A Three-Part Adventure,
Sponsored by RALPH LAUREN PAINTS.
Part II: Traveling Men.
The TRAPPER ducked underneath the PORCH AWNING and took a seat in a WICKER ROCKER. “You fixed your lean-to up right nice,” he said.
The NOMAD nodded, sure, and went inside. “I’m just going to tidy up a bit in here,” he called out.
As the trapper rocked, he noticed the nomad’s WINDOW BOX GERANIUM. He eyed the window box geranium with undisguised suspicion. He’d never known a person to keep a window box geranium. It was, to him, a completely foreign way of living, this business of keeping and tending plants. Seemed silly, a window box geranium. The plant so spindly and awkward in appearance, its flowers so teensy. When the trapper touched one of the larger leaves, he was surprised to discover how soft it was, how downright fuzzy. Then the leaf came off in his hand. He hastily buried it underneath some soil and hustled indoors.
The nomad stood over his WASHBASIN, scrubbing and rinsing several TEA-STAINED cups and saucers. He’d already changed into a SUMMER SUIT and PANAMA HAT. He was wearing one MOCCASIN. His FADED OVERALLS and FARMER’S JACKET lay in a heap on the floor.
The trapper looked around the room, lots of SAWDUST scattered about as well as a neat pile of STABLE HAY, the sort of rustic approach to flooring and bedding he expected from this nomad. On the other hand, the nomad had PAINTER’S CANVAS leaning against the walls. Blank rectangles and squares and, here and there, some finished work.
The nomad’s paintings were of skies, mostly. The trapper looked at each one, took it in, then read the label. One read, “WYOMING SKY.” Another, “NAIROBI DUSK.” Sometimes the trapper read the label first then looked at the painting. DAKOTA FIELD, AZTEC SKY, BALINESE SUNSET. In MESA SUNRISE, light came up the side of a PUEBLO. Another featured the STORMY SHORE of the SCOTTISH HORIZON. The trapper liked trying to guess where in the world the paintings were of before peeking at the label, as if the labels were answers to the paintings’ questions.
“Those are of places I’ve lived.” The nomad had come up beside the trapper while he was trying to guess that “BERMUDA EVENING” depicted an evening in Bermuda.
“Seems like you’re a real traveling man.”
“Actually, these are gestures along the lines of the painters of the romantic sublime, Frederic Church for instance. Perhaps also Bierstadt or Constable.
“Seems like they’re little postcards to yourself. Is that right?”
“They’re not strictly representational, if that’s what you mean, not even secondarily or tertiarily representational, in fact. Remember the painters of the romantic sublime didn’t see themselves so much as viewers or observers or even, for that matter, characters in nature, but rather heightened perspectives. Think bodiless subjectivity. As much attitude as altitude you might say.”
“So are they like postcards or not?”
The nomad shrugged and started to look for his other moccasin, and after he found it, they did hit the road and after they had driven for a time in the trapper’s PICKUP TRUCK and after many miles of road passed underneath them without hardly a word or more passing between them and after chewing some quantity of TOBACCO, they agreed to stop and share more tobacco and complain bitterly of neglecting to pack any food. And the trapper did park his truck along a RIM ROCK and the rim rock was situated atop a CRESTED BUTTE and the crested butte did provide for them then a matchless perspective on the DESERT DUSK with all its FLOWERING CACTUS and SAGEBRUSH and CANYON IRIS and ALOE BLOSSOM, for it was then the time in the world for aloe blossoms.
The trapper spat and said, “Ever wonder if a man could survive on tobacco alone?”
The nomad spat and looked at him. “You’re talking crazy now.”
“Ever wonder it though?”
The nomad leaned over and spat. “No man can survive on tobacco.”
“Then you have thought about it.”
“I don’t need to think about it. A man doesn’t need to go on and think about everything in order to know it for sure. Some things a man just grows up knowing is all.”
The trapper leaned over and spat. “I knew you thought about it.”
When the dusk did begin to fade and then disappear and the trapper and the nomad turned away from it and headed back to the pickup truck they saw a young girl who had quietly wandered up behind them, off a short ways, and set up a small and provisional stand, dedicated expressly to the sale of APPLE BUTTER. The girl had a TAFFETA BOW tied up in her hair and sold her apple butter on biscuits and bread and crackers and stuffed inside tightly rolled leaves. The appearance of the girl with the taffeta bow and the apple butter was surely as convenient as it was miraculous, and all that is important to know is that the trapper and the nomad then set about to consume a certain quantity of apple butter and sampled all of the many varieties the girl made available for sale and did soon begin to feel quite full and their hunger satisfied before they settled their considerable tab and thanked the girl gratefully and wished her well besides and returned to the truck and hit the road once more. By then they did find it was night.
NEXT: Apple Butter Dreaming.