Smoke billowed from the mountains as I drove down 299 on my way out of California. It looked like Hell on earth.
Wildfire season was here, but I was escaping the smoky inferno by heading East to the Midwest. I needed to do some regrouping, as well.
I’d been living in California for two months—-trying to fit my country-girl lifestyle into a city-girl environment. It hadn’t worked very well. Claustrophobia had set in almost immediately.
Day after day, I found myself fleeing to the beach and the coastland. I filled the car with driftwood and rocks and shells—much to the dismay of my city-bred fiance`.
I remember well the last beach-outing that Steven and I took together. I went exploring and soon discovered a real treasure. I thought it was beautiful, but Steven was dumbfounded—even horrified.
“Vic…It’s nothing but junk!” Steven said. “Just a 50-pound piece of metal with rocks stuck to it.”
“No, no!” I said. “It’s a natural phenomenon…one of Nature’s finest treasures.” I turned the slab over. “It’s an iron-ore Conglomerate with rocks and driftwood encrusted on it. Please carry it to the car for me, Stevie.”
Steven fumed and grumbled, but finally carried the Phenomenal Conglomeration to the car. That really was the last straw for our relationship—epitomizing everything that was wrong between us. We were just too different…a city-boy and a country-girl with opposing cultures and lifestyles.
A few days later, I found myself packing up my belongings and loading them into the car. I forgot to pack one thing, though….
The 50-pound Treasure now belonged to Steven. It seemed fitting, somehow…A souvenir from Vic.
I thought about it as I drove along. Although Steven and I loved each other and had both tried so hard, our relationship had failed. You just can’t mix city-slickers and country folk.
It made me sad.
A blood-red sun was sinking into the Pacific as I left the West Coast. A thick haze hung over the landscape and wildfires burned with fierce heat. It looked like something from the Book of Revelation.
I turned on the radio. The news was grim. 1400 wildfires were raging out of control across California. The smoky mountain road behind me was closed shortly after I went through. I couldn’t turn back even if I’d wanted to.
Strains of a familiar song wafted across the airwaves. It was about the end of the world…but it ended on a positive note. Everything would be fine. Just fine. Somehow, the song cheered me a bit.
I turned the radio dial. More bad news poured in…Severe flooding in the mid-west…entire towns had washed away. And up north, the Arctic ice is disappearing so fast, it could be gone by fall.
The stock market plunged 358 points, today. The value of the US dollar is plummeting. There’s a Baby Boomer Armageddon underway in the Social Security department. The housing market’s dead.
Banks are collapsing. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack are in serious trouble. Oil and gas prices have soared, setting a new record. Five bucks a gallon for gas in NorCal.
Could I even afford to drive home?
Home to the Midwest—to the farm that had been in the family for generations. What a refuge it was from all this craziness, I thought to myself.
I drove across the salt flats and deserts and mountains, listening to the reports of world calamities. It kept me awake, at least.
Two days later, I arrived at the farm. Pulling into the driveway, I stretched my legs and looked around.
The family farm was intact. No sign of calamity anywhere. No floods, or collapsing banks. No Baby Boomer Armageddons. The pigs were mucking about in their pen, as usual. The calves blinked sleepily in the barnyard.
Then suddenly, all Hell broke loose.
My father came thundering down the driveway in his red pickup. He waved and hollered. “Great to see you home, Vic!”
Dad shoved back his hat and swiped at the sweat on his brow. “You got here just in time. The cows broke through the fence and they’re in the corn. We’ve got to get ’em out of there and fence ’em off. Can you help me drag that new roll of fencing into the back of my truck?”
I stared at him, too tired to respond.
Dad didn’t seem to notice. He was talking a hundred-miles-an hour, waving his arms and pointing. “Tomorrow we’ve got to run the bull down the driveway toward the pasture. He’s a big one. We could use your help!”
He paused long enough to jump back into his truck. “Boy, it’s sure good to see you home, Vic!”
The red pickup swirled off in a cloud of dust—with a promise from my father that he’d return momentarily. We had to deal with those cows and the broken fence.
Gathering up suitcases and my scattered wits, I waved at the calves in the barnyard—giving them a holler. They bawled in reply.
Despite the trials, the miles, and the everlastin’ long journey…
It was good to be home….!