Just after sunrise, a mud-caked BMW makes its way down the gravel driveway at Sycamore Creek Farm, near Rocheport. The car comes to a stop and two men get out. They start unloading toolboxes, ropes and electrical cords. In the distance, an alpaca screeches a high-pitched warning squeal.
Just after work on a Friday afternoon, Mary Newby walks up to the counter at Hallsville Market and Deli.
It’s more than just a residence. It’s a community fo people age 50 and older.
They call it “wheeling.” To participate, you need something bigger than 35-inch tires (average car tires are 15 inches in diameter) locking differentials and a winch. Thirty-fives, deflated to a splashy level that helps them “eat” in the dirt, are just big enough to crawl over boulders and stumps on the trail. Locks will fix one axle so that both tires spin at the same speed and the winch, a strong cable attached to a spindle motor on the grill of the truck, is for when the tires and locks aren’t enough. The winch is both a lifesaver and a last resort for any self-respecting driver.
Hans Huenink does not hesitate at all before jumping into the pool at Stephens College. Wearing a now-soaked T-shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes, the Hartsburg resident quickly starts swimming laps with the other 44 men and one woman wearing the same outfit.
Marcus Floyd builds fences for work. He built a climbing gym for play.
Sally Erickson holds a large red Bible close to her heart while she closes her eyes in prayer.
He’s a blind, toothless, albino runt that eats Gerber baby food because of his condition. If he were human, he might be shuf-fling along, stirring the gravel with his shoes along the fence at recess. For now, his name is Alby. But if he gets sold, that may change.
The digital thermometer on the wall of Monroe’s Fast Lube and Car Wash in Centralia hovers at 25 degrees.
As Liberian refugees, the Glay family spent 13 years in Ivory Coast refugee camps waiting for an opportunity to come to America. When the time came to leave, they couldn’t track down their daughter Helena, who had left the camp two years earlier to earn money for the family.
An anxious voice trickles through the two-way radio mounted on the wall next to an organized toolbox.
A quick loop around Harrisburg reveals barely a soul outside. But near Harrisburg Baptist Church, Jesse Glydewell and Steve Thornhill face the cold by rocking their weight from leg to leg and then back on their heels and turtle-necking their heads into their collars. Rather than keep warm inside, they’d be happy to park your car and walk you arm-in-arm around to the back door to Naomi Allen’s 70th birthday celebration, where the welcome is as warm as the hot chocolate.