TRAVELS OF A SIMPLE BACKWOODS COUNTRY BOY TO DISTANT LANDS

I’ve always been told if I traveled too far north I’d find the world just dropped off somewhere around the upper most part of the Kentucky line.

So, I decided to test that theory by setting out on an adventure like my ancestors did when they helped Daniel Boone settle the wilderness of Kentucky.

This time, though, it would be to attend a family reunion with my kinfolk in a distant land named Illinois.

This, is my chronicle to the foreign countries of Indiana and Illinois.

I was asked if I was going to write this tongue in cheek … and I thought … “hail, I don’t know if my tongues is going to be in my cheek or not, and I don’t have a mirror to look at myself,” but I answered …

“Tongue in cheek? I don’t know, I’m just a simple backwoods county boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.”

It wasn’t too long after I got into Kentucky that I knew I was in for an interesting ride.

CreatureThere, I saw a statue of a creature, probably one in captivity or something I had only read about.

It was a big one, probably one brought back from the other side of the abyss across the state line of Kentucky.

I had to wonder what it would have been used for … maybe plowing a field or riding?

Who made the saddle for it, how did they get it on and how big was the saddle?

I don’t know.

But then again, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

My next big excursion was around this place called Indianapolis … they even had a speedway.

It probably wasn’t something the Allison brothers of Hueytown, Alabama would have liked … they liked to race in their own back yard around places like Talladega, Charlotte and Atlanta.

I didn’t stop, but just seeing the word “speedway” made me drive a little faster … along with wanting to get the heck outta there.

Once I got out of Indianapolis, I knew I was in another country.

Some of the signs even had translations on them at the bottom. How do I know it was a translation? Well, because I could read it and it didn’t seem like anyone with an Indiana licence plate could.

It must have been a mistake when it was printed.

Everyone was going 45 miles per hour … I guess it could be because that was what was on the sign … and here is where the translation must have confused them.

The smaller print at the bottom of the sign read, “when flashing.” I think all the people in those cars with Indiana licence plates couldn’t read the translation for us foreigners passing through, because the lights were not flashing and they were still going 45.

I followed along for a while before dispatching those cars faster than a late night emergency run to the outhouse.

I’m not really sure if they understood the sign or not, but I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

Before I go any further, I must say I have changed the names of all my kinfolk to protect the innocent … if there are any.

It wasn’t long before I crossed into “The Land of Lincoln,”  — Illinois.

When I got to my cousin and her man’s house, I’ll call her “Sharon,” I got settled in and it wasn’t long till they took me out to dinner.

And, boy, were the accommodations at “Sharon’s” way above my status in life — there was even a full-fledged bed in it — no more straw mattresses for me.

“Sharon” even said the head part of the bed would tilt up, and it would massage me to sleep if I wanted.

I said, “massage,” and she said “yes, massage.” I told her I wasn’t sure if I needed that massage kinda thing while I was that far away from home because I slept on my stomach … if you know what I mean. She looked a little bewildered, so I didn’t give any further explanation.

A vibration in a bed for a stomach sleeper, well, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that, and I don’t think that would have been a good idea … do you?

Then we went out to eat. It looked like the kind of place I would eat. A really simple place in a small town … except it wasn’t wedged between a liquor store, a junk yard and across the street from a trailer park, so I did feel a little uneasy because I felt overdressed in my jeans and cowboy boots — I probably should have dressed a little more subtle.

Anyway, I looked at the menu and I saw Chicken Fried Steak … my favorite. So, that is what I settled on … except they weren’t serving it that night, so the waitress asked if we needed a few more minutes … I told her I did.

When the waitress returned, she asked what we would like to drink … that is where the adventure began.

I asked if they had sweet tea … she said they did. I asked if it was real sweet tea, or if she was going to bring me a cold glass of tea with sugar packets. I went on to explain to her that sugar will not dissolve in cold tea, and it wasn’t my first rodeo when it came to being served tea that way.

She said, no, it was sweet tea. Then, she went on to say she wondered if I meant some other kind of sweet tea like “sun tea,” or something like that.

My jaw dropped. I let her know no self-respecting southerner would make “sun tea” and that “sun tea” was made by people who lived in Texas, Oklahoma and places like that.

