Take a seat.
Let me paint you a picture in a little over a thousand words.
I tend to be “was in” a lot around this country due to being a long haul trucker.
Nothing really struck me as I came into Kenton. It looks like a typical small American home town.
I was glad to see lots of local businesses that weren’t boarded up or had a “Going out of business” sign above the big windows out front.
I didn’t see a Walmart, Home Depot or large chain store in sight.
No corporate rape was evident.
The sky was jade, the corn is yellow-brown and the flags are red, white and blue with 50 stars.
The roofs of the frame and brick homes are shingled in weathered gray slats; the big grain silos gleam silver with the esoterically pleasing touch of rust and high school football graffiti….
The brushes of living and time….
I’m pleased to see that Lana loves Kenny forever and that the Tigers will die….
I sure hope so….wish ‘em luck.
“Kill the Tigers! Go Wildcats!” I cheer in my head!
I don’t know the Tigers, but I hate ‘em!
It had no idea where to direct me or where my appointment was located.
All I can see is houses, trees, birds, tricycles in small cluttered yards and tarped boats in cracked driveways.
But…there were people on the sidewalks and raking leaves in their yards.
I love the smell of burning leaves, freshly trimmed grass and the stereos pounding out music from open car doors while Daddy waxes Mommies baby….as she oversees his toil.
I suspect that he was supposed to do it last weekend judging by the intensity of her vigil from the porch swing….
Small town folks…God love ’em!
Good sources for directions, no doubt; but there is one thing that is universally understood;
NEVER ask a “yokel” for local directions.
There is the expectation that you, as the asker, can follow simple directions.
I am a professional truck driver; I have searched for elusive addresses for years and I know what I’m about.
But, I don’t speak Ohioan…at least not this dialect.
I evaluate his competence without judging him by appearance.
He has a beer in a cup-holder on his mower.
He is wearing an Ohio State ball cap at a rakish angle and faded over-alls.
….and flip-flops……with the over-alls…..on a riding mower.
I trusted him implicitly and immediately.
As he barrelled down the sidewalk at a blazing 5 mph, I followed him in my big rig.
Now picture this: semi-truck with blinkers flashing, following a suspected drunk farmer on a college football Saturday, riding a mower down a residential street.
Trees hanging low over the street, wires hanging over the street, flags hanging over the street.
You see your humble, exasperated truck driver leaning forward over the steering wheel; a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead; keeping an eye on the swaying lawn mower; dogs and children pumping their chubby little arms so that the big truck will honk the big horn.
There’s a rule in trucking; if kids want you to honk the big horn…you honk the big horn.
I am struck with a sudden feeling of pride for some reason.
I smile to myself.
This is freaking awesome!
This is why America will always have hope, I think to myself.
Because we are a nation of small towns filled with good people.
My drunken John Deere driving escort brings his chariot to a lurching halt at an intersection; the air brakes on my truck hissing in protest as I stop.
The noise of the brakes make the kids squeal and jump around with their hands over their ears.
They’ve been following us for a while; these little monsters.
That’s one of the reasons for the sweat, I guess.
Making sure I don’t run over any of them or they don’t leap onto my truck to catch a ride, takes all of my training as a Ninja Jedi Knight.
I see that we have stopped at an intersection that has no stop sign; where a young girl is crossing with 3 ugly dogs on leashes.
These dogs are obviously not pedigreed kennel club members, they are obvious mutts; determined to drag the girl down the street like a plow blade to someplace they evidently must get to in the shortest amount of time.
The girl has a phone to her ear; one hyper-extended arm holding back the mongrels, leaning her body back to counter-balance the physics of the whole situation.
That’s when the big dog shows up…
He is running at full speed and barking at the trespassing foursome.
I sit up in my seat with alarm, preparing to un-ass my truck seat and kill the dog, saving the young maiden and reaping admiration and awe from the group of children that are now screaming and running around in circles.
The 3 dogs stop, the girl stumbles when the momentum changes.
The big, mean dog has gotten to within 2 feet of the dogs and girl.
He is raising unholy hell!
How dare these interlopers cross his street!
The dogs freeze where they are and lay down on the street, preparing to die.
The big dog stands over them, still barking; relishing his dominance and ability to protect his territory from intruders.
The young girl says something into her phone.
The big dog barks.
The girl makes a disgusted face, says something into her phone. She looks at the phone and mashes something on the screen.
The big dog barks and circles his prey…
The girl puts the phone into her back pocket and points her finger at the killer dog and says something.
She puts her hand on her hip and points harder and says something else.
The big dog sits….
The lawn mower man takes a sip from his beer, watching.
The kids are on the corner of a yard at the intersection, watching.
The girl walks over to the big dog. She is fussing and still pointing at him, her other balled fist on hip.
This chick is serious….
Ultimate womanly wrath has befallen our sad, big, mean dog.
Poor bastard, he should be glad he’s not married….
The big dog lies at the girl’s feet; his head on the ground, his shining, darting eyes looking up at the girl and the milling kiddies while awaiting his extermination.
The young girl jabs her finger at the dog one more time with finality and authority.
The big dog looks away….properly chastised.
She then squats down and pats the mean dog on his big head; whispering to him as his treacherous tail starts to wag.
The young girl stands up and cracks the leashes.
The mongrels leap against the traces and surge forward.
The girl takes her phone out of her back pocket, mashes something on the screen and puts it to her ear.
The big mean dog follows behind her and the canine trio; his head and tail held high….
What a wussie…
The lawn mower man is at my door now, looking up at me with glazed happy eyes.
“I think we passed it” he says as he adjusts his over-alls and hat.
How do you pass something at 5 mph?
“That’s okay” I said with a grin.
I’m thinking “Let’s drive around the block and see what else is gonna happen”
Then I thought ‘This is one of the greatest things I have ever seen”
It wasn’t the single episode; it was how the scene played out and the surroundings.
On a small town street, surrounded by small town people with small town hearts and hometown trust.
I felt completely at home…
I’ll get lost like this in America anytime, or anywhere really, when simple things can make you smile and swell with pride in community.
Tell me if I’m wrong; In America, you may not be in your own community….but you are.
Know what I mean?
It confirms to me that our country may seem bigger than its people at times but, as we all know, especially Americans, it is the people that make it great.
We aren’t perfect; our country as a whole, I mean.
But we could get pretty damn close if we tried harder.
If we could only just….well….you know…
Bring it back home, I guess.
All for one, one for all.
Small town America…