last friday evening, we embarked on our last pre-baby hurrah. it involved traveling to medicine park, ok, to visit brian's college friend, jason. this trip was a good four years in the goading.
we must have left around 8:30pm and oliver stayed awake an astonishing hour or more. seeing as how the ends of days are a physical tribulation for me, here in the third trimester, i was sleepy and kind of miserable. it's a 200 mile drive, but some of that is on smaller, slower, scarier highways.
we finally pulled into the town, which is approximately a quarter of a mile from the middle of nowhere, and we pulled out the instructions from the cottage owner. when brian had originally emailed them to me (for safe keeping, i suppose), i joked that it should be called the "wild goose chase" instead of "-cottage". and, so it seemed, i was not joking after all.
it was pitch black, as places next to the middle of nowhere tend to be when it's nearly midnight, and we took the first right after the Happy Hollow souvenir shop. it was a super tiny inlet of cottages and homes all crammed together, which i found odd considering how much space there was out there. after 30 minutes of going back and forth down the same little dirt drives with potholes and not being able to figure out how to count the three drives in the email (as it was difficult to ascertain their perception of a drive) and figure out what they considered new gravel and a small hill (much bigger than what we considered!) and veering right without mention to veering left first, i began to feel like we were in a video game. especially when one path brought us face to face with a large, fluffy, barking dog. WRONG DOOR! TRY AGAIN!
every time, it felt like we were about to wind up in a place we'd already tried and yet, we find ourselves shining our headlights into a new set of windows. oops.
another feature of the middle of nowhere is a noticeable lack of cell phone coverage. we drove back to the entrance and considered going "into town" to SOS jason, and then i reminded brian there likely wasn't anything open at midnight and town town was like 15 minutes away. so he turned around and we kept trying.
we finally ended up going up and over this scary hill and brian got out of the car because we couldn't tell if there was a cottage down there in the dark or, you know, a deadly cliff, and he came back declaring victory. even with the exterior lights on, you couldn't really see the treacherous and steep stone/dirt/gravel steps/path leading down. plus, it had been raining, so it was a little muddy. i let brian carry most everything in rather than risking a belly flop in the darkness. next to a nest of snakes or spiders. or both.
we stuck oliver on the futon and brian settled in with him for awhile because he was all awake and curious. i climbed into the dreamcatcher bed and tossed and turned, per the usual.
we woke up early and cleansed ourselves and packed up for town. the clouds looked angry and not in accordance with the weather reports i'd studied. my selection of tank tops was also feeling inadequate. thank goodness i'd thrown in a cardigan for good measure. we went down the road to the tiny center of town and found everything closed until 11am. we looked at the lake and the geese and the ducks and found the one pay phone didn't work. oliver had already begun his rock collecting while we were walking through the gravel on the side of the rode. he was in the right place for it. the place was built with cobblestones. it must've been his dream come true.
we hopped back in the car to see if we could find a public place with a working land line so we could get in touch with jason. to let you know just how small this place is, we stumbled across his tiny, cobblestoned house (knowing only the street name) before we could find a phone. and there he was, pulling up at the same time.
he immediately became oliver's new new best friend (ricky who?) and was a trooper about hanging out with us. well, first, he ran into "town" (wherever that was) on an errand after pointing us in the direction of buffalo grounds for some coffee. to let you know just how small this place is, he later easily found us sitting on a bench back over by that lake. who needs a phone?
we had already popped into two or three of the tiny, cobblestoned shops (one was occupied by kenny rogers) and brian had let oliver pick out three, polished rocks to add to his collection. on our way back down shop row, oliver actually remembered which one contained the box of rocks and made a beeline straight into it. couldn't be stopped. BOX OF SHINY ROCKS.
brian tried to use the town's one atm outside of the town hall and it made this big show of processing a transaction and then spit out his debit card and a receipt reading "there was an error. try again." and i thought that was funny.
by now, the clouds had cleared out and it was gorgeous. jason went back to buffalo grounds with us, but this time, we went into a different door in the tiny, uncobblestoned building and we were in the master's kitchen, which was kind enough to have many vegetarian options. brian and i split a mushroom lovers pizza and jason got this club sandwich, which was at least six inches tall. i had to look at the menu to know what a club sandwich is and he assured me the height comes with the package. oliver started going totally nuts and our table was right next to the buffalo grounds door, so he kept going in there to the delight of old ladies and to my dismay. at the end of our lunch, an old lady popped up next to me to say oliver reminded her of her son, who was now the best bricklayer in the land. so there's some hope for me yet. her husband had a cowboy hat and vest. AND A PATCH. THAT BRIAN DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE. so fancy. jason knew them. and the bricklaying son. the town is that tiny.
