Sometimes mistaken identity can be embarrassing — funny, too. Here’s proof in a true story related to me by my county extension agent buddy, ol’ Avery Ware.
An aging (old like me) absentee ranch owner who lives in a large city called Avery recently to ask if he’d help with the educational aspects of her Gardening Club — whose 30-plus members were bussing to the Flint Hills on their annual tour. Their plan wuz to tour the Chase County Flint Hills, eat lunch at the lady’s ranch, then come to Cottonwood Falls to shop for awhile, then eat at the Grand Central Hotel before bussing back to their city homes.
The lady also had a special request — that Avery distribute to each garden club lady on the tour a little pocket handbook that identifies wildflowers growing in the Flint Hills.
Avery agreed to meet the group’s bus in a business parking lot in Emporia. He even managed a ride to the parking lot so he wouldn’t have his pickup stranded in Emporia. But, before he left his office, he grabbed a bundle of the wildflower booklets and the only handy container he could find to put them in wuz a clear plastic container that formerly held ice cream.
Well, when he arrived at the parking lot, the tour bus wuz late, and while he waited for the bus to arrive, Avery stood lounging against the outside the building. And, please picture him standing there in his cowboy hat, jeans, and boots, holding a cheap plastic container filled with “something.”
After about a half-hour, a little old lady emerged from the business’s front door and made her way up to Avery, pulled a wrinkled dollar bill from her purse, and said, “If it would help you, I’ll give you a dollar for one of your books.”
Avery realized in an instant that she’d mistaken him for a homeless man in need of a handout. Embarrassed, he sputtered out something about not needing the money, but that she could have a free wildflower identifier if she wanted one. He said it took some insistence on his part to convince her to take the free booklet.
After his “generous donor” left the premises, Avery wuz chuckling to himself about the incident, when he spied a young rancher from his county coming into the business to make a purchase. He knows the fella well, so he wuz surprised with the guy failed to make eye contact with him and walked right past him, standing 20 feet away, into the store.
When the guy emerged from the store a few minutes later, Avery had moved closer to the door and the guy looked at him, grinned widely, and offered this explanation of his earlier snub: “Avery, I’m sorry I didn’t speak. I avoided you because I thought you were some religious kook distributing church handouts.”
So, within a few minutes, Avery had been misidentified as a homeless hobo and a religious kook, both of which amused him greatly.
Well, eventually the gardening club bus arrived and Avery hopped on. The group traveled down the Kansas Turnpike to Cassoday, admiring the verdant green vistas of the Flint Hills, stopping at the Knute Rockne memorial, then up highway 177 Scenic Byway to the lady’s ranch with Avery entertaining as tour guide, botanist, naturalist, and historian all the way.
When he arrived back in his office, a friend of his, ol’ Sol E. Mender, who runs a saddlery and boot/shoe repair shop in the basement of a local country/western store, stopped by and Avery told him about being mistaken for a hobo and religious zealot, and Sol, too, thought it wuz funny.
After Sol returned to his business, two of the garden clubbers made their way into the store and Sol realized who they were and asked them if they were enjoying their garden club tour of the Flint Hills in spring.
The spry gardeners brightly replied, “Yes, and that nice old gentleman who was our tour guide added greatly to our enjoyment.”
So, Avery added “nice old gentleman” to his list of misidentifications that day.
Our Iowa sheep shearing friend, ol’ Nick deHyde, and his wife Tanna visited last week and he told me an interesting story. Nick had hired a local farmer to deep-rip a river bottom field that had become soil compacted. During the ripping, the farmer’s tillage tool ripped a large, exceedingly rusty old log chain out of the ground — which he gave to Nick.
Not one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, Nick simply hooked the rusty log chain to the back of his pickup truck and dragged it down the gravel road a few miles. He switched ends to “polish up” the entire log chain. After a few miles of road-rash polishing, Nick pronounced the log chain “not as good as new, but definitely useable.”
We also had a great time fishing and B.S.-ing, and finished off the weekend with a trip to Platte City to help our mutual friends, Canby and May Bea Handy, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. After a hearty Sunday breakfast at the Weston Cafe in historic Weston, Mo., the deHydes returned to Iowa and we returned to the Flint Hills.
We got a little flood in two days ago. Damage wuz minimal, but we don’t need any more rainfall for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we’re supposed to get more tomorrow. In Kansas, the weather seems to be “all or nothing.”
I’ll close this weekly undertaking with a few words of wisdom about floods. Alice Oswald said: “It’s a relief to hear the rain. It’s the sound of billions of drops, all equal, all equally committed to falling, like a sudden outbreak of democracy. Water, when it hits the ground, instantly becomes a puddle or rivulet or flood.”
Have a good ‘un.