Authors: Debbie White
We packed up the car and the two of us, along with the family dog, Spunky, set off for our new adventure. Our first stop: Las Vegas.
Once we were on Las Vegas Boulevard and I saw all the flashing neon lights, I vaguely remembered being there before as a child. It was coming back to me. I recalled all the hours I sat in the backseat playing with my doll and wondering when my parents were going to come back. They were in the casino playing cards. I shuddered at the thought. I wondered what kind of parents could do that to their child. I chalked it up to being uneducated and removed the unpleasant thought from my brain, and focused on all the beautiful lights and buildings instead.
Charles found a hotel on the outskirts of town that would allow Spunky, and we called it an evening
Our next travel day would prove to be long, but we both were excited to see what the Great Salt Lake looked like. But first, a quick stop at the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s best wonders in terms of size and beauty. The colorful yet ruggedness of the landscape brings people to visit this grandeur from all around the world.
I leafed through the pamphlet I’d picked up at the gift store; the statistics of the Grand Canyon blew my mind. It measured 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep! The rock layers that make up the canyon walls reveal a timeline of earth’s history. What an incredible place! Our stop at the Grand Canyon was worth every minute, and soon we were on our way to see Carole and the family in Idaho.
As I knew she’d do, Carole rolled out the red carpet for Charles and me. We loved catching up with her and the family. Charles and her husband drank beer in the backyard and tossed the Frisbee around to the kids while Carole and I got caught up on girl talk. I missed having her around to talk with.
For dinner, we grilled steaks, and Carole and I had margaritas, the glasses rimmed in salt just like you’d get at a fancy restaurant. We laughed, talked, and soon it was dark and time to head inside.
Our guest room was more than adequate, and our stay was delightful. The next day we went to the zoo, and later that night we went to the movies. Spending time with them was what I’d been missing all these years though I never tried to show it. I knew her husband was serving our great country, and she was being a good wife and mother.
After our three-day visit, it was time to hit the road again.
“Now you two be careful,” they called out to us as we drove away.
I smiled and nodded waving to them until I couldn’t see them anymore.
Smiling ear to ear, Charles said, “I really enjoyed my visit. And the kids…they’re so well behaved,” he went on.
I reached up and wiped the one lonely tear that made its way from my lower lid to my cheek.
“Yes, I did too” was all I could manage to say. I was feeling emotional for sure.
I knew the only way I’d be able to stop feeling sad about leaving Carole was to concentrate on our next stop – Yellowstone National Park.
I’d read numerous articles about Yellowstone. I was excited about seeing it, and deep down inside I hoped we would see some bears and other wild animals.
We had found a cabin rental on the Internet and booked it online. It was located at the base of one of the entrances to the park. We arrived at dusk and with food in hand; we found the cabin and settled in for the night. We’d been warned about the wild animals in the area, so we planned ahead. When Charles took Spunky out for his last potty walk, I made sure he took a flashlight and a big stick we’d found on one of our walks.
It was eerily quiet in the cabin that night. Occasionally, Spunky would walk over to the door and sniff under the door as if he could smell other animals. My vivid imagination almost got the best of me as I imagined bears, buffalo, and other wild animal’s right outside our cabin door!
I finally drifted off to sleep where my dreams were more about what I was going to find when we arrived in Iowa than wild animals outside our cabin door.
We awoke to the sun shining through the one window of our cabin.
“Let’s get going. We still need to drop off Spunky at the kennel,” I said, reaching for his leash.
We arrived at the kennels that were located at the park’s gate. We told the staff we’d only be gone a few hours. It was a whirlwind trip. I mainly wanted to see Old Faithful. I knew we didn’t have time to do any of the many trails throughout the park.
As we drove along the winding roads that would lead us to the iconic spot of Old Faithful, I was amazed by all the unspoiled land and the beautiful floribunda that draped the dramatic landscape. The area looked like a beautiful painting or photograph. No wonder Wyoming cherished this park. It was spectacular.
