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Earsplitting Bus Odyssey


IN 1970 my wife and I were returning by bus from San Francisco. We immediately befriended a 60-something retired bank clerk from England. He was a delightful source of information and full of questions about the states.

After a stop in eastern California, another 60-something man in a double-breasted suit that would have been welcome in the Truman White House sat down behind us. His weathered face and stentorian voice put some passengers off, but he and I struck up a conversation. I talked, he hollered.

He was an Iowa farmer who had gone West to visit his family and was now on his way home. In a speaking style developed during years of talking over the thunder of farm equipment, he told me he had been to Virginia City. "DO YOU KNOW WHAT WE DID THERE?" he boomed. "No, what?" "WE WALKED UP ONE SIDE OF THE STREET AND DOWN THE OTHER."

The farmer talked about each place they had visited. The common thread was a small notebook he would consult to tell me the elevation of each of these places.

At a dinner stop in Nevada, we went through a cafeteria line and spread out to eat. I sat down with the English bank clerk. A few minutes into our meal he pointed to the farmer across the room. In his clipped stiff-upper-lip voice he said, "Interesting fellow. Seems to have a book of altitudes." I nodded and sprayed food.

The next day when we changed buses in Salt Lake City, the farmer unwittingly got his vengeance. We all let him exit first, and when he chose to connect with bus A, we chose bus B. We were finally rid of the loud farmer, but that wasn't the end of our torment: The farmer was replaced with a genuine cowboy headed for a big rodeo in Cheyenne. The cowboy not only proved to be more garrulous and obstreperous than the farmer, he grew louder and drunker the closer we got to Denver. Yee-hah!

Charlie Wichita, KS



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