One thing that is really hard to get used to, since both of us are introverts, is that the people we meet on our journey just want to talk, mostly about themselves. This is actually great, because I personally never learned anything while flapping my jaw and, since I retired, I have the time and inclination to be a much better listener. I’ll never be an extrovert, but once we started down the fulltime RV path, we have met hundreds of people – RV’ers and otherwise – and I find that I can learn a great deal from them if I just listen to them.
We have a dynamite opener to the conversation, because the first thing people ask when they meet us is, “Where are you from?” Our stock answer: “Everywhere.” That leads into the explanation that we’re fulltime RVers and the road is our home, and that usually opens the floodgates among whomever we talk with.
Sometimes, after we meet someone new that just loves to talk about really interesting things, Pat and I just look at each other, shake our heads and wonder, “How did that just happen?” Like the native american scholar and author in Nebraska who, once he found he had a listener, talked to me for an hour about everything he knew about Plains Indians, explorers, the Oregon Trail and the history of the settlement of America. Really interesting stuff, and all he lacked was an attentive listener. Or the guy in Missouri, retired history teacher, who just wanted to tell me everything he knew about how Missouri became a state. We’re not talking about just anybody we run into, although there are plenty of those, but that one person who knows cool stuff and is just itching to talk your arm off telling you about it. This doesn’t happen to us just occasionally, it totally happens all the time now.
It happened again tonight, when Pat and I spent the day up in the mountains at Grand Teton National Park. We had let church slide this morning, mostly because the only mass in Dubois, Wyoming – where our RV was located – was at 8AM. My heart doesn’t even start beating until at least 9AM, so lets just say that the spirit was willing but the alarm clock was weak. So then, when we got to the park we were sort of disappointed because the prevailing wind today clouded the mountains in smoke from forest fires in Washington, Idaho and Montana – we took pictures but they were very hazy and disappointing – plus we were getting a little aggravated at the large crowds of people who seemed to want to see the same things we did, all at the same time. Topping it off, we found that the animals in the park – it’s known for its photogenic wildlife – seemed to be on strike today.
But on the way out of the park we noticed this pretty little chapel, beautifully built out of whole cedar logs, in the woods on a lake and we thought, so lets stop in and take some pictures. It was called the “Chapel of the Sacred Heart.” Turns out, the chapel is maintained by the Teton County Historical Society, is located on National Park land, and the local catholic diocese supplies a circuit-rider priest to do a Catholic Mass once a Sunday at 5PM, according to a sign on the door.
So here we were, at 4:30 PM, thinking, “Boy, I bet it wouldn’t piss God off if I actually went to church, it being Sunday and all.” So we stuck around. At 4:45 people started showing up, and the place – pretty small to start out with – managed to pretty much fill up. We figured the priest would be a “circuit rider” – a member of the Catholic clergy who handles the Sunday masses at churches too small for a regular priest, sort of “Have Chalice, Will Travel.” At 5PM, in walks this bishop, complete with shepherd’s crook and skullcap. As he explained, he is an auxiliary bishop from the Archdiocese of Chicago, and he just happened to be in the area for some kind of conference when he got drafted into handling some of the circuit-rider load. With that kind of mojo in our corner we figured we’d made the right choice. so after the service was over, as is our wont, we went looking for a restaurant to have dinner. The only one open on a Sunday night was in a very upscale hotel complex run by the National Park Service, and they had a diner-style food counter as one of their restaurant choices. We sat at the counter next to this elderly lady sitting by herself, and the usual “Where ya from?” started things up.
As it turned out, the lady worked part-time for the hotel complex as a site historian (who knew they had them?), and was a retired historian for Teton County. We mentioned the chapel we went to and her eyes lit up. Boy did she know a lot about that chapel, and the floodgates opened. She said it had originally been named “Our Lady of Grand Teton,” until her organization approached the local Catholic diocese and informed them that they had just named their chapel, “Our Lady of the Big Tits.” The Teton range was named by French explorers, known to be a ribald lot, not too prayerful in their naming habits, and in this case they let their imaginations roll about their favorite topic. Since the local Catholics realized that they didn’t want their chapel named after an anonymous, particularly well-endowed lady, they hastily changed the name to “Chapel of the Sacred Heart.” Not as dramatic perhaps but also less comical if you’re trying to call yourself a serious diocese. That tale turned our entire day around.
So Okay! Who would have figured that the one person who could regale us with that kind of story would end up sitting next to us, alone, in a restaurant right after we had a genuine bishop from Chicago celebrate our Mass in a back-country log cabin chapel in the middle of the Wyoming woods? On top of that, the funk that Pat was into about not having any wildlife to photograph began to dissipate, because on our way home from the restaurant we saw bear, antelope and all sorts of critters, as if they were lining up for our camera. The meal was excellent. and the smoke disappeared from the mountains. Musta been that bishop, I’m telling you.