Recently, I was in Siberia. The temperatures there were very much below cold. Dangers were there, too – prison guards, evil trackers, bears and such.
I was with an American Air Force Major who was taken prisoner after his plane went down in Russian territory. His captors wanted information. He wanted to escape.
Following his adventures was an escape for me. After several weeks of limited travel, I needed to be somewhere else for a while. I needed a break from homemade meals, homemade masks, homemade haircuts — home itself. So Louis L’Amour provided the means, and off I went — far beyond the confinement of my present geography, and far beyond the threat of a pandemic.
For escapist entertainment, the 1986 volume, “Last of the Breed,” was a delight. Although L’Amour is best known as a writer of westerns, a handful of his novels were outside that genre. This book was one of those.
The mind can often wander away from home through the pages of a book. I’ve frequently made such trips. I’ve traveled to Nebraska through Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” and “O Pioneers!”. Charles Dickens has taken me to England, and Jules Verne has guided me to the center of the earth. When I read James Michener’s “Hawaii,” I was transported to — well, you get the idea.
“Last of the Breed” provided a good trip for a few hours, yet I longed to go somewhere else.
I glanced at book spines on my shelves and considered re-reading Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” or John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley.” What I really wanted, though, was to get on the road and travel with my wife. Siberia was not a possible destination under our present circumstances, but we did find somewhere appropriate for a few getaway hours.
We backed from our driveway, drove through the streets, and headed for the backroads of a nearby counties. Our plan was to aimlessly drive till the experience of getting out was half-way satisfying. Then we’d turn around and return, fully satisfied. Just a simple drive.
Temperatures had been up and down as much as the prices of gasoline. On the afternoon of our drive, though, the thermometer registered at the “it doesn’t get any better than this in May” level. Sunlight fell upon our path, and it was a most pleasant time to journey from our too-long-at-home location.
If we’d forgotten it was springtime, sights we observed reminded us.
There was a young boy in graduation regalia, posing for a photo. Perhaps that was his girlfriend getting ready to make his picture. And was that his father who was helping get his tie and cap properly situated?
We noticed yards being mowed, grounds being turned and corn being planted. We saw a mailbox with its red flag up, and a red boat with a “For Sale” sign. Sure, these were common sights, but for someone suffering stay-at-home blues, these were quite refreshing.
Then we came to a large, flat field. Yellow blooms popped up through a landscape of deep green grass and caught our attention. We studied the farm scene along the edge of the road. Blooms seemed to wave over a sea of grass into infinity. Black cattle methodically grazed, seemingly without intention to leave the field (and why would they ever want to?). The sky seemed bigger than usual, and white cumulus clouds punctuated the blue. There were no signs of jets having sliced through the skies.
The road was little traveled, and other than our vehicle, was empty when I noticed the clouds, the blooms and the cattle. If I’d had the eyes of Van Gogh, his paints and brushes and canvas, I could have created a masterpiece. Or so it seemed at the time.
Sometimes, it’s important to take the body, as well as the mind, beyond one’s front yard.