Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The chaos gives back

WILLOW SPRINGS, MO - Remember how I said I was going to get off Larry's truck at the next terminal we stopped at so I could get another trainer? Yeah, that didn't happen. Instead, I am spending the week in rural southern Missouri, at the only motel in the closest town to where Larry lives.

Willow Springs has a population of about 8,000. It's an hour and a half away from any interstate, nestled in a warm back pocket of the Ozarks. There's a couple blocks' worth of Main Street, most of the businesses shuttered, and a set of railroad tracks. I ate breakfast at Main Street Cafe this morning, and the other diners were talking about farming and politics. One of the men said, "If Nancy Pelosi wants to live in a communist country so much, she ought to move to Canada." I shoveled eggs and toast into my mouth as quickly as possible and got out of there before they smelled California on me.

Outside in the heat, I walked around and took pictures of all the decay and strangeness, the overgrown doorways and broken windows. Then I saw the words "natural food store" and stopped in my tracks. Inside the small shop were organic soaps and essential oils and herbs and handmade jewelry, and I felt so comforted I wanted to cry. The shopkeeper, a older English woman named Erica, told me she used to do much better business before the state built a highway bypass between West Plains and Springfield, because none of the locals actually shop there.

She moved here from England 15 years ago because of an ad she saw in an organic gardening magazine that promised cheap land, fruitful soil, and a long growing season in the Ozarks. She packed up her two small children and crossed the ocean. Most of that ad's promises were not met, but her kids did grow up living off the land and playing outside, which is more than she could have done for them in the outskirts of London. And now, she said, she's got her house and her garden and her shop and her daily routines, and uprooting herself yet again just seems like too much work. Besides, once you turn the world off and just take comfort in the small oasis you've built for yourself, it's not too bad.

Erica rents out the apartment on top of the shop to a young woman named Janis and her son. Janis is from Minnesota but lived in California for 7 years. She moved to the Ozarks to live off the land. (Oh that eternal hippie pipe dream of living off the land.) She has taken on the small empty lot next to the shop as her personal project, building a gazebo and a beautiful flower garden there. The boy showed me his pet turtle named Betty, who lives in a walled flower patch. Tonight, I am going to help Janis plant new flowers.

Erica and Janis told me the local public library would be my best bet for getting online, so here I am. On the way here from the shop, an old black Cadillac limo pulled up to where I was walking. Inside was a man with unkempt long hair and two small children, a preteen girl and a boy under 10. The man asked me if I knew of a place that could buy old silver and gold. I told him I wasn't from around here, and he sped away.

I got here on Tuesday afternoon and wanted to throw myself under a train. But I feel better now. There are stories coming out of the cracks in the pavement here. Just as anywhere else, finding kindred spirits is just a matter of knowing where to look. And goddamn, my life is just such a strange and absurd journey.


Jason said...

These are the moments that, although you're not earning the green, are the essence of touring the country. Seeing Small Town America has always been a passion of mine, and the people you meet here will forever remain in your memory. California will still be here when you get back (barring some San Andreas Fault situation), so enjoy this. That sucks though about being stuck with that hillbilly trainer.

Gi-Gi Roxx said...

At least you're making the best out of your situation. I just love the charm of the deep Ozarks. I've got a friend that lives down in a town called (and yes I'm serious) Licking. It was super small town and everyone was very interesting.

Hang in there... you're almost trained!!!

Jim - said...

I have been considering a career in trucking for some time now.

I am a retired corrections officer (INJURIES) and a recently laid off IT guy (downsizing) with rather slim job prospects here in Central Florida (unless I want to schlepp around Disney).

I want to thank you for your honest view of a new trucker and your experiences.

When I was in IT, I had to travel to deliver and set up equipment (I have a Class B CDL), and I got a bit of the 'road bug'.

Is the time away from home hard, as I have 3 small children. Thank god I have a strong wife that's willing to see me go forward for our family.

Is the pay comparable to what the companies say? Again, am supporting a family.

BTW: LOVED your comments/observations about Central Florida - been here 6 years from NJ and you DO get used to the heat and humidity...

I am looking forward to your next blog, and wish you well in your journey.

- Jim McCrystal; Orlando, FL

Confessions of a Traveler said...

Hey Gypsy, I want to talk to you. I'm writing an article on blogging truckers or trucking bloggers. I'd like to interview you to discuss how you got into both trucking and blogging. Please contact me.

Cindy said...

Anna, Loved this installment of your life on the road.
great imagery and I felt like I was in the little hippie shop with you smelling fragrant essential oils. YEah!!!
Nice picture of Maker's Mark by the way in your other post.
You're making me thirsty!

Anonymous said...

Really enjoy your posts.
You seem like a well educated young lady. Don't you think that you could add more credibility by not using the Lords name in vain? Good luck in your travels. Bob in Pensacola FL

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! You are a well-educated young woman, if I do say so myself....

Keep on truckin' and bloggin.

--One of your old professors.

Decorina said...

I loved this post. And I think your credibility is just fine the way it is. Don't change anything.

Taveler said...

Gypsy, great stuff; honest, tough and raw. Nice work. Jason is right, sometimes these moments of despair, stress and fear bring us to our greatest growth. You are doing great and your writing is superb. Thanks for your honest comments.

John Adam said...

is truck driving as bad as it is rumored to be?
Trucker Buck