We looked at each other with wide eyes and dropped jaws as LouAnne continued talking. Her voice seemed distant for a minute as we processed what we’d just heard. Nate shook his head in disbelief and his eyes welled up for a second. “Wait, your granddaughter was born with a congenital heart defect?” Nate asked.
In a short walk down 6th Street, we brushed elbows with more tattooed, cooler than us 20-somethings than we’d seen since Portland, their hair perfectly unkempt and clothes just vintage enough. But just as prominent as the Austin hipster was a group of people just as noticeable but less advertised: Austin’s homeless.
On a hot Oklahoma City day, we found ourselves somberly sipping ice cold drinks waiting for a couple of burgers at The Garage Burgers and Beer. A better part of the morning was spent touring the former site of the Oklahoma City Bombing and current site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect prior to the memorial and museum. With vague memories of news coverage in our minds faded by over two decades of life we entered the exhibits and traveled back in time to April 19, 1995; the time was 9:01 AM.
For a second, we could hardly believe Ray’s weathered hands had created such beautiful drawings. Primarily black pen drawings, they expressed an artistic ability very few possess. We flipped through his unfinished work in awe. Immediately we pulled out two and committed ourselves to buying them at any price. “You want that one?” Ray asked. “It’s not quite done, but I can finish it for you.”
At the checkout counter an incredibly friendly cashier asked which state we were from. “Minnesota,” we answered in unison. “Oh, I know another guy from Minnesota,” she replied. “He’s a friend of mine and owns the local board shop downtown. You guys should check it out.” Her name was Hilda, and she widened our eyes to yet another serendipitous moment for Project Wildness.
At 6:00AM on June 7th, U.S. Army SPC Ross Cameron attempted to turn a corner on a rainy Sunday morning only to miss the turn by less than a foot. His car caught a curb and rolled over a median, hitting two trees before landing upside-down in the opposite lane of traffic. His airbag deployed leaving behind a gruesome memory as he died of positional asphyxiation.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and Project Wildness was running into the first bad weather of the whole trip. Driving in and out of torrential downpours throughout the day created an ominous prediction of what our night would be like in the mountain forests of Wyoming. As we passed through Daniel Junction in southern Wyoming we noticed a man standing on the side of the road hitching in the rain. Nate turned to Shane and asked, “Should we pick him up?” Shane immediately responded, “Yes we have to give this guy a ride.”
That moment was one of the most special moments we’ve had along this trip. Kids flocked in and surrounded the cart walking away with their ice cream treat. Some held them in the air with smiles on their faces and showered Kian and Shane with thanks. There is no description for that feeling that comes with putting a smile on a child’s face.
Today we met a man from New Mexico named Andy while at a beach in Seaside, OR. We were just walking back to the car from the beach when we noticed a man sitting in the back of a mini-van with the side door slid open. He wore a U.S. Marines hat as he looked quietly toward the ocean.