So, I commenced to tell her what she needed to make sweet tea, like either three family-size tea bags or six regular-size bags, boil it, let it steep, then add three cups of sugar while it was still warm.

That’s when my cousins man, we’ll call him “Andy” said, “what’s steeping?” My jaw dropped again, and I continued telling the waitress about sweet tea.

She asked if that wasn’t too sweet, so I said she could cut back the sugar to two and one-half cups, but the longer the tea sat, it would get sweeter.

So, I couldn’t order Chicken Fried steak — I settled on shrimp. When she asked what I wanted for my side, I said, “okry … to my surprise, they didn’t serve okry … at all. I was flabbergasted, and I am sure she saw the disappointment on my face (and probably laughed at me when she placed my order).

But, the dinner was good … the tea really wasn’t that great and I don’t know how much sugar they used in their tea.

But, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

DAY 2 … Breakfast, the reunion, Spanky’s, dinner and Diamond Rio

The next morning, “Sharon” and I left a little ahead of the scheduled time for the reunion to meet my cousins, we will call them “Debbie,” and her man, “Marie,” and my second cousin, “Casper,” and his daughter.

Breakfast was relatively uneventful, with the exception that southern money must not be good in Illinois country because “Debbie” would not let me pay for my own.  I guess my money must not be any good in Illinois … especially around “Debbie.”

I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that, but next time I’m going to the exchange and get some Yankee money.

Following the reunion, which I will write about in my next post, we left so I could check off a box on my bucket list — having a beer with my cousins.

Spanky'sI really wanted it to be in a “Tavern,” like my grandfather used to visit, but it seems the word “Tavern is seldom used any more, so someone suggested a place named “Spanky’s.”

Not knowing what “Spanky’s” was, I thought I heard someone say something about light S and M or something like that with initials. In my mind, I was thinking, “as long as they have Miller Light, I really don’t care about anything light with initials in it.

Cause, you know, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that S or M or anything to do with spanking anything.

After about an hour in “Spanky’s” we moved outside where we could speak to where we could hear each other.

In the background, though, there were these four girls and one guy playing some kind of game. The girls were tossing these bean bags and trying to get it to go into a hole in what looked like a painted piece of plywood.

The guy was shouting instructions and giving hints on how to hit the hole, but I thought, he must not be too good at hitting the hole either because he was sitting on a bench while they were playing.

I wondered if they were just competing to see which one was going to go home with him later in the evening?

But, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

A little later, this girl, who seemed to be speaking a different kind of language, kinda gibberish and a little slurred, started toward the door to the inside to leave and must have tripped over something … the management should really be careful about objects close to the doorways … but, anyway, she caught herself with the door.

Before going back inside, though, she paused … looked toward our group with this big smile and said, “You guys really look like a lot of fun.”

I am sure she also said, “For old people,” but I don’t guess my cousins heard it because they smiled and waved bye to her.

While we were sitting there, my cousin “Debbie,” or it could have been her daughter, we’ll call her “Bri,” said something about me “nursing” the one beer I said I wanted to have.

Not saying anything, I thought, “I’ll have you know I was a bottle baby.”

I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that nursing stuff.

After a while, we left. But, as we were going through “Spanky’s,” I saw the guy that was outside with the four girls at the checkout line.

He was by himself and not looking too happy. He was signing something … maybe the score sheet, kinda like you used to do at the bowling alley or Putt Putt … but whatever he was signing, they gave him this little plastic card back … maybe it was a gift card so he could bring four different girls next time.

As we went outside he passed us by … yep, he was alone and not looking to happy with how the girls performed in the games.

But, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

So we left “Spanky’s” and went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

Only two things worth mentioning about dinner.

The first thing is I found out I have the equivalent of the old National Wrestling Association’s Arn Anderson in my family.

Yes, “Sharon” is our family’s version of Arn Anderson, the Enforcer, especially when the end of our table hasn’t even started eating because our food hasn’t been served, and her end of the table is almost finished.

It only took “the Enforcer” about one minute to get her point across, and about another minute for our end of the table to get our food. Thanks, “Sharon,” every family needs an enforcer like you.

SharonBut … I also had to ask “Sharon” what she was thinking when she ordered her meal. It was a sight to behold. I wondered if she was going to eat it all, and the next thing I know, the bowl was empty.

