Lessons from Roads Less Traveled #5

Duane and Audrey

Duane and Audrey (soon to be Kolmans)

Lessons from Roads Less Traveled:

Kindness of Friends/Strangers - and Peace in Idaho - 2012

Friends and Neighbors worried about me before I took my first steps of last year’s Walk. Worries and prayers and gifts helped me get “out the door and down the road.” Audrey sent me with a Christian medallion around my neck. Loren bought a water filtration kit for me to carry. Dane sent me off with a straw hat to help with the sun. The Elwoods and the Haarrs gave me a going-away party.

Ginger in New York kept people posted of my travels on Facebook. Meryl Ann in Virginia got some publicity going through OpEd News. Duane and Audrey took photos for Meryl Ann’s articles. They also checked on me physically twice (with refreshments) in the early miles of the trip. D and A had already filled my pack with nuts and goodies for the early laps.

Duane also got his sisters interested. Karen and Anita (with treats in hand) found me outside of Big Timber one day and invited me to stop and visit them in Bozeman. Loren hunted me up the first day out before Melville to wish me Godspeed and hand off some cold water. (I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.)

After that I was on my own except for long distance prayers, emails and phone contacts. But then, I wasn’t on my own in a number of ways.

I had the Good Fortune of meeting many kind and generous and caring people on the road. They are here, there and everywhere. So many people are just waiting for opportunities to give and share. The modern world makes those occasions harder to come by, it seems.

I was offered many rides along the way. I only took a few tactical ones. I was given treats and beverages and H20 on numerous occasions. A potato truck driver stopped his big rig one day, getting my attention and tossing me a Pepsi. All I got was his last name, Hansen, and he was gone.

Other people put cash in my pocket after asking me about my “mission.” Others paid for my breakfast, lunch or dinner. Mike, a housepainter, found me just outside of McAllister as the sun was going down. He took me home, fed me dinner and breakfast, and parked me for the night in his camper. The next day, he appeared on the road with a painter’s mask. He thought I needed protection from the air which was smoky from forest fires.

Friendly strangers - the Elliotts and the Shows - in Ennis put me up at the Fan Mountain Inn. The Linns, at the Driftwood Lodge just before Idaho, were hospitality personified. Rachel and Jerry even played cello and bass for me in their parlor. The Mayor of Rexburg and his wife found me in nearby Sugar City and took me to their town, gave me a tour of the college town and paid for me to stay at the Super 8. Mayor Woodland invited me to the City Hall and got me interviewed by Joseph Law at the Rexburg Standard. Anita Robinson in Rogerson fed me breakfast at Helen’s Cafe - on the house - and sent me off with a prayer into the Nevada desert.

Some of these road stories and photos can be perused at
Harlo to Wells

or on this site beginning with
Blog 1

There were almost as many friends as strangers on my Walk to Nevada last year. Maybe that is the way it is or can be, if we look for it and imagine it to be so.

The largest gift of hospitality occurred toward the end of my escapade just outside of Twin Falls, Idaho. 

Peace in Idaho

Meryl Ann Butler let out the word to friends that I was Walking through the Rockies and might like to meet people along the way. Kathy Ruyts in Buhl emailed MAB that she would be happy to host me at the 8th Street Center for Peace.

Before long, Kathy and I were on the phone comparing notes and talking about my visit to the Center for Peace. She told me that the Center once had been a small Presbyterian Church. Kathy remodeled and lived on the second floor. I imagined it to be a quaint wood-framed country church which might need some attention from time to time. During one phone call, I told her I would be glad to help with any odd tasks that needed to be done in her little building. Well, was I surprised when I appeared in front of the Center.

Buhl ID

I checked in with Kathy every few days and called a couple times as I approached Twin Falls on the last Thursday of September. I was invited to share in the Community Supper on Friday and still had a day’s walk to get to Buhl, so Kathy sent her good friend Aaron Witherspoon out to pick me up on the eastern edge of Twin Falls in late afternoon.

Earlier in the day, I had lost my ball cap (which was a backup for the Elwood straw hat which was disintegrating and retired by Idaho Falls) when I stopped to cool my feet off in an irrigation ditch along the way near Kimberly. I was addicted to that process by then. It really helped keep me going. But on that occasion when I got up from watering my feet and returned to the highway, a gust of wind came up, knocked my flag to the ground and blew my ball cap into the ditch.

The cap floated quickly under the bridge and I chased after it. But, I got on the wrong side of the water and my headcover rolled “gently down the stream.” So, I used my flag during the day at times to shade my head from the sun. But, that didn’t work very well.

Aaron appeared on the highway in his red car. He “recognized” me with little trouble. I crossed the highway and we said Hello. As soon as I sat in his vehicle, he said, “You’re part of the family, now. If there is anything you need, you let me know.”

I immediately noticed that he had a good looking ball cap - dark blue with red lettering. So, I told him the lost cap story and he said, “No problem, man. Take one of those in the back window. It’s yours.”

And, it was. I got a Ted Williams baseball cap, I wore it the last miles of the 2012 Walk, and it is ready for use on the next trip. You might think that the cap was monogrammed for Ted Williams, one of the greatest baseball players of all times. But, it was really named for a horse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4O__sGmJ10

Aaron is from Tennessee and had been a horse trainer for most of his life. He trained Tennessee Walkers. His “Ted Williams” and the other caps were named for famous Tennessee Walkers.

In any case, I was gifted two or three or four times when I met Aaron. To become Family and get a new cap named after a famous Tennessee Walker named after the famous baseball player. And, I got a ride into Buhl saving me a day of walking.

