Part 3 of the cross country adventure picks up one day after I left Karen's Cafe in Indianapolis. I admit that the day I left there, I felt bittersweet emotions all day. I care about her so much, but I guess a romance between us is probably pretty unlikely at this point. I'm a hopeless romantic, that's for sure, but she's pretty set in her gays. I'll happily accept the gift of friendship and settle for that.
It would have been most direct to drive west across I-70, but I knew that would take me through some mountain terrain in Colorado, and this Ice Cream truck didn't seem up to the task. So I headed south for I-40, and late the next day I was on the west side of Oklahoma. I saw a lot of Indian sights and souvenirs and such. Wait, I'm sorry, I mean Native Americans. I do want to be politically correct. Anyhow, I love Native American Indians and their culture, I have ever since I was a kid. I loved John Wayne cowboy movies, but I was fascinated by Indians also. When I watched the Lone Ranger, it was Tonto that I found the most interesting.
And now here I was passing Rest Areas and Motels that looked like Tee-Pees, and billboards boasting real Indian blankets. I mean, Native American blankets. (But the billboards said Indian blankets.)
I had come to a dead stop due to a serious traffic jam on the Interstate. I had a headache, and sitting in a jam in the blazing sun only made it worse. After an hour of not moving, we began to creep slowly along. The Ice Cream truck chose this moment to begin blaring LONDON BRIDGES again. When I got over the next hill, I could see that we were being diverted onto an exit road. It took another 30 minutes before I got off, and when I did I pulled over at a gas station and parked around back. I rubbed my sore eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm down. I could feel my blood pressure rising, and that's never a good thing.
After a few minutes of sitting there, I suddenly became aware of a presence in the passenger seat. I turned and saw a big Native American Indian sitting there. It was Chief, from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, the big Indian who befriends Jack Nicholson. He was dressed exactly as he was in the last scene of the movie. He didn't look at me, he just stared out the window, as if he was contemplating something he saw on the far horizon. "You have to be good to others."
"I... I always try to be good to other people."
He didn't seem to hear me, or to care. He just kept talking, almost as if I wasn't there. "Help other people when you can."
"I do. I will."
"Love thy neighbor."
"You must find the good within you and use it."
"Wherever you go, spread goodness. Plant the seeds of hope."
"I believe that, too"
"There is too much hate in the world, share some love."
I was suddenly awakened by a horn blaring. It was my horn, and I realized my head had hit it when I fell on it. I had been sleeping. It was all a dream of course. Only... somehow it seemed very real to me. And the wisdom he was sharing with me really rang true with my own beliefs. I shook it off and started the truck.
The traffic on the small road was awful, because hundreds of cars had been diverted onto it from the Interstate. I was growing weary of sitting in stop and go, stop and go. Then I saw something that caught my attention. On the right side of the road was the entrance to a small village. It looked very poor, almost like a little "Mayberry" just off this back road highway. I needed a break, so I turned into the town.
As I drove along, I saw that most of the houses and buildings were in a serious state of disrepair. The people I saw looked very poor, and many of them had tattered clothes and no shoes. While I am sure that this was not representative of most Native American Indians, this little forgotten village had certainly seen better days. My heart went out to these people, and I wished that I were in a position to help them.
Without warning, LONDON BRIDGES began to play. I moaned in frustration, I was beginning to hate that song, and it blared so loudly my ears would ring. Then I looked in my left side view mirror, and I saw some children running after me. I looked in the right side view, and saw more children. I looked out the window and saw kids coming out their front doors. There were a whole lot of kids for such a small community, and they were following me like I was the Pied Piper.
I pulled over to the side of the road and parked. I got out and found myself surrounded by all of these adorable Native American Indian children. They ranged in age from about 3 years to early teens. And they were all shouting at once.
"Hey kids, I can't understand you."
"Ice cream!" yelled one of them right next to me. They all began to talk at once again.
"No, no, I'm just delivering this truck. I'm not the Ice Cream man. I don't have any..." And then I remembered Karen loading up my freezers the day before. "Who wants Ice Cream?" The kids all screamed. I climbed in the back of the truck and opened the side window. "You scream, I scream, we all scream." I opened the freezer doors and reached down inside to get the many boxes that Karen had so generously shared. I didn't take orders, I just tore open one box at a time and made sure that each child got one. A few of them grabbed two at a time when I held them out, but what can you do? They are kids, they do that stuff. I'm sure I would have when I was a young tyke. And it was all free, which was nice.
When all of the boxes were empty, I sat and watched them all enjoying their treats. It made me feel so good inside to bring a little joy into their lives. And it was such a simple way to do it, something so easy as giving away free ice cream could make them so happy. Their parents watched with big smiles on their faces. Several of the adults came and spoke to me, and thanked me for my kindness.
More and more people came up to me and asked me questions about my journey. I told them about my job. They told me about their culture. One family invited me to dinner, and I decided to stay. Why not? It was truly wonderful. An older gentleman told me that he and some of the other men were going into their sweat lodge that night, and asked me to come along. So after a delicious and unique dinner, I joined them. It was an experience unlike any that I've ever had. I saw things, really cool things, and my mind went to some places it has never been before. And that's saying something for me. I think I actually learned some things about myself through it all.
I woke up the next morning asleep on the ground. I was wearing only my boxer shorts, and my clothes were clean and folded neatly next to me. It was early, and I didn't see anyone around. I got dressed and climbed into the Ice Cream truck, knowing I had to get back down the road on my way to San Diego. But as I left I could picture the faces of the children as they enjoyed their ice cream. That is something I will never forget.