After a day in the park, we were tired. We returned to pick up our beloved pet and headed back to the cabin where we made ham sandwiches for dinner. Soon we were both drowsy. Not able to fight the sleep any longer, I decided to take a shower and get ready for bed.
After a good night sleep, we were on our way to the next stop; the Black Hills of South Dakota. I assumed my role as the co-pilot and tried not to dwell on leaving Carole and the family.
To say Mount Rushmore is awesome or breathtaking is an understatement. It was more gigantic than I thought it would be, and the image of its grandeur left an impression on me that I still hold to this day. Presidents; Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Jefferson, displayed larger than life is a part of history everyone should see. I felt more patriotic after seeing that monument.
Tired after a long day of travel and sightseeing, we decided on McDonalds. We ordered burgers, fries and milkshakes and found a motel that wasn’t a fleabag, but would allow Spunky to stay too.
We scarfed down our dinners while watching a little television – Spunky gobbled his too. Soon he curled up and was fast asleep at the foot of our bed.
I took a hot shower letting the water run over my head as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair. I thought about what we were going to find, or perhaps not find during our stay in Iowa. I wasn’t sure why it was so important for me to get answers, but it was.
That night I tried to sleep but couldn’t, I could hear the soft snores from both the dog and Charles. I chuckled to myself thinking how silly they sounded, at the same time wishing I too could fall asleep and snore, if necessary. Soon, my eyelids became heavy and I drifted off to sleep. I don’t know what time it was, but before I knew it, I was being awoken by Charles letting me know we needed to hit the road.
“Hey, sleepyhead. It’s time to get up,” he said lightly tapping me on the shoulder.
I stretched my arms wide and let out a moan letting him know I didn’t get enough sleep.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Time to get a move on. We have a long day ahead of us. I’d like to make Iowa before dark,” he added as he gathered our things into piles near the door.
“Ok, just give me a few minutes,” I pleaded.
He reached down and gave me a peck on the cheek. Every morning he’d given me a kiss and told me he loved me. He said that way, if something bad happened to him, I’d know how much he cared about me. “I’m going to take Spunky for a walk. It’ll give you time to get ready.”
I nodded my head and moaned a bit more as I stumbled into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and saw bloodshot and puffy eyes; a sign I didn’t sleep well. I splashed cold water on my face, grabbed a washcloth, and used it as a compress trying to get the swelling down. After a few moments, I finished up in the bathroom and got dressed. I was ready to go when the two of them returned from their walk.
“I’m hungry. I need coffee too,” I appealed.
“Ok, let’s get the car loaded. McDonalds or Burger King? ”
“Let’s live precariously. Burger King,” I said laughing.
We both ate in silence with only the occasional sounds of chewing and slurping hot coffee as noise. Spunky was interested in our food as well. Even though I knew it wasn’t good for him to have human food I gave him a couple pieces of egg and bacon as a reward for being an outstanding traveler.
I remembered when we got Spunky. He was the runt of the litter, and Carole wouldn’t leave without him. A Terrier mix, Spunky was the spitting image of my aunt’s dog by the same name.
I clearly recalled the day. I was about six years old, and I was so excited about our visit to Aunt Margie’s house. I had been told they’d gotten a new addition to their family, a dog.
I ran as fast as I could into her house to see the little dog. Little did I know, he wasn’t fond of children. Before they could stop me, I was in the house, sitting on the couch and petting the little dog. Aunt Margie couldn’t believe that he hadn’t bitten me but was instead licking me. From that day on, Spunky and I were inseparable.
When our kids asked if they could have a dog, I didn’t even think twice about it. What I didn’t know, was how much the dogs would look alike. When we saw the ad in the newspaper, it just said fox terrier puppies. I had no idea that’s what Spunky was until I saw the litter.
“These pups look like my Aunt Margie’s little dog, Spunky,” I told the family.
“Spunky,” Carole repeated. “I like that name.”
The other two kids nodded their head, they liked it too. And so, we brought little Spunky home with us, and he was just as loyal to us as Spunky number one had been. I leaned over and gave Spunky one last nibble of bacon while I patted his head.
