My wife and I sat in the car and hesitated for a moment. I hadn’t noticed the skulls and Confederate flag before we decided to stop. The sign outside the shop said “motorcycle leathers.” A Harley was parked in front.
We had driven a couple of hours south of Jackson Hole on our way back to Salt Lake City to catch our flight home. The signs by the road promised elk jerky for sale, and I still hadn’t bought a gift for my parents yet. They were back home watching our three young children in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Elk jerky sounded like a unique gift to give.
Setting hesitations aside, we got out of the car and locked it. It seems a bit absurd locking your car when you park by the side of the road with nobody around in rural Idaho. Or was it Wyoming? I had no idea. But we were used to living in the suburbs of the major cities. You can never be too safe. What if some serial killer got in our car while we stepped away for a few minutes and just hid in there?
We walked past the motorcycle, the fake skulls, and the Confederate flag, and into the shop. The lights were out, but there was enough natural light coming in from the bright sunny day outside. Two old weather-beaten men were standing in there chatting. They were tattooed and wore motorcycle leathers. One of them had no teeth. But they were old and didn’t look so threatening. Much less intimidating than that time we accidentally stumbled into a Veterans of Foreign Wars bar in rural Pennsylvania to use the restroom. But that’s a whole different story.
Well, we did find our elk jerky, and buffalo jerky too. The old men were friendly enough. The jerky was $15 each, but $35 if we got the elk, buffalo, and beef together. They had trouble selling the beef because you can buy those anywhere. But elk and buffalo, those are special. I thought it was too expensive but chose to buy it anyway to avoid being that awkward out-of-towner who walks in and walks out without buying anything. My wife made a remark about the high-tech credit card scanner they were using. He made a comment about the government getting too much into their business.
Now I had my gift for my parents. No regrets. And a memorable experience.
Perhaps this is the America you recognize. For me, a city-dweller, it was unfamiliar territory. Sometimes we get comfortable in our bubbles in the densely populated areas of the United States coasts. We should all visit the real America from time to time. The areas between the coasts. Where people work their bodies to the bone to make a living and animals roam free.
Are you living in an American bubble? Try driving out two hours into the countryside. If that makes you uncomfortable or gives you culture shock, then you probably don’t live in Real America.