It has often been said of Mason that one can easily spot and differentiate tourists from locals. Tourists will park their car at one location, disembark, then stroll leisurely around town taking in all the sights. Locals move their vehicle repeatedly from one location to another to complete their business, and will drive around the block till a good parking spot opens.
It seems that many of us have forsaken walking in our modern, extremely mobile society. Why walk when there's a pickup, a Mule, a four-wheeler? Who in their right mind would walk to the field to check on irrigation lines when one can more easily, more quickly, hop on a four-wheeler and make the jaunt?
But, we've sacrificed a great deal in our move from walking to driving. We've packed on pounds and developed all the heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and other associated diseases. We've finished our errands more quickly; but, we stopped having conversations with the other pedestrians that once also made the walk. And, by concentrating on our destinations and how quickly we could get there, we forgot that the journey is sometimes much more fun, much more instructive and much more satisfying.
Chinese philosopher Laozi said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." And when we're walking, we have to consider where our second step will fall. When we're walking, we notice the cracks in the sidewalk, the different colors of the asphalt on the road, the cows grazing over the fence.
When we were kids, my mother would send us to the Katemcy store to pick up groceries. As we made our outgoing trip, we would use our BB guns to clear the world of all the dangerous obstacles, ensuring that our return would be free of such monsters. Swede Jordan would carefully pack the milk, bread, bacon and vegetables into thick brown paper bags which we would then wrap up in our short arms, keeping everything safe till we could return home with our treasure.
One winter, an ice storm had moved in and the entire dirt road all the way to the store was impossible to drive upon with any of our vehicles. Steve and I volunteered to make the trip, pulling our Red Flyer wagon behind us. Except for the hill descending from our house, and the corresponding hill at Bo and Bert McLemore's, the trip was quick and easy. We literally skated down the road, the little red wagon weaving behind us with its load.
When we would walk to the field to hoe, we would see skunks, snakes, roadrunners and horny toads. We learned about the different types of oak trees, the plants to avoid like the spiny bullnettle, and saw the beautiful flowers that were there all summer long on a parade of different plants.
One particularly cold winter, we had been clearing land to put in a new field. When we had begun, it was dry and the grass was so brittle that we simply piled the brush and wood to be burned later. Then, we had January rains. Finally, it was February and we began burning the piles of wood. Early in the afternoon, a steady rain fell, extinguishing any small border fires that tried to begin; but, falling slowly enough that the bonfires were able to continue burning. We were all able to return to the house for supper, and then Daddy said we needed to go back and check on the fires to make sure they were still contained.
But, the rain had turned to snow. We walked over to the new field so that our pickup wouldn't tear up the wet pasture roads. And then the magic happened.
As we approached the field, there were five or six large bonfires continuing to burn. The snow that had been light little flakes when we left the house had suddenly gotten much heavier, and were the size of silver dollars. The ground rapidly turned white in the dark moonless night and only the light from the fires could be seen as we turned off our flashlights. For an hour, we went from pyre to pyre, pushing unburned logs back into the fire, and simply enjoying the crackling of the flames with the soft whisper of the falling snow muffling all other sound.
When someone passes away in Mason County, the funeral homes contact us to arrange for death notices to be put up on the clips at the front doors of the shops and offices around the square. We walk to Santos, Geistweidt, Mason Bank, the Courthouse, Sheriff's office, First State Bank. We drop back to the Script Shoppe, then make our way up the west side till we cut through The Commercial Bank and over to Nuway. We cross over to the north side of the square, a long stretch of doorways with lots of clips to fill. At the end of the block, we cross over to Underwood's and start the return walk to the office down the east side of the square.
During the course of those walks, I learn more about the deceased. I learn about things that have happened in the community that won't really make the news; but, that will affect some of the people I know. I get handed subscription renewals and bill payments and I pick up a can of snuff or a piece of candy.
When I get back to the office, a bit winded and sweating in the August heat, I think about what I've learned. And I make the decision to walk over to the school office rather than driving. I decide to walk to The Square Plate for lunch, and sometimes stop instead at Willow Creek when I see friends inside. And I'm glad that I didn't drive.
It’s all just my opinion.