We packed light. Our tent, bedding, and coffee pot.
The first night we found a free camp spot on the Snake River called Madame Dorian's. It had an outhouse. No running water. Right on a lake with a train whistling through at all hours. It seemed a good fit. The sardine packed RV park that we had just passed wasn't our style.
It was dark when we arrived. As we were setting up the tent with a small flashlight, two older men came over with lanterns. The were toothless, wore scruffy clothes, and had had a bad hair day. They each had one lazy eye that kept drifting off. With severe speech impediments, they talked incessantly. We were grateful for the light, and their kindness, but it was awkward. It became clear that they were mentally disabled. Getting them to go home became a challenge. Social codes, norms, and cues weren't translating well.
Loverby needed to use the outhouse. He was gone quite a while. Too long. I started imagining the worst: Those men were part of a gypsy band of miscreants. They had jumped him. Stolen his wallet, threw him in the bushes dead. The truck keys were in his pocket. The area had few other campers. It was dark. The stake hammer was outside, out of reach. It felt like this was Deliverance and we were in need of some. Was that Dueling Banjos playing faintly in the background?
He finally came back. I asked if he could grab the hammer on the ground.
Sure, I'll put it in the truck.
No, no, bring it inside.
It is our only weapon.
Oh. For what?
Well, just in case we need it.
We promptly fell asleep to a train racing along the river. Its whistle was the last thing I remember until a patch of sheet lightning, lightning and cracking thunder woke us up. The sky split open. A downpour pounded. The tent pitched and bucked, but we went back to sleep when we realized no water was coming in. We woke up ~ surprised to be not only alive, but warm and dry.
The brothers and a son were waiting outside to greet us, as soon as we unzipped the door. Each was eating a bowl of dry fruit loops. Our hair looked similar to theirs now. Our clothes just as rumpled. Our smiles towards the lovely sunrise, and sage scented morning ~ exactly the same.
The oldest one melted my heart when he told Loverby he missed living on the farm they grew up on.
By morning's filter, after a strong cup of coffee ~ they only looked like two brothers taking care of each other in a harsh world ~ with enough kindness left over to offer us their light.