Sunday, September 9, 2012
A Pair of Human Treasures
When we woke up, Duke / Tip was still patiently guarding the front door of our cabin. He escorted us to the main house where Pia, the wife of our host and co-owner of the lodge, fixed us breakfast. We knew we were in the company of a kindred soul when we entered her house. There were dozens of drawings done by her kids, lovingly framed and hanging on the wall in the adjoining den.
Gilbertown, Alabama is a town I had only been to once in my life, but it was one of the places on my short list of MUST visits for this trip. And this was because of a chance meeting Sara and I had with a couple of wonderful people four years ago.
It was during another of our back roads wanderings, that we passed through this small crossroad town. As we did, I spotted about a 1920 Center Door Model T Ford being backed out of a garage on a side street. I don’t pass up stationary Model Ts, and certainly not ones in motion. We circled the block and came to the garage and introduced ourselves. The garage was full of Model Ts and Model As, four of each to be exact. Plus, there was a whole side room that was dedicated to radio controlled airplanes. This, I immediately knew, was one interesting fellow.
He took us in the back door of his home to meet his wife. It was Saturday morning, about 10, and she was dressed as if she was going to church. The house was spotless, and Sara knew this was one special lady. No forewarning, no preparation and her husband brought two (im)perfect strangers into her kitchen. They both made us feel like family.
He had retired from the Air Force in 1970 after 27 years, had flown P-51 Mustangs and had been in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. I learned later, from other sources, (he would by way too humble to discuss these things,) that after retiring back to his home town, he had paid for a doctor’s medical training with the promise that she would come to Gilbertown to practice. He has funded a pharmacy in the small town, too.
That day, four years ago, had been his 80th birthday.
When I called Saturday to ask if we could stop and visit, we were immediately invited to worship with them at the local Methodist Church. We met them for church and the two of us increased the attendance by 15%. Our friend had been teaching Sunday School, and the preacher, Bill, was somewhat of a modern day circuit rider. He preaches at four different churches every Sunday, each, I would guess, with about the same membership as this one.
After church, we all went to a local restaurant where almost every person there greeted and hugged our friends. I really feel honored to know this couple. I have not identified them by name, not as an oversight, but out of respect for their privacy.
About 2:30, we reluctantly left them and headed down Highway 17 toward Mobile. A cold front had moved through and the air was pleasant and cool. There was almost a touch of fall in the air.
We stopped in Citronelle at an old train depot that had been turned into a museum. The railroad was gone now and the track bed had been turned into a bike and walking path. Usually, when I see an old building, I try to envision how it would look restored. Here I saw a restored building, and found myself trying to imagine what it would have looked like a hundred years ago. I realized that the automobile’s arrival doomed rail travel in a similar way to how the interstate highways affected back road travel in cars.
Arriving in Mobile, we drove up and down Government Boulevard, one of my favorite streets in the state. Soon we checked into our hotel for the night, the Admiral Semmes. Out on the balcony, we were eye level with the magnificent live oak trees that line the street. Then we noticed that the trees were full of Mardi Gras beads, all green to match the foliage!
A little while later, we were picked up by Lee and his wife Linda for supper. Lee and I work together doing tech inspections on sports cars, and have been good friends for a dozen or so years. They took us to Ed’s Seafood on the Causeway. We sat out on the deck, and watched one of the most spectacular sunsets I can remember.
Our friends in Gilbertown will celebrate their 65th anniversary next spring, and Lee and Linda will soon have been married 50 years. We have some great role models.
Todays trip was 109 miles, but immeasurable friendship.