Just when I thought I’d heard it all…
It was the Saturday before Labor Day Weekend, and while we weren’t having a slow day at the Mercantile, it was slower than normal. There were only a few customers in the store when the fellow approached the counter.
He seemed to be in his mid-30s and had short dark hair. When he began talking, his accent gave him away as a non-native speaker of English. His lack of English words when he tried to express himself reinforced my first impression.
He asked me about the hot springs. I told him everything I knew about them.
Then he said, We are staying…up…somewhere. Can we get there…in two hours?
During my career in the National Forest, I’ve had lots of people ask me all kinds of questions, including some really stupid ones, but always, always in the past the questioners gave me something to work with. This guy? …up…somewhere…is just not much to go on. Hell, that’s nothing to go on.
Sir, I said, shaking my head. I don’t know where you’re staying. You don’t even know where you’re staying.
It is true, he said sadly and wandered away.
If he had told me the name of a town, a campground, a region even, I may have been able to help him figure out how far it was from where he was staying to the hot springs, but he gave me exactly nothing to work with. I’m good, but I can’t perform miracles.