By Barry Zander
Butterbean, the Washingtonians, the barber at Dosewallips, the sloop stowaway, the many fellow travelers in the coaches in front of us … these are some of the folks I will introduce you to in the days and weeks ahead.
I’ll start with the way Butterbean (his chosen online moniker) came into our lives. Butterbean, now deceased, owned a linear ranch in north Texas. A decade ago we posted numerous blogs during our RV trip to Alaska, and he responded to almost every one of them. While we were 4,000 miles apart, he became a good buddy on the road.
Two years later we were heading east from California to Florida along I-10 but decided to detour along I-20 to pay Butterbean and his wife a visit. We have distinct memories of the oil and gas fields we drove through to get to our destination. If you’ve been there, you will know what I mean, and if not, that’ll be a topic for discussion in a future posting.
Driving at about 20 mph so as not to pass up the gate at Butterbean’s spread … we did anyway. We were able to back up and thread our way through the narrow entrance with inches of leeway on each side of the rig, bumping along over a cattle guard – a mile long, a few feet wide.
Mr. Butterbean’s wife, Doris, stepped out of the small ranch-style home first, rounding the front of a vintage Georgetown Class A that had obviously not moved in years. We quickly understood why, when out came Butterbean cranking the rails on the sides of his wheelchair, to which he had been confined for years.
The couple appeared ecstatic to meet us, since they apparently had never hosted any of his many online correspondents. Doris wasted no time in giving us a tour of the ranch, all 40 acres of it, a mile-long narrow stretch along a very rural Texas farm road. We were first introduced to Rosie, a beautiful pony with a blonde mane that swished frequently. Rosie immediately took a liking to Monique, rubbing against her and nuzzling her. We next met the 12-member herd of small horses, American Miniatures, fenced in the corral.
The field was cluttered with farm implements, pitch forks, shovels, etc., partially hidden by high prairie grass. Butterbean lamented over the fact that he could no longer tend to routine chores since losing mobility. Much of the yard was taken up by a faded barn that appeared to be filled with wooden furniture: We could see chairs with missing backs and tables with legs lost in the rubble.
Chatting in his man cave
Once inside the home we sat on the bed in the front room, Butterbean’s man cave, while we talked about his days prior to being limited to the wheelchair – days when he and Doris squeezed their motorhome through the gate to see America. And we recounted stories of our trip to Alaska, a bucket-list adventure they would never take. He was gratified to have traveled with us vicariously through our postings. We learned that both of our hosts were educated professionals, who retired to an agrarian lifestyle.
Butterbean’s bedroom-man cave was ornamented with photos, most of them travel scenes, pasted to all the walls at a level he could easily see from his mobile confinement. In one corner was the year-round decorated Christmas tree, lights a-blinking, a festive display in a crowded room.
Doris invited Monique to join her in the kitchen, where practically every surface was covered with figurines and ornamental items, probably remembrances of their traveling days. Monique guessed that since Doris had two dishwashers, they apparently had guests over quite a bit. “No, we don’t have people over. I use them as cooling racks when I bake cookies!”
Our visit lasted about three hours, until we had to get back on the road to meet our newly born granddaughter in Louisiana. As we drove out and along “the ranch,” we exchanged warm waves with them.
Over the next few months, Butterbean’s comments on our blogs became more infrequent … until we received the notice from Doris that Butterbean had passed away. She let us know that he considered us among his best friends.