would be easy to call home. And again we agreed. Interesting how often we come at a topic from very different starting places and agree on a conclusion -- though admittedly one not derived logically from the original question.

Topic 3: Those neat trees in orderly rows, plantings that look so much like pecan groves -- they can’t be pecan trees, can they? We’re not that far south! But wait! All those signs advertising hand-turned walnut bowls – can these be walnut groves? Walnut trees grow as far north as Michigan, so Missouri would probably be congenial. What the trees are, of course, is a matter of fact, not opinion, and we may be wrong in what we’ve agreed is a good guess, but it doesn’t matter as we’re rolling west. We’re just keeping eyes open and minds in gear.

Topic 4: Any travel brings to mind former travels. The rocks reminded me of a park in Paris, the sycamores of southern Illinois and Ohio. Signs for particular exits brought to David’s mind trips he made one year between Arkansas and Michigan. He recalled a memorable conversation between two strangers in the seat in front of him on a Greyhound bus, both of them returning home to family after adventures gone very wrong. He described to me the worst lightning storms he’d ever been in. The next day, in Oklahoma, I told him the story of our junior high school band and orchestra raising money to charter a train to go to the National Music Festival in Enid. We lived on the train during the festival and were the talk of the town. “You’re the kids on the train!” Yep.

So there we were, rolling along at 70 mph, talking about Paris parks, 19th-century pioneers in ox-carts, trips to and from Arkansas, lightning storms in Arkansas and in Leelanau County, Michigan, cross-country train travel, and I happened to glance across a pasture where one black Angus steer had taken it into his big beefy head, for who knows what purpose, to stroll downhill like a busy, self-important lawyer headed to a newsstand. There were David and I, existing in multiple times and spaces, and this animal was busy enough living his own life, with no thought to ours. Parallel worlds.

Later (still rolling along) we began listening to a book on tape, Anthony Bourdain reading his A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, all about traveling around the world seeking good food and adventure. Our adventures are more modest, but we enjoy them. 

We're somewhere different!

Texas uses wind

New Mexico -- landscape changes again

Cowboy country, all of it
And here, in closing tonight, is a song of the West, the link sent to by friend Marjorie back in Northport, Michigan.


Karen Casebeer said...

What a great words and pictures. And you're in New Mexico already? Safe travels to your destination. Karen

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, I posted pictures from today over on my photo blog, A Shot in the Light. I tried your tips. Still prefer to be standing still with my camera, as I was in a couple of the shots. See if you can tell which are which!

Anonymous said...

Walt and I have been remembering our last trip into New Mexico area. We camped and hiked. Unbelievable night skies. Unearthly landscapes during the day. You are right in taking the slow road.

P. J. Grath said...

Marjorie, it hasn't felt exactly like the "slow road" to me, as we've been on Interstate most of the time. It only seems slow in my reports because we don't cover as much distance in a day as most people would. We don't start at daybreak or drive after dark. But soon -- today! -- we will reach our destination, and then it will be slow roads every day.