Kathy Aaron and Leah

Aaron drove us to pick up his wife Leah at a music store in Twin Falls where she worked, then we stopped at their apartment for a time. Before long, we cruised the 16 miles to Buhl and the Center for Peace and met Kathy Ruyts. Kathy was all smiles and welcomed me with a hug and a half gallon of apple cider. What a treat!

Thursday night the Center was open for guitar lessons which I sat in on. But, not until after Kathy settled me in at the guest house next to the Center. I unpacked a little - which doesn’t take much with a backpack, took a shower and changed into “dress-up” clothes.

Then, I went back to the Center to meet the half dozen guitar students. Leah is their teacher and Aaron is one of the students - a novice. He told me “I will be up to speed by the time you get back.” Kathy sent me off with her close friend Chuck Greywolf for dinner. We had a lowkey, friendly time at the Subway. I slowly got to know more about Chuck as the few days went on. Writing this note, I made another discovery thanks to Google.

Returning to the Center, Chuck and I joined Aaron as the backup choir for a group guitar piece. I don’t remember the song, but it was a fun and touching moment. 

Guitar Lessons

That night, I had a cushy bed at the guesthouse. It was so soft I couldn’t sleep. I rolled out my sleeping bag the next night and slept on the living room floor.

Friday was Community Dinner night. In between preparations, Kathy gave me a tour of the grand building which had been a small church until Ms. Ruyts took charge. She took the roof off the structure, added another story, and expanded the building into the Eighth Street Art Center. Within a few years, the beautiful and imposing edifice morphed into the Center for Peace.

8th Street Center for Peace

Talk about IMAGINATION. Kathy Ruyts has one. She put her ideas and resources into manifestation. The Center has become “an Interfaith sanctuary open for individuals and small groups seeking experiences, guided or self-directed, that promote deeper learning, creativity, mindfulness, and the well-being of body, mind, and spirit. It is also a unique gathering place and gallery space, perfect for ceremonies, parties, educational events, music events, and art exhibits.”
The Center fills many functions for Buhl and the surrounding area. It adds a warm, friendly, focus of goodwill to the Community of Buhl. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Eighth-Street-Center-For-Peace/147133748640364

Trudee - Kathy - Marty

Kathy and Trudee Jackson and Marty Wilson worked all day to get a meal together for about 50 people. Donations accepted. When most had eaten, a bluegrass music group called the Buhl Jammers appeared and played for an hour or so to the delight of the largely gray-haired audience.

Buhl Jammers

After the music and the dust settle a bit, Kathy corralled ten or so people and invited me to share about my project. I got out Fannie the Flag and told a bit about my Walks and my ideas of people helping each other more, befriending all, and relying less on government. The response was quite positive, but I felt I was preaching to the choir.

Saturday, I peeked in a couple times while Chuck led a workshop on drum making. During a break Kathy and I conferred in her office and shared bits of our lives. We also made a Skype connection with Meryl Ann Butler in Virginia. I encouraged MAB to make a visit to Idaho and the Center for Peace. Saturday was full moon day, so Kathy drove Chuck and me outside the city that evening to watch the moon rise.

When not otherwise fed by Kathy, Chuck or the Center, I found Papa Kelseys in downtown Buhl for breakfast and returned repeatedly for the most wonderful cinnamon rolls. Huge and delicious.

Buhl, Idaho, is the “Trout Capital of the World.” But, I passed on trout. I am largely a vegetarian, although I did break my routine a number of times on the trip. Avocado, cheese and tomatoes on muffins took care of odd meals while in Buhl.

Chuck and Kathy

Sunday, Kathy drove Chuck and me to the Thousand Springs Annual Festival of the Arts - http://www.thousandspringsfestival.org/main.asp It is a beautiful spot on the edge of the Idaho desert with water running, rising and falling all around the large park. We listened to some music and rubbed elbows with people from various locales. When we returned, I made myself useful and picked the weeds from the Center’s labyrinth. I also picked all the plums from an old tree on the grounds. I kept a few for my next journey and deposited the rest in the Center’s kitchen.

Monday was 1 October and a whole month on the road. I indulged my sweet tooth and bought a dozen organic chocolate chip cookies at the Seed to Store, visiting with Riva and Judy, the bakers during the visit. I joined Kathy and Chuck for brunch. Chuck is a gourmet cook, among his other talents, and has provided food for fellow movie people at benefits in Hollywood.

For a final Idaho treat, Kathy drove me out to Miracle Hot Springs where we soaked for a while. Another great spot. En route we stopped to visit Bryan Langsdorf who is a carpenter type, movie set man, and eco-friendly builder.

It was time to get back on the road on Tuesday. I said my thankyous to Kathy, but hardly enough for her many kindnesses and the opportunity to see Community developing in small town Idaho.

Chuck Greywolf did the honors of driving me back to the East and putting me on Highway 93 heading to Nevada. I got my gear out of the back of his van. Then, Chuck said, “I don’t have much to give you for the road. But, I want you to take this, my favorite shirt, with you.”


His favorite shirt was a Red White and Blue Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. My first thought was, “Oy. I am already overloaded.” Second was, “Such a kind thing for him to do.”

I accepted and was glad I did before the last few days of the trek were over. It got down to 25 degrees in the Nevada desert and the extra layer of “mouse fur” came in handy. On return to Montana, I sent a little package to Chuck in thanks for his gift.

Just now, thanks to google, I discovered that Chuck was a “favorite” extra on the old Northern Exposure TV series. See http://home.comcast.net/~mcnotes/greywolf.html


I have been very fortunate on my two long Walks.
I do believe that none of us are really strangers, all of us having incarnated time and again on planet Earth,
and that we do best when we at least try to treat every one as friends and family.

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