I Have an Idea–Let’s Go To Death Valley Again

Mr. T and I are on the road again. After surviving the bout with pneumonia, a 14 day cruise to Hawaii, Thanksgiving away from home, Christmas at home and the beginning of a new year, we threw the necessities of desert life into the RV, hooked up the Jeep and got exactly nowhere. For some obscure reason the fuel pump in the RV gave up the ghost. But we are resilient–a major temper tantrum, watching the AAA tow truck haul the Minnie away and downing a $70 bottle of cabernet later–we adjusted our plans.(As if we had any other choice!) Three days and $1000.00 later we hit the road.

Our destination, of course, is Death Valley. With our frozen meals, desert clothes and both dogs in tow, we headed south on the I-5. Yes, the Congress-created dust bowl is still there. Yes, the wonderful fields of food and acres of orchards are dead and desiccated–just black charred sticks against a dirty sky. Thank you Palosi Galore.

But the best part of the trip is always going through our old stomping grounds of Bakersfield. Bako has a radio talk show host who is a local treasure. No finely honed sound bites for him–his favorite comment is simply, “Well, that’s just a buncha crap!” He makes Rush Limbaugh look like a fence-sitter.

We merged onto the 99 just as Jaz’ show came on. He went on for awhile about the usual political topics–just enough to get his listening audience worked up a bit and ready for more–when he took a commercial break. The show resumed with a complete playing of “The Old Rugged Cross.” Okay, it’s Bakersfield, not too unusual. Then Jaz began to tell about a personal crisis in his life. His mother-in-law had just had surgery and gotten a very serious cancer diagnosis. After calling a few friends, he’d called the local representative for the area who was in session up in Sacramento and left a message for her to call back which she did just a few minutes later. Jaz poured out the story of the diagnosis and how upset he and his wife were and the assemblywoman just began praying with him right over the phone, right there in the hall outside the chambers in Sacramento.

By now his voice was breaking a bit. Did I mention that “The Old Rugged Cross” had continued to play softly in the background? One could almost feel the hush settling over Bako. We heard about his dear Mama Ross (‘so I’ll cherish the old rugged cross…’); we heard his confession of his failure to live a good Christian life (’til my trophies at last I lay down…’); we heard him ask all his listeners to please pray for Mama Ross (‘I will cling to the old rugged cross…’). If I know anything at all, I know that at that moment there were at least 100,000 prayers that stormed heaven that very moment! (‘and exchange it some day for a crown.’)

But wait…there’s more. He told us how his MIL had encouraged him and treated him better than some of his ex-wives had. Then he segued into his own Daddy’s death many years ago and his Mama dying only a few years ago. By now I’m trying to drive the RV and wipe the tears running down my cheeks. Even Mr. T was hanging on every word. But then, just as we passed the exit for Merle Haggard Blvd., Jaz segued into growing up in Texas by way of Oklahoma! In 10 minutes of radio broadcasting perfection we had been witness to what made America great–and also gave us Country Western music. We’d had Mama and Daddy, death, backsliding, prayer and redemption, the Dustbowl migration, moving from poverty to middle-class, Texas and God bless America. It was magnificent!


About mamatoc

A Baby Boomer learning to live in a retirement community in California.
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