Ever have one of those rides when, even though you've been down the same ol' roads, with the same ol' houses and saw the same ol' scenery, all of a sudden... something grabs your attention like it's brand new? It may have been there the last five hundred times you rode by this house or that barn, but for some reason, today it jumps out at you and says... "look at me!" While Harley and I were riding around our sweet Alabama country roads a couple weekends ago, I saw lots of familiar stuff, it seemed... for the first time.
As most of my regular readers know, my dad (Papa J) passed away on February 20th. I'm very thankful to have had a wonderful relationship with him, but coping with my loss has left me feeling like I'm on an emotional roller coaster, and it's all I can do to hang on for the ride. After being in Dubuque with my family for a couple weeks, I figured I'd be spending my first Saturday back home catching up on laundry and other house keeping chores, but Harley had other plans. He knows me better than anyone and knew I needed a break from my turmoil, so he suggested we take advantage of a pretty day and get a little road therapy. He asked if I wanted to hop on the Glides and ride along while he did some research for work, saying something about, "checking out some pans". The sun promised to play peek-a-boo with us while the temperature was lingering in the mid 60's so I thought... why the hell not!
Now, there was a time in my life that I only thought of pans as being those various sized containers with handles, that are heat resistant so you can cook food in them. Well, that was before I married the "scrap man". Pans are not just for cooking... but collecting. A "pan" in the scrap business is a large metal box, (looking very much like a gigantic dumpster) used to collect the scrap material of certain businesses, and can be carried around by large trucks. Harley was courting a new customer, so he needed to go around to this company's various locations and "check out their pans", so he could give them a quote on buying their material.
We maneuvered through town and started heading north on Hwy. 9, a road we travel often, when I noticed the first one. There it was, like a brand new addition to the landscape, even though I remember seeing it there before... a nice big John Deere mailbox, shaped like a tractor. For some reason, as I rode by it today, it stood out and made me take notice of it. It's brilliant green and gold paint, glimmering in the sunlight, caught my attention and made my heart skip a beat followed by that all too familiar "punch in the gut" pain that has been plaguing me of late.
(I'll explain a little history here, so the rest of my story will make sense to you. After many hard working years, my dad retired from John Deere Dubuque Tractor Works. He loved to collect John Deere memorabilia as well as stock his garage with various outdoor John Deere products. In my father's house... green and gold represented pride and quality. As children, we grew up believing in the Gospel according to John: Nothing runs like a Deere!)
Seeing the mailbox started a flood of memories and thoughts that seemed to swish around in my head like a wash tub full of water. As I pondered these thoughts and tried to put things in order, we traveled just a couple more miles down the road before I saw another one. It was on the other side of the road this time and not quite as big as the first one. Much more worn out, but another one just the same... a John Deere mailbox.
I kid you not. For the next several miles, or maybe I should say all afternoon, I would see many familiar items of green and gold. I noticed the John Deere tractor beside an old barn that was partially covered with a dusty tarp, and a tall iron and metal windmill boasting the running deer logo on one of its blades. While cruising around the country side (stopping now and then to allow Harley, the "scrap man" to dumpster dive on an industrial level), I noticed the rusty old novelty street sign that marked someone's driveway as "John Deere Rd."
As my mind kept focusing on these objects of familiarity, I became instantly gratified. I realized, as I rode that day... my dad was with me, and noticing all these reminders of him was comforting. In my heart and mind, he will always be with me, and this day was no exception.
It felt good to be on my Glide again and I decided to let all the stresses of life blow off with the wind. I continued to follow my fearless leader as we made our way on some beautiful highways during our Saturday afternoon adventure. The brown of winter is starting to fade and soon the brilliant color of Spring will wash over the landscape.
After a couple hundred miles of enjoyable riding with John Deere and the "scrap man", I felt content with the world. All I can say right now is... Life is good!
(Disclaimer: the photos used in this post were copied from web.)