Searching For America—It’s Not About The Roads

Ted Edwards | Apr 12, 2019 | Ride Life | 16’s-not-about-the-roads/

I recently met some of the motorcycle group that have stayed at Morning 
Song Acres for several years now. They brought Myrin and Audrey to a dinner party that we attended. One of the group gave me this email address so I could see what he had written about High Prairie Quilt Show. He is a teacher and motorcycle group member consisting mostly of his family and friends, all from the Seattle area.

—Barbara Parrish

“To get even near humility, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in the desert.” –C.S. Lewis

I always thought epiphanies happened in scenic settings: a snowy mountaintop, the South Pacific Ocean, or the Australian Outback at sunset. Mine came at a quilt show. My revelation happened on our last group ride when I overheard a comment made by Terry Hammond, the unquestioned leader of the Mild Hogs.

“You know, real men would be at the rodeo,” he said. Terry was being facetious because of course, we were at a quilt show.

“This is why we ride,” he said. “This is pure Americana.”

The quilt show we were attending was a fundraiser for the High Prairie Fire Department. All of the quilts were donated by Diane Cazalet seated in the far corner of the room, surrounded by smiling family and friends. Her decades of work hung around the grange hall like a timeline of her life. Which it was.

Instantly I realized where my years of writing had gone astray. I had been writing about our bikes, our roads and ourselves, an ego-centric point of view. Years were wasted missing my real mission: uncover the personal relationships that make this country unique in world history, the American ideals of love and sacrifice for the good of others, whether family, friend or stranger.

Terry was right. Men were at the rodeo taming beasts whose aim was to toss their riders into the dirt and trample them. But men who put others first, who loved their community, who sacrificed themselves for the good of others were attending the quilt show. It was a potluck also, so that helped.

I had a new mission. My crusade was to seek the American ideal of love for our fellow countrymen everywhere I rode. The quest took me three weeks, covered eight states and over 4,000 miles. What I found brought joy, pain, and changed how I ride and write forever. All because of a quilt show in the small hamlet of High Prairie.

High Prairie lies in a steep valley in southern Washington State, homes widely spaced, hidden in the rising mountain walls and thick pine forests. It is likely the entire town attended the quilt show, and all of them could have squeezed into a school bus. Yet, they welcomed strangers like us into their family, even though we had known them for only a few hours and would be gone by morning.

The quilts sold well, a volunteer firefighter gave a tender speech and the Bluegrass Band in the corner covered Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads, earning a standing ovation from everyone under the age of 50. Both of us. Yet, I could not stop thinking about the love it took for Diane to give her life’s work as a gift to a volunteer organization. Also, I could not decide which took more love and sacrifice; giving away a lifetime’s collection of 70 quilts or being a volunteer firefighter in a town nestled into the woods in a fire-prone northwest. Both laid down their life for their neighbors. Nothing is more American.

I could have been on the motorcycle scraping my foot pegs on our secret roads or at the rodeo watching men beat their chest at their beastly conquests. However, neither act has a lasting impact. Their memory and accolades fade as soon as the next corner or contestant. What permanently changes the course of lives (and nations) is a sacrifice, not show. I wondered if this trait existed only in small towns where interdependence is a survival trait. Would I find it elsewhere? I would soon find out.

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