of Smal Town Cafes
©2016 by Ed Chasteen
Clumps of children stand on random street corners in our town this Monday, June morning. School buses will soon come to take them where minds are made and dreams are born. “Have a great day,” I yell as I pedal past.
Rounding a corner onto the street where Princess lives, I’m resigned to not seeing her. She finished sixth grade just a few days ago. She’s taking swimming and is just now across town in the pool. She calls me Papa and signs the art she creates, “Papa’s Princess.”
I pull to a stop across from her house where a young mother stands in her yard, awaiting the school bus with her two daughters. “
“How’s your father-in-law?” I ask. We’ve been gone and just heard.”
“He’s in Smithville now. His left side hasn’t come all the way back. Makes his balance hard.”
“Can he have visitors?”
“Yes, he can.”
“Do we need to call? Or can we just go?”
“I think you could just go. I don’t know when he has therapy.”
By a route I would never take in my car, I come about an hour later to Kearney and Sarah’s Table. “You comin’ in, Ed?” Betty calls out as I stand in the door. “You bet,” I say.
“Have a seat,” Mel says as he motions to a chair at his table. He has just finished his usual bowl of oatmeal.
“What’s J.D. doing this summer, Betty?” I ask.
“Still keepin’ bees. Has seven new hives. Gonna take EMT training in August. Can’t get his license till he graduates. But having his EMT will give him a leg up on being a fireman.”
“He’s a senior next year?” I ask. “Doesn’t seem possible.”
Betty smiles. Raises her hand near a foot over her head. “He’s a big boy now,” she says.
“Have you met my daughter, Tracy? She works at Liberty Terrace and is going to National University out at Zona Rosa.”
“You introduced us a couple of years ago,” I say. “Tell J.D. we need to go for another ride,” I say as I’m leaving.
“Where you headed?” Mel asks.
“Think I’ll head for Holt. Don’t go there much since Rosie’s closed. Anything downtown open anymore?”
”Don’t know,” says Mel. “Ask Betty. She lives there.”
Mel has been talking to the couple at the adjoining table about places they like to eat. All three of them praise Granny’s, just off I-35 at the Holt exit.
“Granny’s has the best biscuits in the world. Melt in your mouth. Fried biscuits. Ever had ‘em, Ed?” Mel asks
“Sorry to say I haven’t. But now I will.” I say.
Betty names several new businesses in downtown Holt. Dolly’s Diner is the only one that sticks. “It’s where Rosie’s used to be,” she says.
By another round about route no car would ever take, I come a good while latter to Dolly’s
“You open?” I call to the woman who stands in the doorway.
“Till 2 o’clock,” she says. “My watch says 11:30. I think I can make it in by then,” I say.
The menu offers all the standards of small town cafes. But I have only one test for a first-time café. “Half order of biscuits and gravy,” I tell the waitress when she brings my ice tea. She’s back in a moment. It looks right. It’s hot. Creamy. Chunks of sausage. Tender biscuit. A+. I’ll be back.
As I sit to write these words, the rain that’s been threatening all morning finally comes, giving me time to try the pie. Can Dolly’s pass both my tests the same day?
Meringue! High and stiff, lightly brown, topping rich chocolate. That’s my dream pie. I find it now and then. Cream pies Dolly’s has. But we make our own,” my waitress says. I prefer my chocolate pie recently from the oven and with a flakey crust. Dolly’s is cold, crust firm. Not tough. And not bad:B. Next time I’ll try the pecan.
Inside the door of Dolly’s one unisex restroom this bit of poetic advice:
Don’t sit in here just contemplatin’
Us folks outside git tired of watin’
I hardly ever return by the same way I came, thinking I need to see what’s down other roads. Today, though, I do retrace my route. Sarah herself is at her table, with Carl, her husband. He’s the meat cutter at the grocery store across the street. “I heard you were off today,” I say to Carl.
“How’d you know?” He asks.
“I was here for breakfast. Betty told me.”
As I near home a shiny black pickup comes from a side street and stops to let me pass. As I ride by, the driver yells, “Hi, Ed.”
I’m a doctor. Not a M.D. A PhD. I don’t doctor the body. What happens between us! That’s my field. Inter-group Relations they called it in grad school. Race Relations my specialty. Relations between religions a recent addition.
Three rounds I make. A daily one around our town. Seeing and being seen. Over years becoming part of our town’s ambiance.
Then several times a week, I ride to towns an hour or so away to visit my satellite clinics that appear to most folks only as eating places.
Then occasionally to the outer limits of Greater Liberty I need to ride. When in the paper or on TV I learn that hate has come among us, I find a way to be invited to come and help.
The town called Liberty has long been my home. But even longer I have done what I can to set folks at liberty from those limitations that restrict where we can go, to whom we can talk and what subjects we can discuss. Greater Liberty I call my practice.
The purpose of my practice as a doctor of relationships is to lead us all to become World Class Persons, able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. A less ambitious objective could more likely be achieved. But I’d rather fail at something grand and noble than succeed at a lesser goal.
Riding a bicycle is my way of getting there. Join me sometime.