Cowboys and their Country

My mother inherited an obsession with westerns from her father, my Papaw Sam. He has never been a big talker, perhaps since he’s not a great listener on account of his bad hearing.  Most the time he nods or he smiles when you ask him a question like a child who knows you want something just not what.

But his ears perked up, his hearing miraculously improved, and his butt was poised on the edge of that Tahoe seat the entire three weeks that he, my grandmother, my aunt, my mother, and I road-tripped around west. We saw wild buffalo, rolling plains the extended pass Da Vinci’s vanishing point, and deserts the colored under a high sun like a child’s coloring box.

Since I’ve been home from college this past week, I’ve watched two westerns. Of course my mother participated in the watching, which made it all the more fun. The first was William Wyler’s BIG COUNTRY with Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives. The opening scene starts in the threshold of a homestead. The camera moves out and the screen widens the take in the vast color and emptiness of the west, the Big Country. My mother sitting in the wingback chair next to me sighs, “It’s that pretty.” A similar shot opens THE SEARCHERS, a John Wayne classic based on the book I just finished by Alan Le May. I like the Duke in the 1969 TRUE GRIT, but I’d give him his Oscar for his portrayal of Ethan (Amos in the book) Edwards.

The west is truly beautiful, and as I contemplate where in the world I’d like to end up I can’t rule out west of the Mississippi. Seeing Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the arches of Arizona made me appreciate the landscape and made me appreciate on a deeper level what the wide focus of those good ole American movies were trying to capture. As my aunt said repeatedly on our summer trip two years ago, somethings in life and in the movies are just unbelievable.


Car Shopping Sucks

Monday Mom, Dad, Seth, and I went looking around E’town for makes and models. I admit, before these last few days I had no idea what I was doing when car shopping. My first car—a dependable 1997 Toyota Camry—was found and purchased for me by my parents. The car terminology, the figures about financing, the idea of leasing a car—who ever heard of leasing a car?—and the restrictions when wanting to exploit my undergraduate certificate for discounts—details loomed around my head, mixed with persistent lecturing of my caring parents. It was aggravating. I felt stupid and childish. I wanted to be done.

Yesterday, on our first Louisville car-lot I mourned, and I mean deeply mourned, the untimely death of my Camry. My brother wove in and out of the used cars playing the same four cords of his ukulele, as my parents tried to tell me it wouldn’t be anything to learn to drive the $7,500 Volkswagen stick shift before I left for Chicago next week.



I started to calculate how many calories I would burn riding my bike 300-some miles with a suitcase strapped on my back.

Then at Car Max . . . I don’t mean to advertise, but Car Max is kind of awesome. I found some cars I wanted on-line. The sales guy, nice guy named Mike, took us to the cars, and then walked up through every step of the process. And today, when I went to switch the vehicle on my car insurance, the Geico lady said Car Max not only made the conversation easy because all the information on their server, but it made my rate lower!. . . Then at Car Max, right there in the front row was a 2004 Ford Focus. I initially wanted the younger, more expensive Focus for the sole fact that it was a beautiful shade of green. But in the end, I went to the Wildcat Blue!

I haven’t driven a lot of cars in my life, but this is one just felt right. Like those car commercials going that take tight turns—I could take those tight turns in my new car! Seth, once he stopped playing that stupid ukulele, decided I needed the perfect first song for my new car. He sat in it while I signed papers listening to that “Skeet, Skeet” song—decidedly, that doesn’t count. When Dad and I drove off the lot, Offspring’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” was on the radio. We laughed, but I count the first song in my new car to be One Republic’s “Good Life.” Given I was half way back to E’town at this point, but I was by myself and the first cords compels me to turn it up. It has a sad melody, but positive words. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately, like I have positive words spoken in a sorrowful voice, like I got every reason to be happy but still doubt. I name “Good Life” the song of my summer, and I’ll listen to it in my brand new car next week as I drive to Illinois.

In Etown after a long week

There really isn’t much to do in E’town, but I wouldn’t trade the homegrown stock for anything. Out and about Saturday night was one of the best times I’ve had in awhile, and there is some pretty stiff competition. Even though I was in Bowling Green, I ran into a bunch of “those E’town kids.” Laughing and catching up over the loud music others were “romping” to, I realized that I wouldn’t be running into high school friends at the bars anymore and that a bad week couldn’t be solved with a night out with my best girls. From now on, at least for the next few months, it’ll be strange towns and new people.

But I guess that’s all right. Cary Grant movies—like the one I’m watching now—western novels, and a call for a familiar voice will always be close at hand. I wouldn’t trade my pictures or my friends for the world—though I might consider it to find a new car.

Today has been a long of car shopping—Do I get a loan and buy a new one? Do I lease a car for 12,000 miles for 3 years? Do I risk a used car? It’s all very frustrating, and Staples just doesn’t have an “Easy Button” for it. In just under two weeks I’ll be scooting north in a presently unknown vehicle to a place where my number of acquaintances decreases tenfold. Last summer was exciting because I didn’t really know what I was getting into with my Chicago-area internship. Now it’s almost like a second home, and I’m caught thinking about what I’m leaving rather than where I’m going.

But, in the words of the radio “Here’s to the nights we felt alive” and “Fill up my cup, Mozoltov.”