Soon we were on the road with acres of growing crops – mainly corn as our landscape for miles and miles. It was a vast color of neutral and yellow that began to run into each other like frames on a camera with only the occasional farmhouse, tractor, or scarecrow to break up the monotony. This was America’s farmland.
We passed several little roadside fruit and vegetable stands. They were almost as impressive as California’s. I convinced Charles to stop. While he walked Spunky, I picked out a couple of peaches, some fresh corn, and some tomatoes.
Charles put the fresh produce in our little ice chest in the back of the car, and soon we were off. We’d be making our destination in a few hours.
“Just rows and rows of corn,” Charles said as he tried to find a radio station.
“Yep. Living here, you’d be in a world of hurt if you didn’t like corn,” I chuckled.
“Good for you, I love corn,” he said laughing. “How many ways can you fix corn?” He quickly asked, trying to keep the conversation going. It was a long boring drive through Nebraska and Iowa.
“Well, the most popular is boiling it. But in California we grill everything, so that’s my preference. I guess you could scrape it and make popcorn – if you had a lot of time on your hands,” she said letting Charles know he’d better not get any ideas.
“Yeah. I like all the vegetables grilled. A little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and hmm good,” he said. “Are you about ready for a rest stop?”
“I could stretch my legs,” I said re-positioning myself in the car seat.
Soon we stopped and not only did the two of us get to stretch our legs, but Spunky did too. He sniffed every garbage can and tree trunk before finally settling on a place to do his business. Soon we were on our way again.
“I estimate we’ll be pulling into Sioux City in about two hours,” Charles, the navigator said.
I looked over at my husband and smiled. Even at fifty-seven he was as handsome as he was the day we got married. His hair was now grayer, but he had the same laugh lines and wrinkles I had. He’d maintained a healthy weight through the years. I, however, was like a yo-yo. One minute I was down twenty pounds, and the next I was up ten.
Charles never said a negative word about my weight gain. He always said he liked his women with a little meat on their bones. Knowing that always made me feel more secure. I tried to keep myself up, but I raised three children, and my focus was always on them, not myself. Now that they were grown, I had a little more money to spend on myself. Old habits are hard to break, though. Now I just spent it on the grandchildren.
Charles and I found a quaint little motel for our first night in Sioux City. Our plan was to find a more permanent housing situation, but the motel would do for now. It was clean, with the basics, and that was good enough. The desk clerk was very friendly, so what the hotel lacked in shine, the staff made up for it.
We inquired about where to get dinner. The clerk had several recommendations. We settled on Denny’s. Charles wanted breakfast for dinner. I was good with that as well.
After we had gone back to the motel, Charles walked Spunky. Then we did what all travelers do after a long day in a car, we fell into bed exhausted. As tired as I felt, I didn’t sleep well the first night. However, it didn’t have anything to do with our accommodations. Too many things were running through my head. And, although it had been years since I stepped foot in that state, I swear it felt familiar.
I finally drifted off to sleep, and only woke when I smelled the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and donuts.
“Oh, that smells wonderful,” I said in between yawns.
“I stepped out since you were still asleep. The clerk told me of a bakery down the road. I got fresh apple fritters,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Over coffee and fritters, we looked over the newspaper he’d bought as well. I was looking at the local section of the paper, and Charles was looking at the real estate section.
We’d agreed that it would be best to rent a small bungalow that allowed pets so that we could take our time, and at the same time be as comfortable as we could.
“This one sounds promising. One bedroom, one bath with fenced in backyard near Chester Park,” he read aloud as he took out his pen and began circling a few of the ads.
I smiled. “Near the park would be nice. I remember that park. I used to go there a lot.”
Charles looked at me, blinked a couple of times and then went back to looking at houses for rent.
“The only other house I see is on W. 2nd street. Do you know where that is?”
I shook my head. “I think it’s downtown.”
“I’ll call about the Chester Park house right now,” he said as he reached for the phone.
It was a quaint little bungalow built in the 50’s long after I moved away. In fact, I recalled an empty lot where the house now stood.
