ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   The road less traveled

© Another Day in the Country

Years and years ago, I read a book, “The Road Less Traveled.” The title became a catchphrase in our vocabulary. Taking “the road less traveled,” meant that you were embarking on something you’d never tried before. It meant that your experiment did not have an assured outcome. Your experience was unique. There was no guide, no set of instructions. It was a path of wonderment, sometimes fear, uniquely unknown.

Quite a few years ago, Tooltime Tim and I went exploring in the Flint Hills. Even though he’d lived near the Flint Hills all of his life, he’d not gone there like a tourist. I was curious about the terrain and of course, I had my trusty camera along to record the experience. We set out hunting for a road less traveled.

With a farmboy’s intuition, Tim sorta knew where he was going. I didn’t. Since our only goal was to see the Flint Hills, we decided to play this exploring game where we took turns calling out the turns. My turn at the crossroad, “Turn left.” Next crossroad, his turn, and he called the direction.

We just drove along, in the middle of nowhere, me snapping pictures out the window or hollering “stop” so I could step out, stand still and properly focus on the view with my camera. He was just driving along, spitting sunflower seed shells out the window. One time, we got ourselves so lost that I begged for a consultation with Chloe (our trusted GPS) to tell us where we really were.

“I knew all along,” Tim laughed, while I hadn’t a clue.

That’s the thing about taking a road less traveled, some roads you find yourself on won’t even have road signs, there’s just a trail in the grass, waiting for exploration.

I’ve been living in Ramona for thirteen years. I know the roads fairly well — which ones to travel on, where to steer clear, and still, there are unknown paths, as wild as the jungle.

A few weeks ago, a group of friends set out on a search for a road less traveled. We were on a mission. A loved one had requested that his ashes be spread in the Flint Hills.

Each of us who went on this trek, had a map in our heads, detailing the outcome of this journey — whether we realized it or not. But, this being a joint venture, with everyone having some say, “turn right, turn left,” the culmination of our exploration would be unique, just like the person whose ashes we were returning to their source.

“We need a spot without fences,” I said. “On the top of a hill,” Phil added. “Of course, there will be wind,” someone else spoke up, “and a wide open vista.” How to get to this spot we imagined was the trick. “Turn right.”

“It’s a dead end,” Jess pointed out. We had to turn around.

“I don’t want the grass to be too tall,” said my friend, “What about rattlesnakes?”

“We are somewhere in the middle of the Tall Grass Prairie,” I reminded her, “and I believe rattlers are scarce out here.” (I certainly hoped so.)

“If I have a flat tire,” the driver said, “do you think AAA could be here anytime soon?” We collectively, silently, tried to recall when we’d last seen a road sign of any kind. We envisioned fat, plump, well-filled, sturdy tires carrying us safely over the prairie.

“When did it rain last?” someone asked as we headed down into a gully. “Any danger of being stuck in a bog?” Who knew? “How’s your gas?” Our eyes automatically took in the gauge. Half a tank. Once again quiet infused the air inside the car. I wondered quietly to myself whether this SUV had 4-wheel drive .

“Turn left,” a voice from the rear of the car.

“How will we know the right spot?” came the question.

“We’ll know,” came the answer. And suddenly we did. “Stop!” We’d come over a little rise on the prairie and blue sky, tall green grass interspersed with wild flowers spread out in every direction. “This is it!”

We sang, we danced, we laughed, we cried, we exalted in life well-lived. We had once more found a road less traveled and were destined to spend another day in the country.

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