Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July: Part 1 (of 3)

Saturday Morning I got up early to make my way north to the great state of South Dakota to visit my good friend Shaunti's family for the Fourth of July weekend. They graciously invited me to spend the weekend with them and I was most excited to accept. Having heard about Yankton, South Dakota for the past nine years I was excited to make my first pilgrimage to the city. After seeking some advice, I decided to take the scenic route there which involved traversing the farmlands to the west and north of the city. Between Omaha and the South Dakota border the land was absolutely beautiful. For as far as the eye could see there were rolling hills and cornfields. Occasionally my horizon was dotted with quaint farmhouses and old windmills. In every way it reminded me of Grant Wood's paintings. Believe it or not I once wrote a ten page paper on Grant Wood, but sadly remember little of its content. It was pretty amazing however, of this I can assure you.

After getting detoured twice I was redirected to a series of small two lane roads with little if nothing along the route. The sheer beauty was amazing. As I finished my first ninety minutes of driving I began to wonder why I did not see any wildlife among the miles of fields. I kept hoping that a buffalo would run out in the road. One of course never knows when a lost buffalo herd might be hiding in a corn field. After realizing that my hopes of a buffalo were going to be dashed I pondered the possibility of encountering a herd of jackalobes. In the end I settled for a deer which leapt in front of my car causing me to test the brakes, burn some rubber and allow my heart to beat at that really high rate that one is supposed to when working out. (I wonder if it counted as a cardiac workout?)

As my initial hour became two, and then approached three, I knew I was getting close. The drive was getting exciting as well. The deer was gone but the graded road/construction zone was filled with softball size chunks of pavement which made for a great obstacle course, at sixty miles per hour. I was a little worried that I would guess wrong and launch a projectile into the undercarriage of my car. Then I remembered I was in farm country, people don't drive cars, they drive big trucks!

Nevertheless, I continued on my drive to the eternal city of Yankton, South Dakota. The anticipation was building and many years of wondering were about to be fulfilled, when my phone suddenly rang. It was Shaunti, checking on my progress and telling me I should stop at the upcoming Visitor's Center to get a "real sense of Yankton and South Dakota." She promised me that the Center would put everything into perspective and allow me to get a real sense of the state. After a glowing review I was pumped and could not wait to see South Dakota in her finest.

The GPS flashed 10 miles until final destination and I was like a small child on Christmas morning. Soon there after I came across for the visitors center. Eagerly I turned my blinker on and raced into the parking lot. Not wanting to waste anytime I leapt out of the car and made my way toward the main entrance of the building. I did notice that it was a little strange that there were so tons of children and families there. The caravan to car ratio was a little high for my comfort level, but held out faith that this stop would be everything I was promised it would be.

Not wanting to be slowed down by packs of children making there way along the sidewalk, I walked quickly across the grass and into the building. No one was going to slow me down, after all I had waited nine years for this moment. So I put my head down to avoid eye contact from the searing eyes of those I had passed and I walked into the center. Suddenly I heard the squeals of happy children. I saw balloons everywhere. Then without warning someone grabbed my shoulder. Without warning they pressed their face close to mine, smiled and grabbed their nose. It squeaked. I was standing in a sea of Clowns, that is right clowns. There were balloon animals and water squirting flowers everywhere and I realized I was not in Nebraska anymore (although I actually still was). I have always heard that Midwesterners are really really nice. Well, picture a Midwesterner clown.

When a normal person meets you for the first time and you back away from them, they accept your body language to indicate that the conversation is over. They then politely leave you alone and go their separate way. When you slink away from a clown, they interpret it to mean "follow me." Then, in awkward exchange, they continue to follow you. They desperately pursue you in hopes of getting you to smile. You try to escape but they keep popping up like a Whack-a-Mole game, except you don't have the mallet. Sometimes you just don't want to hang out with clown.
Bozo clearly did not care and did not get my body language. However, the children standing near the door did and they parted as I swiftly sought my escape path. The clown tried to catch me, but I think his big feet slowed him down.

My fourth of July adventure blog posting will continue tomorrow after I have a chance to sleep......(the next blog postings: meet the Althoffs, fireworks Yankton style, South Dakota-Good Faith, Good Families, my vocation journey-a chance to reflect, etc...)

Side Note: I am currently accepting bids from the Obama Administration on the solar energy radiating from the tops of my feet and my knees. One great thing about being Irish is that you always know where you forgot to put sunscreen on.

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