It is May 4, about 1:02 p.m. and I am walking. I think I am in Grain Valley, MO which is east of Kansas City, MO.
I love to tell about the unique things that happen to me on the road. Here is a funny one! On my way to my starting point for this year, I had to stop by the bank to take care of some business. When I got to the bank, I was driving around the parking lot to find a place to park the truck and tie up LeeRoy. What I did not know was a guy had been following me in his red truck. I parked and jumped out to head into the bank. I was greeted by a gentleman in his late 50's named Mike. He introduced himself to me and immediately started telling me he was having a supper club party and wanted my goat there. The party was going to have a western theme. He had hired a country band and wanted to get a horse just to come hang out at the party. He told me it was impossible, no one was just gonna bring a horse to his party. To be honest, to me, inviting a horse to your party seems a little strange, unless that horse is Mr. Ed. But, whatever, to each his own. So, to him it was destiny just to see a goat riding around in the back of a truck. He explained to me that the party was on Saturday and he would do anything to get LeeRoy to be a part of his event. I told him what I was doing and Mike said he would make sure to give me some time to speak. You know me, I answered not just yeah, but hell yeah! We made a plan for him to pick me up the next day wherever I was on the trail.
On Saturday, I walked about ten miles and ended up on this back highway called AA. What I find so interesting is sometimes you run in to the most random, I don't want to say the word trashy, but just a dive bar in the middle of nowhere on some old highway. I was stopped at the Ranch House, however, they spelled it R-A-U-N-C-H House (really). I sat out front for about 45 minutes while people came out and took pictures. I handed out cards and even collected a few donations. When Mike arrived, we loaded up quickly and headed out. We drove back to his house and on the way, he tells me that he hasn't told his wife about this. He says it's going to be a surprise to her. In the back of my mind, I am thinking, "This probably won't be a very fun surprise for her." I'm sure she is going to be confused. "Why would you want this crazy guy with a goat that you picked up from the side of the road to stay at our house." So I was nervous to meet Diane, however, she was so gracious. She is an English teacher that seemed to be well-read (duh). Mark Twain is her favorite author. My adventure was right up her alley. After our introduction, they showed me to my room. I gotta say it was a lot nicer than sleeping behind a random building the night before. I jumped in the shower and got ready for the dinner party. While the band was setting up, I started introducing myself to some of the guests. Before I got there, I was thinking it was going to be about eight or ten people but it ended up being way more. It was about 60 people and they ranged in age from about 30's to I think one was in his 80's. Most of them were retired teachers.
We sat down and had a beautiful meal; chicken wrapped with bacon, pork-n-beans; oh it was so delicious. The whole thing was incredible. It felt like out of a movie; a big willow tree at the end of a deck; bigger than most. All the women were drinking wine and the men were drinking beer. The women all sat together at one table and were talking about the latest grandchild, whose next child was to get married and all the hot family gossip. I was sitting at the table with all the men and there was a scintillating conversation about one of the older gentleman catching a raccoon in his attic. "I spent $500 catching that damn thing and the little dickens tore a hole in the roof." He ended up driving it out to the woods and releasing it to the wild. As I am sitting at this table with old men mostly in their 60's and 70's I thought to myself, "Is that what I am going to be talking about when I am old; coon catchin'?"
The band started playing while we were eating and more people started showing up and I'm like, man this is a lot of people. So I started getting excited while I am waiting for my chance to share. Me, feeling like an outsider, my thought was charm and disarm; I gotta be funny. I want to make sure and inform them, but this isn't the place to be explicit with all the gruesome details of the slums. I want to try and put my A game together. I should probably have my A game every single time, however, sometimes people just want entertainment. Anyways, I start out with some jokes to soften them up. I entertained them for a bit and then I get into some facts of what I am doing. I had five minutes that turned into 15 and they loved it. I got done and I started handing out cards.
THIS IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING ... there was this blonde girl in particular who was my age. She really took an interest, or so I thought. Here's the thing. When a woman comes up to me and she says these words in that kind of really passionate, emotional voice, "Oh I just have such a heart for Africa." I automatically know that she has ulterior motives. I have a term for these kind of women. Gypsy Witches. What's a Gypsy Witch you might ask... well let me tell you... It's a cross between Yoko Ono and Hillary Clinton. She will break up your band and try and rule your world. She will find a way for you to get in trouble. She will seduce you. Strip you of all your dignity and take your manhood. She is a black widow of sorts; or a praying mantis that will EAT YOU. In the past I used to think that they all dressed a certain way. And yes the most obvious ones do... buuuut there is an even sneakier kind that are really hard to identify. They have learned how to blend in with those who truly care. They have copied the genuineness of people that truly care and know how to put on a good show. I will give you a few tips on how to separate the gypsy witches from the rest.
Tip # 1
Watch out for the ones that say any variation of this. "I was so touched by what you said. Will you come outside and pray with me?" Don't ever fall for this one... the goal is to get you away from the herd so they can devour you.
Tip # 2
The look. Now this is one that is not easy to escape. The look of adoration can make you feel real good and safe and in control. But the truth is, you are prey and she is the one in control. It's much like the Alligator snapping turtles that use their tongue like a fishing lure to seduce their prey right into their mouth... then with one bite, eats them!!!
