Thursday, March 12, 2009

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover

Today was a travel day that took us through quite a variety of changing landscapes and weather in Arizona, from the desert in the south, through the beautiful orange cliffs of the Mogollon Rim, to the pine forests near Flagstaff, where it turned a little nasty. -- from sunny 80s to snowy 40s in a few hours.

Another significance of today was that the despicable crook, Bernie Madoff, had his day in court. We often listen to news broadcasts on Sirius as we travel. And today as we heard stories of the victims of this evil man, I began to compare a recent encounter of ours.

While we were spending a few days in Quartzsite having a new amp meter installed, we were situated at the High Jolly BLM campground just north of town. We were watching people one evening when, out of the distance we both caught sight of a large elderly man with a full beard approaching us wearing only shorts, tennis shoes and a Lonesome Dove cowboy hat. And wait. That's not the whole picture. He was missing teeth and had a swarthy tan except for in the white areas where his skin lapped over. He also was wearing a big smile. Oh yeah.....did I mention he was riding an ancient bicycle much too small for his large frame.

Well, we were both thinking something like.."There's another interesting local character. Wonder who he is and where he's going?" Just about that time he turned his bike straight for our rig and promptly knocked at the door. "Oh no, what's he want." We soon heard the story of how his van was stuck in the gully at the back of the campground and could we help with our winch on the Jeep. Oh well, not much else is going on. So why not help out?
Jerry put his derby on and jumped in the Jeep to go look over the situation. There was a small group of campers that seem to have setup long term housekeeping at the very furthest edge of this two-week BLM camping area. I remember seeing them in past years, too. The neighborhood included two old vans, a tiny rickety trailer, a tent, a couple of overstuffed chairs and a teepee made of tree limbs and blue plastic. Well, that's where he found our new friend.

First there was hand shaking and introductions. Really, I couldn't make this up: This man introduced himself as "Grateful Ted." As usually happens, Jerry's derby brought comments and broke the ice. It was an unusual social gathering but a very congenial group.
It turns out that Ted's 30plus-year-old van was in the gully because he was helping a friend setup a lowboy as a musical stage. The lowboy was also in need of rescue, but Ted just wanted help with his van. As they went about coming up with the best method to winch his van out of the gully, they shared other personal information.

Jerry tells him: "We're fulltime rvers, just passing through. We travel the road in our motorhome and spend time in many different spots." Ted responds, "Oh, I'm a gypsy, too!" He also shared that he is a musical performer. "In fact, I'm recording a song next Wednesday in town. Why don't you come on over?" (We won't be in town, but we'll be listening for him on the radio.) By this time Jerry had pulled the van out and Ted was very "grateful." He offered to pay Jerry for his services, but there was no need. We all went back to our lives.

The next morning when I got in the Jeep I noticed a piece of paper stuck under the wiper. Grateful Ted's message follows:
To Whom It May Concern:
This is a note of gratuity
concerning J. R. Hurley...
Namely, that any assistance he may require,
be it $$ or just an ear to listen,
that he be granted that assistance
as promptly as he assisted me,
namely, G. T., a bone headed red neck
who admires the way he wears his hat.
aka Theodore Alvin Slack
(Then he leaves his address and phone number in Oregon)
Call me sometime, J.R. and thanx again, G.T.

As I was saying earlier, isn't it ironic how we many times judge someone such as Sleezeball Madoff to be worthy of our respect because he wears a pinstriped suit and someone like Grateful Ted is unworthy because he wears no suit. So, maybe Ted has made us pause in the future to think "You can't always judge a book by its cover."


  1. Hey there, I love your blog..great stuff! We are a family that loves to off road..check us out if you'd like:)

  2. That was a great story Nancy. It is good to get back to the realities of life once in a while.
    Chuck and Jan


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