by Dave High
LA VETA — I usually try to write something in a humorous vein, but there are times when something other is more appropriate.
I was headed towards Walsenburg this past Monday when I saw someone walking up the hill on Highway 12 just outside of La Veta as the road rises out of the valley. As I got closer I could see it was a little guy, not much younger than me, slowly carrying – make that literally dragging – four pieces of luggage: a backpack, a small suitcase with a handle and wheels, and two pieces of luggage (one rather large) up the hill. In my depressed mood of feeling bad for all the people who have been tragically affected by the fire, I slowed down but didn’t stop.
I couldn’t get the guy out of my mind. I kept thinking, “What is this person’s story? Is he someone that got caught in this disaster? How did he manage to carry all that stuff half way up the hill? No one would have left him off there.”
About halfway to Highway 160 I turned around. I just couldn’t let the guy go any farther without some help. I pulled up across from him, barely off the road. There was very little room for me to get out safely with traffic coming quickly each way, barely squeezing by, so I hollered over to the guy to get his stuff and put it in my trunk.
Curiously, the man didn’t say anything. He just pointed to a small map he had in his hand. I motioned for him to come on, and he did after gathering up his belongings. After he got into the car, he still didn’t say anything. He just pointed on the map and indicated he was headed west to Alamosa.
I thought to myself that maybe the guy didn’t speak English or was hard of hearing, so I pointed toward 160 and said a little louder that I would get him up to the highway where he stood a better chance of getting a ride in the right direction. He nodded, said nothing and off we went.
It was a short, silent trip with my mysterious passenger.
When we arrived at the junction to 160, I – through a series of idiotic gesturing – indicated I was going east, he was going west and that I would get him to the other side of the road to set him up in a spot to hitchhike. He nodded again. Then the man showed me a hand-written card that said, “My name is Bruce. I’m not deaf, just a mute.”
Feeling foolish looking back on it now I wish I’d have had a card to show him that said, “My name is Dave. I’m not stupid; just a little slow on the uptake.”
I shook Bruce’s hand, patted him on the back and said I hoped he would get a ride soon. He got his belongings out of the car, and I drove off to do my errands in Walsenburg.
About 45 minutes later, as I was headed back to La Veta, I was happy to see that Bruce was gone. It troubled me, though, that I didn’t take the time to find out where he came from, why he was here or where he was going. Then, for some reason it didn’t matter what his crazy story was, the thought of him lugging those bags up that hill gave my sagging spirits a lift.
I got to thinking about this and what meaning one might derive from my encounter with Bruce. My first thought was that people are crazy.
But then as I thought about it, I realized that the human spirit can be unyielding in the face of any setback. Life has a lot of twists and turns, and you never know what you’re going to come across next.
Like Bruce, you don’t have to say a lot to get a lot accomplished in the face of adversity. Just keep on keepin’ on.
For those negatively affected by the disastrous fires, my thoughts are with you and may the spirit of Bruce be with you as well!