at this point, we were ready to get down to business and drove a couple of miles to the wichita mountains so that we could take the two lane scary road to the top of mount scott. i was reminded how i'm wary of heights and brian's driving and couldn't allow myself more than a quarter second peek over the thin line of decoratively placed rocks running along the edge of the road-cliff. i spent most of my energy leaning far to the left to keep us from going over the side.
we arrived at the top and, of course, oliver was unconscious. but then, he woke up and the nap was only 15 minutes and that didn't bode well. we walked part of the perimeter of the mountaintop parking area and took photos and i declined shimmying down some stacked rocks because a) i didn't want to belly flop, and b) i wasn't convinced i could get back up. so, the three menfolk scurried down just a little bit and stopped to look at a skank or a skink or what have you and then let me take their photo from afar.
we saw that there was a windmill farm nearby; but, sadly, we ran out of time and didn't get to drive on over there. i also discovered we were very close to fort sill when i heard what i initially thought was thunder, except there was white smoke drifting up from the prairie floor below. apparently, this goes on all the time. jason said he no longer notices it, much like brian and i learned to not hear passing ambulances and low-flying jets when we lived closer to downtown.
we toodled back down the mountain and drove a quarter of a mile and found ourselves on the preserve. i had mocked brian earlier for asking kenny rogers where the buffalo might queue up on the miles and miles of terrain so we could look at them. and then, there they were. next to the road. eating their weight in grass. and we stopped and took their pictures. but, we did not exit our vehicles, despite brian's desire to do so. one of them was molting his hairs off and he did this by rolling around in the grass like a little puppy dog. except he weighed two tons.
we drove on to this place called The Holy City, of which i had never heard, but which brian had looked up on the internet. it was some kind of religious fanatical WPA project. and i managed to not get a photo of the entire expanse of structures. made of rocks. i thought it was going to be like that little one room number sticking out over an abyss on top of sandia peak in albuquerque. it was not.
we strolled around a bit and then drove to some other part of the country to the house of jason's friends, albert and theresa. he dressed himself and brian in funny shirts and hats and showed him the bees they've been raising. we have a jar of honey! oliver and i were smart and stayed in the car looking at pretty clouds and the vineyard. and listening to more fort sill booms. then we went in to chat with the homeowners for a bit and oliver was best friends with granny theresa and she brought out duplo and a hula hoop and a little chair and leftover easter stickers. i had a token sip of some red wine they had brewed or casked or whatever you do to make wine. it was quite warming. i'm not a wine-drinker by nature, but considering my current alcohol-free state, I WANTED MORE. i think that's the only time i've seen brian drink wine.
we moved out to the driveway to make our way to the car and oliver could no longer resist this little tikes-styled tractor missing the right pedal and brian plopped him on there and started to take off like wildfire pushing him and 1.15 seconds later, i guess oliver tried to pedal on the right and there was no pedal and he fell right off and immediately went halfway under the speeding tractor and got kind of dragged a bit and was far from pleased. all i could do was throw my hands up to my face and tell theresa something about brian breaking my baby.
we dropped off jason and tried to go back to the master's kitchen to pick up some dinner and instead, found some signs on the doors about closing because of a plumbing issue and i had to wonder if brian had performed one of his patent overstuffing of the toilet with toilet paper while we were there for lunch (you wouldn't believe how many stories he has of causing public restrooms to overflow... it's all we talked about for our first three dates).
this town is so tiny, that you could pretty much count on less than one hand the number of eateries to choose from. one labeled their awning as serving fish and burgers, so we parked at the old plantation inn and saw all the villages' young 'uns dressed up for a prom or something. brian went in and hassled the worker girl with 101 questions about the food and placed an order, which he saw her right down in all its modified glory. in the spirit of documenting the worst food mixups ever, here is what we ordered versus what we found when we got back to the cottage:
salad with cheese: salad with cheese and bacon
salad without cheese: salad with cheese and bacon
2 garlic mashed potatoes, no gravy: 2 mashed potatoes, with gravy
1 steamed mixed vegetables: 1 steamed mixed vegetables
1 peach cobbler: 1 cherry cobbler
brian and oliver spent a little time at the tiny table on the tiny deck eating dinner and looking at the geese swimming by. i heard brian say through the door, "hey, oliver... don't tell mommy, but there goes a snake." and i whipped the door open and said "i heard that!" and i looked out the 10 yards to the water and there it was. A GIGANTIC SNAKE SWIMMING ALONG THE SHORE. and i almost packed myself into the car.
