New Friends

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This past weekend we took a short day trip down to Lake Wateree, SC. We thought it would be fun to check out a new area of this lovely Palmetto state.... and of course to throw in a line.

No luck.
But if the fish are as big as the hornets flying around this place, the wait will be worth it.

On our way there we drove down some deserted, country back roads.
Nothing for miles and miles...just the way I like it.

I was doing my usual stare-out-the-window-and-daydream when we came to a random stop sign.
Not only did our car stop, but my heart did too.

THIS was staring me right in the face when we stopped at this random stop sign. I just thought it was the coolest truck I've ever seen. I was drawn to it. I did a serious rubber neck and stared this thing down until I couldn't see it anymore. There's a rusty old sign in the front windshield that say's 'OPEN' but I couldn't tell if it was legit. If I had to make an assumption, it was closed and had been for years.

So we continued on to the state park we were planning to check out.

It was cool! Loved all the pine trees. But it was paaacked with families on summer vacation so I kinda sorta wanted to leave. Nothing wrong with that, for the record, it's just when you want peace and quiet...
you want peace and quiet.
Especially after I saw what appeared to be a young 12 year old girl yell at her toddler brother:

Yeah I'm good.

But, we drove a while to get there so after a couple hours of fishing, hiking, and exploring this Lake Wateree town... I still could not get the image of that rundown produce truck out of my head.

Finally I opened my mouth and said 'Hey Mitch, remember that truck we drove by on our way here?
We need to stop on our way home.'
I just want one photo.

So 27 bug bites and a bag of fritos later, we packed up and were on our way to this truck.

We pulled right in to the empty rundown parking lot and I got my trusty iPhone out, ready for a quick photo shoot. Mitch stayed in the car and left it running, and I hopped out to get my shot.

To my surprise, there were two old African American men lounging in cheap white patio chairs under the shade of a huge pecan tree right around the corner. When they saw me, they abruptly stood up. One got in his old truck and left, and the other came walking over to me, as fast as his walk with a slight limp would allow him.

Usually in situations like this I would feel rude, like I was trespassing on someones private property and invading their space. But when Thomas walked up to me I got the feeling like I was seeing an old friend.

He immediately greeted us and brought us to his produce truck. I had no idea what to say because I wasn't there for produce. Before I could get a word out though, he was saying 'Here, you want a watermelon? I grew these myself in my garden down the road. You want these squash? How about these tomatoes? here take them all.'

In a matter of seconds my arms were full of bright colored fruits and vegetables, stumbling to load them all into my SUV. He wanted to give it all to us for free, but there was no way we could not pay him.

I continuously thanked him and told him how excited I was to eat all this food! I finally broke down and  told him that I really stopped because I wanted a photo of his truck. Not surprisingly he said Oh of course you can take a photo! Take all you want!!

He began to tell me the story of how he got the truck, and he mentioned he bought it in Connecticut. This made me confess that we just moved down here from New Hampshire. He was so surprised and happy when I said that. He was in the Marines and spent quite some time at Pease Air National Guard Base located on the New Hampshire seacoast.

5 minutes into talking he said Come on ya'll, come check out my shop! I looked at him, then at Mitch and thought..what shop? There was a rundown, old dark grey brick building with vines growing around it sitting right around the corner...surely that couldn't be it?

Harrison's Rest Stop.
That is his store that he has owned and operated for years.

I couldn't believe I didn't' see this, but I also couldn't believe what was inside.

We walked into this dark, rustic but classic gas station type store with old shelves of snacks and old coolers full of soda,water, and night crawlers. Hundreds of black and white photos lined the dusty walls from ground to ceiling. The place smelt like an attic, but in a good way. In a way that immediately brought me back to sitting in my Granny's attic on a hot summer day going through old photos and reminiscing.

And that's exactly what we did for the next couple hours. Mr. Tomas Harrison, 83 year old , tall Southern man born in South Carolina but spent most of his life in Connecticut owning a barber shop. He loved to do hair. He taught many people how to do hair and got them licensed. He kept looking at both my hair and Mitch's and in his words 'I can do ya'lls hair. Oh I can do white girl's hair too. I can do it all!'

We inched around the store as he pointed to every photo, showing us all of his successful children, all of his grandchildren in college... This man was beaming with pride. He even showed us an old photo of himself; an extremely handsome young man with a full head of perfectly groomed hair and super high cheek bones.

He told us stories of the Korean war and how his job at one point was to sift through and read all letters sent to the men in the service, to make sure they wouldn't offend any of the soldiers.

He showed us the stray cats he loves and feeds I screamed with joy and he even filled a brown paper bag full of fresh pecans from his tall tree he sits under.

I wish I would have taken more photos of the inside of his shop, or even of him. But it was one of those moments where time stopped and nothing else mattered besides our conversation.
My phone was in my pocket and it never came out.


We made our way outside and Mr.Thomas told me,
'Get on over there now and take your photo before it's too late- The sun's going down!'
He was right. In the midst of our encounter I completely forgot about my beloved truck photo and shadows were starting to take over.

So I ran over and snapped my photo, just before the entire truck was engulfed in shadows.

I walked back over and we exchanged goodbyes, shaking hands and promising to see each other again.


Driving by this run down truck, you would have never guessed that the kindest old soul awaits you.

It was just one of those days that gives you a swift reminder of how amazing life can be if you just keep an open mind....If you just pay attention to the small things that usually go unnoticed...

You never know what you'll find.

And for the record, that was the best watermelon I've ever had in my life.

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