The stranger placed a 24 oz. soda on the counter to buy. “Why DO you live in the middle of nowhere?” The man looked in his late 40s, with a surfer tee shirt and wavy combed back hair. He lowered his rose colored glasses and gave a smug grin, “This IS the middle of nowhere isn’t it?”
From behind the cash register I couldn’t help but grimace as I scanned the soda. The dank musty smell of his cologne was drifting towards my side of the counter; it didn’t do much to appease my situation. Bleh, I was doing just fine up until about 10 seconds ago. Why did this man have to stop here? And then I remembered, oh yes; because we are the only gas station and restaurant for miles. Most wayward tourists did stop here. Any person driving from the south of Nevada to the north going into Oregon and Idaho were undoubtedly forced to travel North on Highway 95. The stretch of road was typically long and lonely. When people pass the little town of Orovada, a significant number of them almost always had to use the restroom or needed to stop and stretch their legs.
“I suppose…” and I diverted my eyes to look at the view of the Sawtooth Mountain outside the window of the store. “…it’s for the wide open spaces and the mountains…and the smell of the sage after a good rain…”
Not wanting to wait for me to finish, the man rolled his eyes. He acted like someone trapped in an annoying situation. I suppose he was wondering, ‘Why would I even justify living here? Who would want to live in a place like this?’ Most people could never possibly understand, because they had never experienced the joy of a small town like this. They were merely passing through; on their way to and from a better place (in their opinion). What could possibly be in it for them?
I realized my manager was watching the whole situation. Steve, normally a quiet man of solid disposition, was getting just as annoyed by this man as I was. He turned his back and pushed his tuft of graying hair over his brow. I saw him cross his arms as I went on. “That will be $1.10. You know, I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion. We think this place is wonderful.”
The man shrugged his shoulders as he swiped his credit card. After it went through he took the tea and left the store.
The bell dinged as the man exited and Steve, still with his back towards me said, “When I left Oregon all those years ago, I told myself that I was going to take off and find a peaceful place. I wanted a place where I could watch the sun set every night and grow a garden. I wanted a place where I could grow old, have a dog and be happy. A place where…the people were kind and there were farms all around… and by golly! I found it!” He turned around and grinned. “And you know, it takes people like that to make me remember my perspective. Most people don’t realize how good they have it. Or how good they could have it if they just made the choice to be happy.” His blue eyes were shining as he shared his conviction.
And then I realized that the Middle of Nowhere really was a matter of perspective and opinion. To the man that came in the store, it was a place where he never wanted to be, but for us, it was just the opposite. I don’t know where he had come from or what he knew, but I know that most people don’t like these small towns. Driving through a place where there is not so many amenities or luxuries can be daunting to those who are not used to it, but to those who are, it is liberating. Waking up each morning to the sun over the mountains and the hum of tractors in the fields and the smell of sage right after the rain- that’s what Steve and I like best. And we will tell you all about it on your next trip to the Sawtooth Station in Orovada, NV. Come for lunch, it’s delicious!