March 29, 2024 at 11:40 a.m.


By LARRY PERKINSON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Recently I spotted what appeared to be a snowy owl on the way to Kansas City. In a world preparing for a new season, it seemed right to have a leftover from winter.

The Missouri farmland was peppered with signs of spring. Unplanted fields yielded colorful patches of purple henbit. The grass along the highway was mostly straw brown, but green blades had started to slice through the surface.

Mixed messages were everywhere. Even though the saplings had sprouted leaves, the older trees still stood naked. The lavender of red buds and the white flowers of an occasional dogwood announced warmer days ahead, but the temperature was not yet as welcoming.

During the trip a road sign might direct or distract our driver, but his eyes were not free to wander through forests and fields and farms. As a passenger, I was not shackled to the steering wheel. Old barns and bumper stickers were welcomed diversions. Rivers and rock formations piqued my interest, and little things entertained me.

For instance, off to the side of the interstate an old, red pickup caught my attention when it turned recklessly on an unpaved road. Probably as intended, the truck slid left and then right as the driver negotiated the exit. Within a hundred yards the vehicle disappeared. It had been swallowed by the dust cloud that chased it, and I disappeared with it into my youth within that same funnel.

My dad had just driven past a sign that advertised the sale of beagles. It signaled a left turn off US 31 and a railroad track crossing. The gravel ricocheting off the underbody and the blinding fog from the rocky road celebrated that we were almost to Grandpa’s.

In our innocence the bumpiness was as exciting as a rollercoaster ride. It led to cricks (not creeks) and cows and dogs and chickens. The thought of mashed potatoes made with fresh cream and fried chicken sizzling on the wood stove still makes my mouth water. Fortunately, that truck turning onto the gravel road was my ticket to the farm.  I was glad it picked me up.

In today’s world the road less traveled might just be made of gravel. Sure, gravel roads get a little dusty - maybe a little rough - just like our memories, but you know you’ve been somewhere. At my age, every bone in my body remembers where I’ve been when I take a road less traveled.

Now I appreciate paved paths, especially when I’m thinking, “Kansas City, here I come,” and my back likes the ease of the asphalt a lot. Yet even though the smoothness of paved surfaces are preferred, a comfortable ride isn’t a promise. Paved roads aren’t necessarily without potholes, are they?

Thankfully a passenger’s prerogative allows daydreams to reopen the comfort stations in our hearts. Briefly being closer to mom and dad and grandpa’s place was enjoyable despite the gritty haze that led to the past.

For a moment in Missouri my old soul reached back for a leftover of youth. What a delightful detour!