PA&PA

*This is the first of four writings exploring a cross-country trek spanning three generations.  My grandfather, father, and I drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Dallas, Texas.  It was a journey connecting old with new memories.  The time reclaimed and recorded the history of our humanity…

Team.

We started early on a Tuesday morning loaded with caffeine.  In a quicksand colored Toyota Tacoma, my grandfather, father, and I would start the journey over “flyover” country.  The goal was Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas on our minds.  Listening to county music and classic rock, we rolled through America.

St. Louis, MO.

The first day marked 575 miles from Madison, Wisconsin to Springfield, Missouri.  We stayed at the Greenstay Hotel & Suites with the fulfilled promise of hot coffee for my grandfather Tom.  The highlight was meeting “new” family members and sharing stories at Jimmy’s Egg for breakfast.  Connections can be found near and far.

Family!

A curiosity and anxiousness overwhelmed me leaving Springfield.  There were many unknowns from navigating trip details to understanding our family’s history.  My father would drive, grandfather oversee quality control, and myself secure smooth passage.  Then to my grandfather’s delight Merle Haggard’s song Big City played:

“I’m tired of this dirty old city
And tired of too much work
And never enough play
And I’m tired of these dirty old sidewalks
Think I’ll walk off my steady job today
Turn me loose, set me free
Somewhere in the middle of Montana
And give me all I’ve got coming to me
And keep your retirement
And your so-called Social Security
Big city turn me loose and set me free

Been working everyday since I was twenty
Haven’t got a thing to show
For anything I’ve done
There’s folks who never work and they’ve got plenty
Think it’s time some guys like me had some fun, so
Turn me loose, set me free
Somewhere in the middle of Montana
And give me all I’ve got coming to me
And keep your retirement
And your so-called Social Security
Big city turn me loose and set me free

Hey, big city, turn me loose and set me free”

My grandfather Tom’s distinct accent and mannerisms animate any story.  Driving into Oklahoma, he shared stories growing up as “country poor folks” and about his first job when twelve years old at the general store in Honobia, Oklahoma.  According to my grandfather, Honobia means to hunt and kill in Choctaw.  Today it’s home to the BigFoot Festival & Conference.

Winding Stair Mountain.

Traveling through tornado alley, memories began to flood back to my grandfather.  The country started to have familiar undertones from his childhood.  It had been over seventy years since his last visit.  Roads were new and modernized, towns altered or disappeared, and neighbors gone.  He questioned the modern world and grew distrustful of its navigation.  Progress and change left scars on history.

Grandpa Tom: “Didn’t look the same.”

Talihina, Oklahoma.

Our travels confronted humanity: one memory and mile at a time.  This was the beginning of a complicated journey.  The miles ahead lured and twisted with questions and confirmation.  There was no going back…

Links:

www.jennyebalisle.com

https://springfieldmo.gov

http://www.honobiabigfoot.com

http://www.jimmysegg.com

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