Day 35, Slap Happy
On day 35 of the road trip, we seemed to hit a wall. A wall that made us slap happy.
The morning began with a special treat. Rather than drip brewing coffee in Wanda the van and eating a breakfast bar or bowl of cereal, we opted for a Donut Palace that was only two miles away. Maybe the caffeine and confections contributed to our behavior for the day.
When we stopped in Guymon, OK the night before we had noticed a peculiar, pungent odor. At first, we thought it was something Leo the musician was cooking up outside his 1960 Volkswagen bus across the parking lot. Later, when we had a conversation with this super cool 66-year-old, we let him off the hook. Later that evening as I took another sniff, and moved my phone closer to the door for a cell signal, I suggested we Google the words “rendering plant”. Bingo! Less than two miles as the crow flies was one of the largest pork processing plants in the state.
So anyway, the route leaving Donut Palace that morning required us to drive right by the Seaboard Pork processing plant. It was obvious the morning shift had been going long enough to get things cooking. While Jenni looked for a barf bag, I tried to judge the direction of the smoke/steam so I knew when it was safe to put the windows down and air Wanda out. About that time, I noticed a billboard that the operation was now hiring. I remarked that the worker on the billboard looked very happy; Jenni said she had her olfactory nerves removed.
Less than an hour down the road we reached Hooker, OK. I promise, it was like being back in middle school with all the giggles. First there was the sign on the outskirts of town for Hooker United Methodist Church. I reminded Jenni that the slogan was “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”. We thought a photo would be appropriate for our pastors but after fifteen turns we arrived at a brick building that had no signage we could use. But that detour took us past Hooker Inn, Hooker Hardware, and Hooker Power. We were exhausted from laughing and needed to drive just to catch our breath.
For the next four hours we realized that a lot of people must have died in Oklahoma because there was a cemetery sign on almost every county road that intersected our highway. (By the way, we were driving the Panhandle of OK which is obviously a very neglected section of the state.)
Around noon we pulled over in a non-descript, dusty town and found the only shade tree which was on the courthouse square diagonally across from the K-12 public school campus. (It really wasn’t a square; they had used a fourth of it for county parking, put a military tank on one corner and a water tower on another.) As we ate our peanut butter and honey sandwiches, Jenni looked up at the courthouse windows and wondered aloud if people were watching us. That’s all it took for me to begin imagining conversations taking place all around town:
- Earl, it’s Shirlene. Tell the Sheriff some of those East Coast Hippies have pulled up under THE shade tree. They’re driving one of them white candy vans. Lord, save our children.
- Ethelene was watching me bag Annie’s poop and hollered to Mabellene out in the garden: “He’s scoopin’ up peyote and puttin’ it in a bag! Right across from our children’s school!”
- As Jenni was sipping from her camel bag, a glint of light off a pair of binoculars on the third floor of the courthouse ended with a “she’s drinking from the white lightning bag now!”.
After that, Jenni spit a mouthful of grape drink into the sink and started laughing so hard I knew she wouldn’t be able to drive. It was time for us to move on.
Two blocks later we were at the 65 MPH sign. Oklahoma was made for audiobooks.