It was in the era of maps instead of GPS, and payphones over cell phones. I was lost as a goose in the fog somewhere in the vast corn field and forest country of northern Ohio. It was pretty country, and with the exception of my passengers, my dearest friend, son, pa and his wife, I had the road all to myself.
To be honest I seldom mind getting lost. After all I have made some pretty amazing discoveries while lost on some back road. But we had somewhere to be at a set time. And I had pa in the car giving directions, when he woke up.
At the crossroads of a county highway and a farm road, with fields and wood lots on both sides, there was an ancient garage and gas station that most likely hadn’t seen much in the way of upgrades or more than the bare minimum repairs since Henry Ford replaced the Model T with the Model A. I used the excuse of purchasing gas to ask for directions, even though pa said it wasn’t necessary.
A mechanic that seemed to be as old and weathered as the garage working on an ancient John Deere tractor that was more rust than faded green, wiped his gnarled hands on a grease rag and came to pump gas. We talked a bit, and I asked for directions to the main highway.
He had a big chew of tobacco in his cheek and after spitting in the dirt, he squatted and began drawing a map in the dirt with a screwdriver. And that was when my pa joined into the conversation. And that was when the mechanic called to his boy in the garage who was most likely a WWII veteran like my pa.
So, there were were, four fellows kneeling in the dirt. Two of them were giving contradictory directions. And two of us were complicating things by asking questions. It was a sort of a, “Well you go down this here road to Struther’s barn and at the bridge that used to be painted yeller’ you turn right.” Then the son would say something like, ” That’s the long way ’round and it ain’t a purty drive. It it were me, I would follow the county road to the cemetery, hang a left and drive along the crick for about eight miles. But if the crick is running high, you will need to turn left at the old Hanford church and follow the dog leg to the county road.”
Well, my pa heard something about a wrecking yard, and asked for details. And that led to more directions, a round of cold bottled soda pop, and a move to the office where directions were scrawled on scraps of paper. After close to an hour of this, we set out on our adventure, not sure if we were still lost or if we were on the right road.
We missed our five o’clock dinner. And we later found out that we drove one hundred miles further than needed. We arrived back at my pa’s house in Michigan just after midnight. And we had the time of our lives.
There was dinner at a restaurant that had been opened after WWII by a returning army cook that couldn’t find work. His grandson and family managed the place. We found the wrecking yard, and parts for my pa’s truck. And we found a covered bridge, discovered a section of Toledo that, we later learned, people avoided like the plague when the sun went down, and almost hit deer, twice. We also made memories, mended some fences, and now that pa has passed, I reflect on that wayward adventure often.
The older I get the more I realize how much was learned from my pa. I learned to work hard. I learned the importance of flexibility and adaptation. I learned that to expect the world to bend to my needs was the pathway to sorrow, headaches, and disappointment. I learned to listen to people, especially with differing opinions, if it was knowledge that I wanted. And I learned a whole bunch about what not to do.