Kindness in Oklahoma

I experienced a special moment of generosity and friendship today. It is one that I must share, especially considering some of the less-than-ideal situations I’ve encountered recently along Route 66. This one just stands out as beautiful — and it’s even more beautiful because it wasn’t planned at all.

Below are the people who made my day. They are members of the bluegrass band “Joe Baxter and The Lost Cause.” They are about as local as you can get — try Googling them and only five or so links pop up.

I stumbled upon their free concert when I pulled up to a Route 66 roadside attraction called The Round Barn. It is about 20 miles outside of Oklahoma City in a town called Arcadia. Here is what it looks like:

I entered the barn at about 4:30 p.m. to find them playing to a crowd of about five or six people. The barn could hold many, many more people than that — but the area had just experienced a tornado-like storm that included hail and high winds, so I figured that the weather had a role in turning this concert into a more intimate musical reception.

The band was good, so I pulled up a chair and started tapping my foot. The lead singer acknowledged me with a nod and sang three more songs, one of them a favorite of mine, Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.”

It was excellent timing on my part to stop by The Round Barn on the second Sunday of the month between 1 and 5 p.m. — as that is when this legendary barn with incredible acoustics hosts free concerts. I had no idea about that before pulling up.

After the concert wrapped, the other audience members left but I stuck around to chat with the band. Or rather, they each came up to me, one by one, curious as to what had led me to their concert in Arcadia. I told them it was luck and a little bit of instinct. And the fact that I was traveling Route 66 home to Chicago.

Once this novelty was revealed, it turned into a shared assortment of travel stories and short soliloquies on why Midwesterners are the friendliest people in the United States. It was really welcoming and fun — one of the most memorable moments among a string of moments that so far make up this Route 66 adventure.

There I was, hanging out with bluegrass musicians. In the middle of Oklahoma. Inside a massive red barn shaped in a circle. I couldn’t have scripted this road trip vignette much better.

Atop this, I felt like these four strangers had a genuine interest in me and concern for my well being. I was showered with CDs and stickers and posters, just because. “Thank you” came out of my mouth repeatedly. I felt loved. I wanted to cry happy tears, but instead smiled even wider.

Before I respectfully took my leave so that I could begin the journey onward to Tulsa, one of the musicians asked me if there was anything else that I needed. He didn’t need to say that, but he did. And even though he said it, he didn’t need to mean it — but he did. Again, those happy tears almost came out again, but I held them back. No way was I going to get all emotional in front of four sweet bluegrass musicians from Oklahoma.

I probably spent a total of 45 minutes in The Round Barn. But the moment that I shared with those bluegrass musicians will stay with me forever.

On the drive to Tulsa, I listed to one of the CDs that they had gifted me — and smiled the entire way. Each time I listen to it, I now will be reminded that there are indeed kind and generous people in the world. I met four of them today.

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