Encounter, though brief, left long-lasting memories
In this life, we sometimes have a brief encounter with a stranger, then never see or hear from that person again. Occasionally when driving, I notice a man walking down the road with a dog following along behind him. Then I remember him, a man my late husband and I met in a campground.
He was just another camper, walking his English Shepherd dog past our campsite. His motor home was parked at a site across the road from ours. We assumed he must be without a human companion. Nobody else had emerged from the RV.
Campers are usually friendly. He was no different. Before long he stopped by our campsite to say hello. After a few minutes of conversation between us and its master, the dog tugged on its leash and groaned. The friendly stranger explained it was the dog’s way of letting him know it was ready to move on. So they did, but we had found out he and his dog traveled alone in that long, long motor home.
Several hours later, he pulled up a chair at our campsite. We exchanged pleasantries—we were from Alabama, he was from a northern state. We were there among numerous friends for a dulcimer festival. He was on the road full-time, traveling wherever the whim struck him. He traveled to help him overcome the loneliness and depression that had engulfed him on the passing of his wife. He purchased the motor home when he realized he could no longer endure being alone in his home state during the long, dreary winter. It was bad enough during the summer when he could get out and try to enjoy the out-of-doors. It was just too much when cold weather moved in.
He told us he was wounded in Vietnam, suffering injuries to both feet. On a day when he appeared at his campsite without a shirt, we noticed battle scars on his body he had left unmentioned.
Whenever my husband, a minister, was introduced to someone, he always asked where that person went to church. Yes, our new acquaintance was a Christian. He had recently returned from a mission trip with a local congregation to help rebuild a church destroyed by arson.
When we moved our RV to another campground for another festival, we invited our new friend to the group’s covered dish supper. He and his dog arrived early with his guitar. He left the dog with me while he joined my husband and our dulcimer friends for an afternoon jam session. One day we piled in his jeep and went out to eat together. Several months later as we parked our RV at a Florida military campground, a familiar motor home sat in the site beside us. Once again, we enjoyed his company. Then we parted for the last time.
Sadly we lost touch, but every time I see a man and a dog walking down a lonesome road, the lonely man seeking peace comes to mind.
Nina Keenam is a former newspaper reporter.
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