Dispatches From the Highway

Tree Swing

A Story From Days on the Road
It is my hope that you, too…. after prolonged periods of purposeful aloneness out in the great wide-open, can allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to hear the same sounds I heard long ago…

The Sisters’ Wind* are playful tonight; they gather at the edges of my shower window, pursing their lips and blowing their breath – much like we did when we were children and blew our own breath across the tops of glass soda bottles – making a similar, haunting sound. It was my opinion, The Sisters’ Wind sounds are more… hauntingly playful, I think, than those we made as young ones. Perhaps a bit between a howl and a wail, I reckon.

The ride had been hot and hard for much of an entire day in a successful attempt to outrun an infamous Nebraskan thunderstorm. Finding myself growing weary of the long days’ ride, somehow, my heart just wasn’t into setting up my tent that night.

As I rode along an old deserted road – and with twilight fastly-approaching – the Goddess of the Road guided my way to the thresh hold of an abandoned Nebraskan farmhouse. With perfect timing, heavy drops of rain began to fall and I reckoned my newly-discovered digs would serve nicely for my evening’s respite.

All things considered, the house was in pretty good shape having kept hold of its windows, doors and maintaining a sound, wooden floor onto which I would later lay my head. [Truly, how bizarre – it seemed to me anyway – the way it seemed everyone just UP and L.E.F.T. – en masse – as if they urgently needed to be…ELSEWHERE – anywhere but where they were. Farm equipment was left sitting…..gradually sinking into the earth, an old-fashioned rope swing like the ones I remember from my childhood – the kind hung from a high branch with rope and an old wooded board for a seat.

Shutting off the bike engine, and swinging my leg around, I got my ground-legs on and prepared for an evening of reflection of my day’s journey as I pulled out my bag which contained my evening’s rations of Ritz crackers and peanut butter. The rain was falling harder now, making a lovely sound on the metal roof as I prepared to share the space with the resident mice and spiders. We all got along just fine as I sat down and spread out my gear for the evening. I planned on reheating my coffee on the stove which I’d brought, in the morning and, since mice aren’t interested in coffee, the pot was brought into the house.

It was long after dark when the wind picked up, rattling the house some and, as was my way, got up to investigate and found the cracks through which the Sisters Winds were blowing their haunting sounds. I’m not clear whether or not I’d fallen asleep or not but I remember hearing the sound of a child crying and the mother comforting her babe with a lullaby song about prairie winds….her voice beautiful and sweet. For just a moment, I was able to catch a hint of her perfume – mixed with the warm elements of her skin – and it comforted me too.

The house was empty, save for me and the mice and spiders. I drifted off to sleep with old memories of the house in happier times. My sleep was good — I wish I could sleep like that every night — comforted with a lullaby from days long gone by.

The early sunlight coming though an unbroken window of the house mixed with the dust I’d stirred up became a prism of beauty as I woke and heated up the last of my coffee.

As my gear was packed up, I thought it a nice gesture to leave the mice a small cracker with my left-over peanut butter in gratitude for their sharing their space for one night with a man who meant them no harm.

Riding away, down that old, dusty Nebraskan road – leaving the house with memories of its own – hoping I would again hear the lovely melody I’d heard that former evening again on my way to where I was to land.

I still have coffee and Ritz crackers with peanut butter for breakfast every now and again – remembering the peaceful evening I spent with the mice long ago.

Frank Barlow

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