Ain’t That America

October 10, 2006 @ 4:09 pm | Filed under:

Somewhere in the middle of Kansas, I called Scott to say we’d be stopping for lunch in either Wakeeney or Ogallah, I wasn’t sure which. He called back and got my voice mail. Left me a message saying Wakeeney has a population of something like 1650 souls. Ogallah? Population 162. By the time I heard his message we’d already driven through Ogallah and hadn’t seen enough evidence of human existence to sustain sixteen people, much less a hundred and sixty.

I stopped in Wakeeney instead and discovered that our lunch options consisted of McDonald’s (again) or the Phillips 66 convenience store. Both of which fine businesses, by the way, are to be found under the same roof. I guess rooves are even more scarce than people in Wakeeney. (Also, and this is important information, do not make the mistake of assuming you can refill your gas tank at the Phillips 66 side of the store. Every single pump is out of order.)

Approximately 300 of Wakeeney’s 1650 citizens were crammed into the McDonald’s side of the building, shooting the breeze over Big Macs. I went to what I thought was the end of the line at the nearest register, but it turned out I’d unwittingly cut in front of an old gentleman who was standing a little to the side, leaving a free space for traffic to the restrooms. I apologized and began to herd my brood to the REAL back of the line, but he waved us back to our former place.

"You go ahead," he said laconically, adjusting the brim of his (and I am NOT making this up) John Deere cap. "I’ve got more time than money."

My heart filled instantly and completely with love for him. I wanted to be his neighbor and invite him over for a Sunday dinner of ham and mashed potatoes with my pan gravy, which is the only dish at which I truly excel. My gravy is to die for. I’d have let him leave his tractor cap on at the table. And I’d give him cobbler for dessert, because I also make a darn good cobbler, if you don’t mind the cherries coming out of a can.

All the rest of the day, as I watched the curves of prairie undulate past our windows, I was thinking of that old man and what he said. I’ve got more time than money. Me too, mister, me too. It brought me back, as everything brings me back, to my understanding of what motherhood is about. What I can give these children is my time. Time. I think about these long hours we’ve spent together in the car, singing Tom Chapin songs and eating sour cherry balls, and I’m so glad we chose this option for getting ourselves across the country, the route that takes more time than money.

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Love2learn Mom says:

    Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. I have to admit we’ve developed a certain fondness for McDonalds on cross-country trips – especially for the ones with playplaces when we made the trip through hot-weather places with no A.C.

  2. Karen E. says:

    Yeah, and after my little road trip with my gang, and all the fun we had, I have to take back everything I said about “there must be a better way.” You chose the best way, and you will all have lifetime memories to cherish.

    And, of course, I, too, will have great memories, because if you hadn’t driven all the way, my gang and I would have missed out on a treasured visit.

  3. Mary Beth P says:

    Ain’t that the truth! I was thinking the same thing today, as I read “Five Little Ducks” for the gazillionth time, each time letting Aaron meander through and point out every bug, bubble and star. Truly the best treasure we can give our children is our time. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mary G says:

    Oh Lissa, this is a great post! And it’s nice to be reminded, every so often, of God’s call to each of us … so often I forget and want to do it my way….

    Sounds like you’re right where you should be!

  5. Alice says:

    This is a classic! McDonald’s and John Deere. It doesn’t get more American than that.

  6. Rebecca B. says:

    My whole life seems that it has been “more time than money” and I wouldn’t trade a single moment.
    What a gem of a man to be put in your path! Continue to enjoy that trip. Safehome!

  7. Becky says:

    As the mother of two boys with four John Deer ball caps between them (two old ones for chores and two new ones for town), I’m not surprised at all :).

    Or that you’re having so much fun and making so many memories on the new way home…

  8. mary mi says:

    you’re so cool Lissa.
    it must be awesome to see the prairie…
    We are reading the little house series now and I can barely imagine what it was like for them.
    No Mcdonalds.

    keep having a safe trip Lissa!
    love M

  9. Kim says:

    Undulating prairie and feed caps I can relate to. Things move slower out here! Thank God for that too. The world is moving much too fast. Bidding you safe travel Lissa!

  10. nrkii says:

    This was a wonderful tale. I love these treasures you can find only when you’re not really searching for them. It always surprises and delights me how very NICE people can be, especially in the small towns across the country.

    Safe, happy and memorable travels!

  11. A.R. Linder says:

    Oh, the memories you brought back. The last couple of years have been true penny pinchers for us and I haven’t taken a road trip. I don’t think we’ve been on a road trip since my husband died. Our trips have been virtual ones taken at the some of the sights featured on my blog ( But thanks to you I have decided that I’m going to take my child and we’re gonna get on the road and take a short trip. Tomorrow! What’s a few dollars for such precious, precious memories? Thank you.

  12. Lynn says:

    I love it! Being a Kansan, myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed your foray across our prairie state.
    I’ve been praying daily for your safe and blessed journey. Godspeed.

  13. Dana says:

    Seriously – this post, especially the last couple of paragraphs, is the best thing I’ve read online in a long time. Awesome, just awesome.