A Well Kept Secret
When James left the Barn after a four day visit to Western Nebraska, our parting words were, “Next time bring the queen.” His reply was, “I just might do that.” He was a quiet, soft spoken young man, with sandy blonde hair, and face full of freckles.
We met James at the end of the long road trip that he had planned several months earlier. Landing in Omaha, he had rented a car and driven a big circle route taking him through the Black Hills, Devils Tower, Cody, Wyoming, Yellowstone and the Tetons, and then to Western Nebraska; places he said he had always wanted to see. Up to this point it had been more of a road trip, 1,000s of miles covered in a blur of days. At Barn Anew he was ready for a break of what had become an arduous driving marathon. We didn’t see much of James, because he was up early each morning and off for the day following guide books that took him on short day trips. One day he drove west to Ft. Laramie, then to Guernsey to see the ruts of the Oregon Trail, and on to Hartville to see the oldest town in Wyoming and eat at the well known restaurant. The second day with maps and books in hand he drove east to Bayard, Chimney Rock, Bridgeport, Ash Hollow, Lake McCoughney. The third day he drove north to Agate Fossil Beds, Ft. Robinson, and then to the Fur Trapper Museum in Chadron.
The fourth morning James lingered over breakfast, and we got to know a little more about him for the first time. Everyone at the breakfast table was sharing their stories, and as we had come to expect, James was a quiet listener, not offering stories of his own. One by one the other guests excused themselves from the breakfast table to pursue their day’s itineraries. James was still enjoying his coffee, and we asked what his plans for the day were. He said he had to head back to Denver tomorrow, turn his rented car in, and catch his trans Atlantic flight back home. He thought he would just relax and stay close to the Barn, perhaps hike the bluff, and then just enjoy the balcony and the courtyard.
It was a quiet day at the Barn, and James seemed to be just soaking it all in. I watched as he just ambled through the courtyard. He spent several hours just reading in the hammock, and then just sitting on the balcony staring out across the fields, as if he were in deep thought. I watched as he walked down the dirt road and stopped to watch the calves romping in the pasture. He spent time just playing with our dog. He was given a magnificent orange and copper sunset that evening. He watched it fade into purples and violets as he just sat in the rocker on the front porch. When he came inside that evening he said that this last day of his stay had been the best day of the entire trip, because he very seldom just did nothing!
In our morning conversation on his last day, I asked him what his job was, that he would be returning to. Our guest was still somewhat of a mystery to us, as he had shared very little in his quiet way. He looked young enough that I might have guessed he was a college student.
“Well, I have a degree in political science,” he shyly stated, with almost a degree of apology in his voice.
“What do you do with a degree in political science? Do you teach in a university?”
“Well no,” he answered, and with some slow deliberation he said, “You asked…..I’m the political advisor to _______”
The expression on our faces to his surprising information gave away our astonishment. When we recovered, we were flooded with interest and questions, but I asked, “How did you find us? It was hard to believe that we had a guest in our house, who on daily basis worked with world famous people that we only hear about on TV and in magazines, and he was sitting at our table visiting with us.
James excused himself from the table and quickly ran upstairs. He came down holding a very thick paper back book. The title was Roughing It In America. Paper clipped as a marker was a page with a half page description of Barn Anew and Scotts Bluff Monument. That was the first time we had seen that book. James said, “Sometimes you just have to get away.” He told us that when he had felt the need to take a vacation, he had taken a map of the United states, closed his eyes, traced a large circle with his finger, and where it stopped when he opened his eyes determined where he would travel. It was a simple plan. Knowing now who he was, and where he was from, it was easy to understand why he would want to escape to “The West”. With this new information we felt very honored that he was our guest, honored that he had confided his true identity with us, honored that he had chosen Western Nebraska.