We knew almost instantly we’d take the house. It was perfect for us and for our mission. It had all the requirements – a bedroom, a bathroom, and a fenced in yard for Spunky, and it was completely furnished.
We told the property owner we’d take it, and after signing papers and giving the deposit, we soon had the keys in our hands.
We unloaded the few possessions we brought with us, and I soon made a list of the items we’d need. I knew a town of this size would have a Wal-Mart.
“You go ahead and get the shopping done. I’ll stay with Spunky. He still needs to get used to his new space.”
Reaching down I gave Spunky a pat on the head and turned to give Charles a kiss on the cheek – another ritual we had. We always gave each other kisses when we woke up, went to bed, and left the house – oh and when we returned from wherever we’d been too.
He turned slightly and our lips touched. I started to pull away after a quick peck, but he held our kiss and something about it felt different. He pulled me in closer and the kiss became passionate. It seemed an odd time for this to be happening, but I went with it. I kissed him back, and soon he was leading me into the bedroom. “So much for the shopping,” I whispered as I tossed the list onto the coffee table.
I hadn’t stepped foot in this town in over 40 years yet I knew my way around. I drove right to the Wal-Mart, even though that store was not even there when I lived there. Later as I told Charles how I drove right to the super center, he chalked it up to me being aware of my surroundings and knowing the direction the downtown area and shopping would most likely be. I nodded my head. I guess he had a valid point.
As I walked up and down the aisles looking for the items on my list, I couldn’t help wondering if anyone would recognize me. How would someone recognize me after all this time?
I felt a bit anxious about being in the store by myself. I don’t know why. Maybe I really thought someone would run up to me and say, “Patsy. Is that you?”
I had an excellent memory, which made me a great private detective. I could remember things that happened when I was three and four years old. Why was it so out of the realm of possibility that I would recognize someone from my past? After all, many people from small towns such as this never leave.
I finally finished my shopping and got up to the checkout counter to pay for my things. As the young lady rang up my items, I searched her face for details, for a resemblance to anyone I might have known. She smiled at me. I smiled back. We made small chit chat about the weather, and when the last item was placed in my bag, I decided to be bold.
“Have you lived here long?” I asked.
“All my life,” she answered.
“So your family has been here for a long time?”
“For as long as I can remember,” she said as she handed me my change.
“Well, it’s a lovely town. I’m new. We just moved in.”
“Where are you living?” She asked.
“We just rented the little bungalow across from the park.”
“Oh, I know right where you mean. My family knows the owners.”
I smiled. Not sure, of what else to say, I gathered up my bags and placed them back into the cart.
“Have a great day,” I said as I headed out the automatic glass doors.
My heart was beating fast and I quickly loaded the bags into the trunk. If this is how it was going to feel when we began to poke around, I’d better get used to it. There were many deep seeded secrets in this town regarding my birth. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble; I just wanted to know the truth.
I knew Charles was just as anxious about finding out the truth as I was. He would have never committed to this adventure if he didn’t believe that solving the mystery would help me somehow. He loved me that much. And, I loved him for loving me that much.
For our first night in the new house, we made hot dogs and chili for dinner. It was easy, filling and after a long day of settling in, I wasn’t looking to prepare a feast.
After dinner, we settled into the evening by reading. Charles and I loved books. I was reading a new romance from one of my favorite authors, and Charles was reading a detective book from one of his favorites.
“Tomorrow I’ll get the phone hooked up, some cable and Internet for the house. We’ll need it,” he added turning the page to his book.
“Ok, that sounds great.”
I don’t know about Charles, but after reading a few pages, I drifted off to sleep. I dreamt about the time when I was a little girl and we were at my Aunt and Uncles farm. The chickens were chasing me. I also remembered my mom grabbing one of them and ringing its neck so we could have it for supper. I didn’t want to eat any of it. I remembered everything about that bird. They all laughed at me and thought I was a crybaby.
What I really remember was how my mother was able to kill that poor chicken with such ease. Of course, as I grew into an adult, I realized that many farmers do the same thing. It’s called survival and farming. I guess even though I was raised in a rural area, I really was a city girl at heart.