I’m not saying she did eat it all, and I’m not saying she didn’t. I did see a little white Styrofoam container she could have put it in, but I never looked inside.
Sharon2

I did hear someone say something about how compassionate she was and something about third-world children.

But, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

We got done with dinner just in time to catch Diamond Rio performing at the Bagel Festival.

I know what your thinking … saying Bagel Festival and Diamond Rio in the same breath just doesn’t make any kind of sense … Biscuit Festival, yes … Cornbread Festival, surely … Bagel Festival … pass the cream cheese … not on your life for a country band.

I’m  not sure if, or when, they realized they probably took a right instead of a left in Nashville and just wound up somewhere in the middle of a bunch of corn fields, but I know when I would’ve known something wasn’t right …

Diamond Rio… When I didn’t see any women in cowgirl boots lifting their shirts up to expose “the girls” that came with them … if you know what I mean … or when I didn’t hear not even one, “hail yeah!”

But they performed as well as when I have seen them in the past, so thanks, Diamond Rio for making my cousin “Debbie” a happy camper. But, next time, find a place with an outfield fence low enough that my cousin “Sharon” can look over the fence, rather than through it … she is, after all, vertically challenged.

With all that said, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

Our final stop for the day was at my second cousin “Bri’s” house for a gathering around the campfire.

But, with the rain that began falling as we left the Diamond Rio concert, it was just about impossible to gather around a campfire — even though the fire was still going when we arrived.

We decided to just sit in, what my cousins called a “she house” kinda like a man cave.

I had to correct my cousins on what it was called, and was beginning to think there was a translation problem (like in Indiana), because it was very clearly written on the wall “Bri’s Playhouse.” Yes, I got that, “you’re a smartass look” from them, but, what the hay … we’re family and I can take it.

The playhouse was really neat. Decked out with all kinds of electronics and just totally geeked out, which is a compliment (cause I’m not about to even think anything negative about “Bri” … she has photo evidence of my eating habits, which I think she thought was a little funny).

But, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

DAY 3 … The gas pump

On the final full day of my adventure to Illinois, I spent most of the day with my cousin “Debbie,” but on the way back (she followed me back to “Sharon’s” to have dinner with us) I needed to stop by the convenience store to pick up something. So, “Debbie” waited in her car out in the parking lot for me to finish my business in the store.

And, I am glad she did, because I surely needed a witness.

You see, the previous day her man jokingly said to me that he thought just about everything that came out of my mouth was B.S.  Well, my response to him was, “I just tell it as I see it.” So, I am glad she witnessed what I am about to tell you.

So … I am waiting in the store and this lady walks in and she must not have realized it was chilly outside before she left home, but “the girls” … if you know what I mean … did know it.

As soon as the lady saw me, she immediately put her arm up in front of herself and attempted to hide the ladies that came in with her … but the cat was already out of the bag and the element of surprise gone, because what she failed to realize was the arm that held “the girls” up, was the same arm that held the money to pay the cashier with … oops!

When she moved her arm, gravity took over, and “the girls” headed south faster than a divining rod that just struck water.

She left the store quickly, and I went straight to my cousin Debbie’s vehicle and I started to say, “did you see … ,” she said, “yes I did.”

Furthermore, I told “Debbie,” that the woman knew she was leaving the house without a visible means of support, as the old commercials used to say, so why should the woman act surprised when “the girls” were on the loose … I mean, c’mon now.

I told her, “So, you tell (we will call her man) ‘Darold’ I don’t talk B.S., I just tell it like I see it.” I felt vindicated by having a witness.

Maybe the woman at the gas station should have been at the Diamond Rio concert the night before.

I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, so I really don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.

So,  the next morning I left bright and early after thanking my cousin “Sharon” for both the hospitality and the great time I had.

Although the adventure was short, it was definitely fulfilling. And,while it is always good to get back home to a family that loves me, misses me and cares about me … it is equally as good to know I have extended family that loves me, misses me and cares about me as much as I do them.

And, just so you know, I’m just a simple backwoods country boy, and those are things I really know plenty about.

F.S. (and no, that is not a typo … it means, forgot sumpin’) In your travels, be the one that feels the sun in the pouring rain and find a way to shine.

 

 

 

 

 

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