Today, Robert and I took J and B to the Meers Store for our annual splurge on longhorn burgers, homemade ice cream and fried green tomatoes. The Meers Store is located near the Wichita Wildlife Refuge, a place created thanks to the forward thinking of President Theodore Roosevelt.
We decided Sullivan would have more fun at daycare than he would have riding in a hot truck for the seven hour excursion. While we were paying our tab, Rob struck up a conversation with a guy sitting by the register. Turns out, he was the owner’s son. He had a pronounced southwest Oklahoma accent and sported a hat that said, of all things, Texas.
As we were walking to the car, Robert said people in New York would pay good (as opposed to bad, I suppose) money to see what we had just seen: THAT GUY. Robert works in tourism and has a real knack for identifying all the things that make Oklahoma so special. His commentaries remind me of how much I take Oklahoma for granted, and how difficult it is to always see things as if you are seeing them for the first time, be it your baby or the ocean.
1995 Road Trip
All this reminds me of a road trip I made in 1995 — driving all the way from Baltimore to Vermont — stopping in various locations along the way. One stop was by a roadside custard stand in New Jersey. We drove along a long stretch of highway heading to New York. There, in the middle of nothing but green, green fields, and Jersey cows was a frozen custard stand. We stopped to check it out. As we approached the Tastee Freeze-like stand, a little man, the quintessential New Jerseyan, barked at me, “What’ll you have?!” I was taken aback by his gruffness and proceeded to ask him exactly what frozen custard was (sporting my own weird accent). He was so incredibly rude he scared me, so we got back in the car and drove away.
Today, I recall that short and wrinkled northeasterner with great fondness. I wish I’d asked him if I could take a picture of him and his custard stand. What could I possibly have had to lose?
There is nothing in Oklahoma that looks or even acts like THAT GUY. There are no stretches of highway that look like that — dotted with dairy cows and countenance in the landscape I can’t explain. It is just as cemented in my mind as the treeless, concrete jungle of Brooklyn; the tumbleweeds that danced down the streets of the Permian Basin; the mountains through the glass windows of Denver International; the pastel cottages in Monterrey; the row houses in Louisville; the conch-littered beaches in Belize; the clam shack in rural Florida; the honeysuckle vines behind my piano teacher’s house (I sucked out the sweet nectar); the Foust’s farm in Kansas; and a thousand other places, that at the time, masqueraded as nothing special.
I want to recall today and our trip down a rural Oklahoma highway as if I were from someplace else, amazed by the wonders of Southwest Oklahoma, especially the Meers Store.