Friday, February 21, 2014

Between Bend and Burns: Oregon 2011

This was when Fru and I had decided not to stay in Fort lauderdale and after we knew we would not be living in New Orleans. It was a job interview in Bend, Oregon and we had a rental car and I--by myself, on one of the days there--decided to drive out into the desert, to the isolated town of Burns.

It was in September and things were quiet. The weather was nice enough. Sunny. Cool. Empty. The big white-topped mountains of the Sisters and Mt. Bachelor, among a couple of others, were visible in my rearview mirror as I drove east and out of Bend--a pretty little city with the Deschutes River and trees and flowers and such--stopping for gas in a non-town called Brothers (as opposed to the quaint burg of Sisters, OR). Then I kept going east, into the Great Empty that is Central Oregon.

Anyway, this land is desloate. Treeless. Sage brush and rocks, arroyos and sculpted hills, mountains, plateaus, all done in browns and yellows and orange, a little red, shades of purple, gray and almost-black. Few cars. Fewer people. And I don't recall exactly if it was on my drive east, or after I had turned around and headed back west, back towards Bend, but I came across an unusual sight.

Here along the road, almost at a top of a hill, was a guy walking. He wasn't just walking, he was pulling a little cart made of wood with wooden wheels that looked handmade. That looked old-fashioned, pioneer-like, prospector-ish. And the man--gaunt, sunburnt, scraggly-beared, head down to the task under the sun and in the wide nothingness--looked prospector-ish too. Pulling this wooden cart about the size of a refrigerator (and looking about that heavy, too) by hand.


And you couldn't help but wonder what that was about. What the heck was he doing out here? What was his story?  I will say that it looked like he was doing what he wanted to do. That this was his choice in life. It looked like he didn't want to be disturbed nor did he want any type of assistance. I certainly didn't stop.

So who was better off? Me, driving a rental through the nothingness on a lark, looking for a place to settle and live? Or the old guy pulling a cart, living in the slow lane, his home in a wooden cart?

I don't know.

It was just a strange sight . . . And I think I was headed back to Bend (I didn't get to Burns, not on that trip in Oregon), because I remember a car was coming in the other direction and the walking man was coming up a hill and his cart made him stick part way out into the lane of the narrow desert highway road. And so I was a little concerned that he could be hit at the crest of the incline . . . I assume he was not. I assume he may still be out there, doing his thing.

No comments: