We are on our way across country. We made it all the way from Oregon to Utah before nightfall, despite getting a rather late start, the result of too much wine and wonderful food the night before with our neighbors Bert & Jeff. Bert’s niece and nephew were visiting from Santa Barbara. Lee Mitchell, one of the dinner guests and spouse to Bert’s nephew Phil, is from Thomasville, Georgia. So you can just imagine how the evening went along as Lee and I caught up on all things Thomasville. Lee told me that she was also a classmate of Lee Smith at St. Catherine’s in Virginia. The two Lees were only a grade apart. She raved, as we all do, about Lee’s books. Then Steven, the spouse of Bert’s niece, and a lawyer, regaled me with stories of the time he sued Oral Roberts. You know I was all ears for that story. And the wine. Did I mention the wine?
So it was well after 10 a.m. before Tim and I even pulled out of the driveway.
Thankfully the drive through Oregon, Idaho and into Utah was pretty relaxing. We only made two stops. The first in Ontario for gas and a back cushion for Tim since he forgot his other one in his car. The only tense moment came as we reached the far side of Utah when Tim turned to me and said, “How far is it to where we are staying tonight?”
“Forty-eight miles,” I replied.
That’s when I saw Tim look at the gas gauge again. The meter showed a quarter of a tank of gas.
“Do we have enough gas to get there?”
“We should,” Tim said. “It’ll only take a couple of gallons.”
I went back to the work I was doing on my laptop.
About 20 minutes later, Tim asked, “Where’s the nearest gas station?” Apparently the meter shot quickly to the “E” range.
“Siri says there’s one nine miles up the road.”
Only when we go to the nine miles up the road there were big blue signs declaring “No Services.”
Tim’s face was glistening with sweat. “Where’s the next one?” he asked.
His brow furrowed.
“Don’t worry,” I said, rubbing the back of his tense neck. “We will either make it or not.” I might of giggled at that point. “Relax.”
I had run out of gas back in the dead of winter as some of you may remember. Tim had to come out on a frigid night and standing alongside a very dark Highway 97 get me enough gas to get to the gas station. He was not happy about it. I admit to being a bit amused that he might also run out of gas.
“Don’t worry,” I repeated. “We have food and water and a sleeping bag. Besides, we are in Utah. The Mormons will help us.”
That may or may not have been the moment when Tim called for a moment of silence in the Jeep. The AC was turned off and the sun was behind us now. Yet, he was still glistening.
I noticed him easing off the gas on the downhill slopes in the highway. We passed a sign noting an exit for the next town. Tim asked again where the nearest gas station might be. “Right there,” I replied. “Where that Chevron station sign is.” I pointed up the road and to the right.
I may or may not have giggled.
One of our three bossy daughters sent us a text and told us not to be driving around on gas fumes.
We arrived at our destination in time to get in a long walk, albeit some of it in the dark.
What I can tell you after walking pretty much the entire city is that Sunday evenings in Brigham City are eerily quiet. Other than the traffic headed towards the bigger towns of Ogden and Salt Lake, Tim and I were pretty much the only people on the streets.
Not that I expected anything to be open. I didn’t. But it was one of the lovely summer eves where people in Jackson, Mississippi, or Montgomery, Alabama, would all have been sitting in rockers or on the porch stoop talking away with their neighbors or their kin.
There was none of that.
We walked nearly two miles before we even saw another person.
I knew there had to be people somewhere, though, because we encountered at least a dozen well-fed cats. Unless… nah…
When we had walked another quarter of a mile, Tim mentioned that perhaps the Rapture had occurred and the Mormons had been right all along. I suggested that I was pretty sure we had come to town right after the aliens, so that all that was left were Zombies who didn’t even look as they drove past us.
The town was silent except for the sound of cars whizzing by. Tim took time during our walk to research the bird refugee in town. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to visit as it is closed until Tuesday.
What do you think this is? I asked as we happened upon an alcove just beyond the local (closed) theater.
A place for folks to practice voodoo, Tim suggested.
I think he was kidding.
It is so funny, I remarked, how towns have personalities like people. Brigham City may not have people sitting in their rockers calling out to one another on a summer’s eve, but the city sure embodies the traits of such a neighbor. Old school politeness.
When we happened upon what appeared to be some sort of Driving under the influence incident around the corner from our hotel, the police cars – two of them – had their blue lights flashing but there had never been any siren. It appeared a car had run the curb and struck a neighbor’s camper. The woman driver was undergoing a sobriety test at the behest of the officers at the scene.
There was no yelling. No crying. No police berating anybody. Just quiet talk between the parties involved.
Not even one meow out of any of the cats we passed by.
Did I mention we passed five churches in our walk?
All but one of them Mormon. The lone exception was a church along Main Street that bore a sign in the window. You know that rainbow colored sign that you see declaring everyone is welcome here, and that love is love and kindness is everything.
Speaking of kindness being everything, even though we went through many rural towns on our way to Utah today and traveled alongside many other motorists, we did not see one Trump flag or bumper sticker. Not a single one.
You know how a summer’s evening feels after a soft summer rain?
That’s how it felt driving all that way and never once encountering any of that.
We are off to Nebraska tomorrow after meeting up with a very special someone.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of the Appalachian Series MOTHER OF RAIN, BURDY & CHRISTIAN BEND (Mercer University Press).