Pancakes and a Veteran


I enjoy the rhythmic flow and gentle curves of a winding county road, and to my pleasure that's where I found myself this morning. It's also that special time of the year when the grass is colored with shades of deeper greens and the leaves are starting to tease us with some gold and red. I must admit, I love this time of the year and my therapy comes in the country with rolling pastures populated with grazing cattle and playful horses.

I soon found myself at an out of the way country diner that I enjoy visiting from time to time. The place is non-assuming, with wooden stools that face the counter and maybe 10 tables in the whole place. I chose one of the stools at the counter because I enjoy talking with the owner, who is also the cook, waiter, and cashier. Sometimes he has help but not all the time. It’s that kind of place.

The conversations tend to be colorful and smart, and deal with the more practical things of life. Occasionally talk of politics and ideas on how to fix the problems of the world surface, but for the most part these folks are more concerned with issues of friends and families. How you did while fishing or hunting is always welcomed news as well.

Today I ordered soft scrambled eggs, bacon and tomato slices with a decaf coffee — here that means instant, one spoonful in one cup of hot water, then stir. I have noticed that the eggs seem to always come out the same way, and if you have a problem with that, the charismatic cook simply says with a chuckle, “Well, I don't like eggs anyway.” The customers smile and eat their eggs the way they are.

I am amazed at how he takes the orders and keeps the food flowing out. If you sit at the counter you have a front row seat for the show and for me, I take the opportunity to have engaging conversation with the cook and others that may be sitting at the counter. This experience has never been disappointing. It's a little like Mel's Diner, just without Flo and the other girls.

When I was about halfway through my meal, an older gentleman with the signs of time took the stool beside me and joined in the conversation. He had a tenderloin biscuit with egg and tomato, and a sweet tea. As the conversation advanced, he shared about his time of service in Vietnam. Slowly reflecting on this time of his life, he spoke with emotion about the experiences. He still has scars from wounds he received while in Vietnam and he said it's hard to forget.

He talked about how complicated life can be. “It's not easy,” he said, “but you just got to keep on going.”

It was just one of those kind of mornings and as I drove away, I reflected on this simple yet special moment in time. And when I stopped again, I wrote it down so that I would not forget.