The place is like something out of a '50s movie. It's a service station, so it is filled with auto parts. There are several boxes of fuses, obviously untouched, in which the fuses are rusting. The walls are lined at just above head height with dozens of fan belts. Assorted other bits and pieces fill the shelves and lie under the counter. I could swear none of this stuff has been touched for years. And a prominent sticker advises: "Driver has no cash. He's married."
Sitting in front of the counter is an old man who looks up at me in surprise. (Is he the advertised "driver"?) I filled up, I tell him, and I'm here to pay. "Oh?" he says in wonder. "You got gas? I didn't hear nothin'. How 'bout that! How much d'you get?"
As I'm telling him, he hauls himself to his feet -- he's a big shambling bear of a man -- and totters out into the hot morning sun to check for himself.
He totters back to take my money. Then he tells me with a toothy grin that a week ago, he turned 95.
This part of Nebraska is ranch country. Several people tell me about one particular ranch, Haythorn, that's the biggest around. It covers 120,000 acres, and they raise horses. In fact, I hear from someone I meet at a bar, it's the world's largest quarter horse ranch. When he tells me this, I nod sagely, unwilling to let on that I have no idea what exactly a quarter horse is.
As I drive past the ranch, gleaming muscular specimens of equine flesh appear on the other side of the fence. Are these quarter horses? I don't know, but I'm curious. They are splendid beasts.
I'm curious too about the sign beside one of the Haythorn entrances: "Arreguy Ranch". I spend many subsequent minutes wondering two things. One, is that actually somebody's name? Or two, was it perchance named because they had an Indian employee who was prone to saying that phrase? Perhaps he meant either "Arre guy!" -- "Hey dude!" -- or "Arre, gai!".
That last, perchance, because he tended to get confused between horses and cows.
Angie is the too-pert jockey on a radio station I am tuned to for a while while driving east on Highway 92. At one point, she tells listeners brightly that Will Smith's wife has been trying for months to get pregnant. The two of them saw a fertility specialist who put her on a "pregnancy diet": lots of milk, lots of veggies ... [pregnant pause from Angie], and, "hopefully, lots of sex!"
That's when I switched to my own music. I am willing to bet it was the first time that on Nebraska's Highway 92 somewhere east of Tryon, these immortal lines floated into the air: "Man mera dharti par, Aur kabhi ambar mein".
Later, another radio station has a talk show on kleptomania. I tune in in the middle, and I listen in some wonder, because there's a woman on who talks about how her abusive parents were always running her down, saying she couldn't do anything, so as a kid she turned to stealing things from stores. And how the habit became compulsive and only got worse after she got to 35 years old.
I'm wondering what kind of talk show this is, what kind of station. Then I hear the woman saying, "I am searching for the love of Jesus because I know Jesus is the son of god."
Another woman's voice interrupts: "I hope you know, Satan says the same things."
First woman (the kleptomaniac): "Oh great. Now you tell me."
Oh yes, now I know what kind of talk show this is. I switched once more to immortal lines I'm carrying myself. Such as "Tu jo kahe jeevan bhar, Tere liye main gaoon".
A large sign in Ft Collins, Colorado, proclaims: "Think you'll find richer coffee than locally owned DazBog? BOLSHEVIK!"
I don't dare suggest Nescafe made in India. Not that anyone would have heard me.
Another sign in Columbus, Nebraska, proclaims: "Rent 5 DVDs for 7 days, only $5.99! Two day rentals not included."
I'm unable to make sense of this offer. Can anyone help?
But it does, for some odd reason, remind me of the current offer at Subway restaurants: all footlong sandwiches, only $5! For a limited time only!
In a Subway in the aforesaid Columbus, I see this offer spelled out in full. Among the footlongs listed as available for $5 is the "Veggie Delite", a peculiar thing where they take two bits of bread and stuff a pile of lettuce, peppers, olives, jalapenos and tomatoes in between. (I've had it, so I know, and I don't recommend it).
But more to the point, the board also lists the "regular" price of all these footlongs that are now "only $5". And what's the "regular" price of the "Veggie Delite"?
Rush to your nearest Subway. Tell 'em I sent you. They may up the price even more. For a limited time only.