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Rice fields in Arkansas

Funny story. Tonight I was sitting outside the "old liars bench" cottage on the docks at my dad's place in Florida and a couple of the older guys came to sit and visit as they do in the evenings.

It's like a men's place to gather, anyway they included me...🤣

They told funny stories, talked politics, religion and various topics came up.

One of the guys asked if I knew about any rice fields in the US and I said yes, the ones in Arkansas...with great surprise he says YES!

I own them!! I'm seriously? Naturally I told him my story of breaking down at the state park right on top of those fields!!

In 1998 with my 18 month old daughter, my best friend Elwood and her dog Adik, we set out on a 6 week roadtrip and drove x-country in my '78 VW bus. A journey to remember!

We left from Seattle and camped our way across the US. Visiting Devils tower, Mt Rushmore, Wall drug, Corn palace and so many other places across Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas. We visited a friend in Omaha then on to Ohio to visit my family.

After leaving Ohio I noticed my breaks were in need of replacement so we stopped into the Firestone in Memphis to get a quote: $450. My trip $ would be GONE.

I said no thank you. We'll use our feet like the Flintstones.

We traveled on into Arkansas and pulled into a state park for a picnic to stretch our legs and to let the baby and pup run around awhile. When I shut off the van, I smelled gasoline. In my naivete I tried to start the van but nope...nada. I now know we were lucky it didn't spark 🙏🙏🙏

We ate, played with the kiddo and doggo until nightfall came. The park rangers came to ask us to leave. We explained we'd broken down and couldn't. They kindly locked us in and checked on us throughout the night.

The next morning they came to take me to the rangers station to call AAA for towing and packed us and our camping gear over to the campground. FREE of charge.

I called AAA, confident I had 100 miles of free towing which they promptly informed me I had only 3. Omg...3?? In rural Arkansas with a VW bus...omg...🤯🤦‍♀️ what was I going to DO?

I needed a place to TAKE my bus, and I didn't know ANY repair shops close by. I asked the rangers where we might go and they suggested a guy up the road. I very fondly with immense reverence call him 'Billy Bob Joe Ray 🤣🥰'

Ok...AAA comes, loads my van, the park rangers follow to Billy Bobs where we drop off the van.

GET THIS- it's 3 MILES. 3 miles. I'm BLOWN

AWAY!! I don't owe $500 in towing fees.

We leave after I explain the gas smell and he informed me I was LUCKY the van didn't spark and catch fire. 😰 I'm almost crying in gratitude.

The Ranger drops me off at the campsite where we're going to live over the next week while waiting for the bus. The tent is set up. Kid and dog are happy with Elwood tending to all the necessary things.

We're miles from a payphone. No cell phones. We walk , read, play and WAIT. Directly behind our camp spot is a giant rice field. The mosquitoes are ABUNDANT. We're the only goofballs camping in Arkansas in July. Its absolutely maddening. My baby won't keep a stitch of clothing on. She's like a feral wild animal running around with Adik. They give zero fucks about anything and I think they're so lucky. But malaria is a tiny concern 😟🙄.

Sometime during one of those nights as we try to sleep, Adik is agitated by something outside and in her protective nature (or a dog's natural pursuit of anything to chase) she

runs right through the tent wall. Just laying it open wide. She's after some unknown creature trying to get into our food stash we had strung up high and tied overhead.

This, of course, welcomes inside a swarm of mosquitoes to our smorgasbord of human flesh. In hysterical laughter and a dash of maniacal craze near the snapping point...we reconcile the situation.

In being present to the moment at hand this keeps us entertained on a murderous killing spree for hours, squishing each one we can find with a flashlight in hand.

Even today, the sounds of buzzing mosquitoes snaps me RIGHT BACK to this moment in the tent.

This fun of killing each mosquitoe happens AFTER we used our reliable roll of DUCT TAPE to repair the ripped tent to prevent more of the hungry mob invasion. Priorities.

The rangers check on us throughout the week, taking us to the store for whatever we may need. Water, ice, phone calls to worried family, and my dearest Billy Bob to find out how the van is doing and when she'll be ready for the next leg of our journey. He's waiting for parts to horseback it seems. He'll call the park when she's ready.

FINALLY the day arrives. The Ranger comes to us one morning to get me.

She's ready to be picked up!!

In my busy scheduled life of chasing down a feral baby, cooking over a campfire in 100 degree weather, trying to keep myself from being eaten by swarms of mosquitoes or burned to a fiery crisp in the hot July sun with no trees for shade anywhere...I make time to go see about the bus.

Billy Bob is a big mountain of a man with a gruff voice, huge beard and crazed bushy eyebrows. I cannot even see his smiling warm eyes I know are under there because he's sweet as pie...despite his rough appearance.

He informs me he's fixed my gas line. He tells me he looked over the van for all measures of safety precautions and my brakes were terrible. He's worried about my trip. He replaced them. You kids be careful out there on the road. Sounds like you have a trip ahead of you still.

I gulp... asking what I owe him.

he says it's $54

🥺🤯😳 are you sure sir? $54?

Yes ma'am. Is that ok?

I think I gave him $80. Probably cried. I really don't remember. I was stunned.

I almost passed out. The heat, the magnificence of the kindness. The reverence for this entire experience. Feeling cared for, looked over. It was truly unbelievable.

Ironically, this liars bench question of rice fields in the USA took place just after Elwood and I finished chatting via messenger. About that trip.

Crazy huh?? 🤪

Everything is connected

Apparently I'm the only woman ever in attendance in like 25!

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