Ok, back to the story. The blonde girl. She says, "You know, I just really would like to hear more about your story." THEN she says, "I have such a heart for Africa and for orphans." And yes, these are all classic Gypsy Witch tactics. Normally I would have seen right through this. But we weren't in the normal Gypsy Witch environment. I didn't think much of it. I said, "Well, yeah I would love to tell you more about the story, but I want to greet everybody else and hand out these cards." And so about 45 minutes later, I get a chance to talk to her again. We talked for a few and I honestly thought that maybe I had her pegged wrong. She asked me if I would ride with her to the grocery store to get something for the party. ANOTHER classic Gypsy Witch move. Separate from the herd. I say, "Yeah, sure, I'll go." I KNOW I KNOW.... you don't even have to say it... I get in her car and she starts driving horribly. I mean, absolutely horribly; almost hitting the curb, almost running into other cars and I keep grabbing the safety handle on the car thinking, "Oh my goodness," I can't tell if maybe she is drunk or just a terrible driver. She is acting completely normal. She is talking clearly, she doesn't look like she is intoxicated or anything. I don't know what's going on. So, I finally ask her, "Are you okay? You are kind of driving erratically. You're kind of freaking me out." I asked her, "Are you tipsy or drunk or something?" And she just looks at me and smirks and just says, "I'm fine." I'm like, oh no, this isn't good. I'm thinking she probably is a little drunk.
Ok now, here's the deal, music can take my attention off anything. From time to time I'll be talking to someone and in the middle of a word or deep important conversation a song will come on and I'll stop mid-sentence... it grips me- I have to focus on it. I just get into a groove, a vibe, sometimes I even dance.
Let me paint you this picture. I am literally freaking out about this lady's driving when this song I never heard before comes on. Artist : Disclosure, the song was Latched. I literally stopped. I stopped caring about the bad driving. I start asking, "Who is this?" We put the song on repeat, turn it all the way up and now I am having the time of my life. The song is going... I'm deep into it. All the windows are down. By the fourth time through the song we are both singing at the top of our lungs and dancing like crazy. All of a sudden I snap out of my trance and realize we keep passing store after store so I asked her, "What store are we going to?" We end up pulling into a neighborhood and into her driveway. This is the exact thing I am trying to avoid on the project; awkward stuff like this. I planned on staying in the car, but she wouldn't let up, "Come in, come in, come in." I did have to go to the bathroom, so I agreed. We go into her house! And I'm like, OH NO the Gypsy Witch has me!!! Oh this is not good. She filled up a paper bag with something. I assumed it was alcohol; I could hear the bottles clinking together in the bag. We got back in the car and headed back. Clearly, whatever she had last drank was hitting her pretty hard and she was having trouble getting back to Mike's house. She was speeding. I stopped talking to her and turned up the music trying to escape from the moment. I thought to myself, "If I am going to die in a car crash, I might as well be rocking out to some good jams on my way to heaven!" She clearly doesn't know where she is going. She keeps driving around in circles. She is going extremely fast and I am telling her please slow down, slow down. And she just says, "I am just doing that to mess with you." I say, "Well, it's messing with me." She pulls into a lane that has cones blocking it off and in front of us is a sign that says NO TURN" that is blocking the road. I yell, "You can't go this way! Stop, stop, stop, you can't go this way!" So she just plows over the sign and knocks it over. I make her pull over the car immediately. "Hey, hey, hey, pull over, pull over right here, please." She pulls over the car. I confront her, "Look, can I please drive?" And she says, "No. I'm good." I said, "Please let me drive." She says, "No, no, no. I'm good. Don't worry about it." I GPS where his house is and it's only a few blocks away. I'm like, "Okay, please go slow. In all seriousness, I am not kidding you, I will get out. I will get out of this car." She says, "Oh, don't worry. I'm good." We drive the few blocks back to Mike's house. She is getting so close to parked cars that the mirrors hit, but don't break. The whole time I am telling her, "Watch out" as I am grabbing the wheel. We pull into the drive, I get out and I run away from the car.
Now here is the icing on the cake! In my two years of doing this project, there has been one quintessential line that has defined the worst of the worst when it comes to the Gypsy Witch. If you say this to me, I know what your intent is and depending on what kind of mood I am in, I probably will make fun of you. Before the party ends, I am sitting in the back listening to the band play a slow ballad. She sits next to me at the table and she hits me with it, "Do you ever get lonely on the road?" I literally laughed out loud; so loud that everybody looked at me and I totally interrupted the mood of the soft song that the band was playing.
The party ended, she left, I felt good. Felt good that she was gone. So, that's my story with that.
The next morning I got up and Mike and Diane had breakfast and coffee. They took me back to where they picked me up. He was such a gracious host. I had such a good time. People had donated to the project from the night before that heard me speak so it was really just a beautiful time; other than that car ride. There is a silver lining to this crazy car ride. The song that we jammed out to is at the top of my play list and I literally have listened to it over and over again; it's my new favorite song.