i let brian loose to go to the waterside tavern with jason for beers and pool while oliver sat on the futon and sang "little bunny foo foo" with increasing maniacalness. i tried and tried to lay there with him and finally told him i was moving 10 feet over to the bed. i fell asleep despite the crazy singing and talking and periodically, my hypothalamus would forget to weed it out as background noise and i'd come to. the artillery fire from fort sill wasn't helping and oliver, at one point, said "boom!boom!boom!boom!"
he finally passed out at some point and i woke up at 11:30pm. brian meandered in at midnight.
we were up early again on sunday with a repeat of the same saturday morning weather with added on late morning beautification. brian popped into buffalo grounds for his coffee. i supplanted coffee with a brownie the size of my head. and then it was to the hop&sack for gas. brian asked the old man working the counter if they had an atm and he said "yep... right over there". and brian went right over there and saw an OUT OF ORDER sign and asked the old man if it was out of order and the old man said "yep". and we drove to jason's tiny house and looked at his gigantic rosemary bushes and a sculpture he had made out back and he answered the door and let us in for a few minutes before we left him to go back to the nature preserve. we stopped just past the visitor's center and just past the migration of longhorns and buffalo to look at a little lake for a minute and then brian noted someone was approaching our vehicle on foot. out in the middle of nowhere. he looked like a teen and asked if this was quanah lake and we said we thought so and he asked if the dam was thataway and we said uh and we gave him one of our maps and he said he had gotten separated from his friends and i kept thinking this is where we're supposed to offer him a ride and i was also thinking this was the time where a complete stranger on foot would climb into the back seat of the focus and sit right up next to our two year old and kill us all. and then, without asking for a ride (just for the use of our cellphone... fool!), he turned and started trotting off. and i remembered we were like half a mile from the visitors center anyhow.
we found a t-shaped intersection in the road called Prairie Dog Town and i told brian that them there were not rocks, they were prairie dogs and brian had never seen one, but i had because the caldwell zoo in tyler used to have a prairie dog town and it wasn't until then that i realized it seemed to be missing these days. so we pulled into one of about 20 parking spots in the middle of nowhere and got out and were slapped in the face by the wind and there were one thousand prairie dogs doing cartoon things like going into holes and making dirt fly back up out of them. and there were two thousand baby prairie dogs scampering and rolling and playing and hiding. and we died from it.
oliver fell asleep not long after that and brian and i drove him to the other side of the preserve and back and looked at the fluffy clouds and blue sky and oxygen and little mountains that looked like they were made out of pebbles you could squish back down. and we saw buffalo and longhorns and two turkeys who weren't fattened up. and it was all very fancy.
i could crack the window and hear the gentle shushing of the dry grass blowing in the wind and i imagined what it would be like to live out there and have a hammock to nap in while listening to the grass. you would need the hammock to keep from getting eaten alive by ants and snakes and skinks.
we popped back into jason's to say goodbye and i was afraid oliver would find great sorrow over leaving his best friend. we packed up our bags from the cottage and made one last stop at Happy Hollow, where there was an old lady dusting knick knacks and thought oliver was a girl and oliver immediately went to stand an inch from her legs and looked like he was trying to decide if she should be his new friend. brian purchased a tiny, plastic buffalo, later named anabel, and a tigers eye rock, quickly lost, for oliver. i also procured a wooden egg for next easter. the cashier told him if he made $10 in purchases, he could see the live rattlesnakes for free. we said no thank you and took a photo by the sign instead. in it, oliver looks as though there is a live rattlesnake in the paper sack, but there wasn't. he had this look of struggle on his face every time we crouched down on the ground to have our photo taken with him. and crouching is no small feat for me these days. well, returning from the crouch, at least.
buffalo: this one is not real.
the first of many animals casually crossing the road. every time we saw these geese, they were crossing the road.
oliver looking funny running and me looking funny just because. mount scott in the background.
we want to put this in our future backyard. father and son.
up in the clouds, on mount scott. considering the great height, it's a good thing weebls only wobble and don't fall down.
scenic expanse with buffalo and birds.
buffalo and longhorn are dangerous. so is the holy city.
enter at your own risk.
sam the eagle in front of the chapel.
kickin' it. another scary and cryptic sign.
murals. one creepier than the other.
checking the status of the rocks.
throned and dethroned.
nice rubberbands. i'll stay in the car, thank you.
view from the cottage window. that little patch to the right of the tree is where the gigantic snake was casually swimming past. it upsets me just to type that.
hop&sack. just because.
more roadside animal attractions. there is dung on that sidewalk.
no martinis. i haven't a photo of the no camaro signs.
i thought we might have a fight on our hands from the look of that big one in the middle.
i swear the path was much more treacherous than it appears here.
happy hollow. check out that squirrel with his nuts.