“Have a good one.”

“Huh? Have a good what?” was our thought after this farewell.

We were new to the area, still digesting the John Birch Society billboard we’d just passed on the side of the highway south of Junction. It was brazen, out in the open, a billboard, warning of the horrible, dangerous threat posed to our collective safety and well being by the UN, commies, Big Brother, and non-American, non-white people in general.

Man, this place really is redneck, we thought; we’d better mind our Ps and Qs.

In the end we didn’t do anything radical, like cut our hair, but we kept our eyes open. So what if the Huns are at the door, and governments are in the pockets of greedy bankers and corporations? We weren’t going to let it wreck our day.  

A little further down the road we came upon a sign that said “Free Lemonade & Cookies.” It was a hot July day, we’d driven from Steamboat, we thought,“What the heck?” and pulled over.

A half-dozen seniors were sitting in lawn chairs, giving out cold homemade chocolate chip cookies and cold lemonade, not accepting any money, from the shade of an awning in the corner of a dirt parking lot in the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed the treat and asked what the occasion was. A cheerful lady in cat-eye glasses replied: “Oh, it’s hot out, we thought it would be a nice thing to do, and it gets us out of the house. And we get to meet people, like you boys! Where are you heading?”

We told them that we were ski bums, moving on a whim to the ski town south of Montrose, because we were drawn to the beauty of the place. The jagged mountains shone in the distance. “Oh, yes, it is beautiful, we quite agree. There’s always lots of snow up there. You boys have a safe trip, and be careful. Have a good one.”

With a little faith restored, we continued. We guessed that a good one could mean a good anything, and this has proven to be the case. It took us a lot longer to figure out how to say Uncompahgre.

UMPIRE-OGRE? Nope. UNCLE-PEE-GREEN? Incorrect. It took a summer, but we got ‘er done: UN-COME-PAW-GRAY.

Another accomplishment of note that season was the acquisition of a Colorado driver’s license. The DMV used to send a fellow up from Montrose to the county courthouse on Fridays. I presented myself and my expired Michigan license at the end of a lazy August afternoon. The fellow checked my vision, sighed, and instructed me, maybe a little half-heartedly, to do a written test, handing me the pamphlet. It was near closing time.

I sat at a small counter, looking at parking diagrams and shapes of signs, trying to remember what I’d learned in drivers’ ed class back at Pioneer High in Ann Arbor — all the technical stuff — when the man interrupted me.

“You’re from Michigan, eh?”

“Yep.”

He took off his glasses, scratched the bridge of his nose, sighed, glanced up at the clock.

“You know how to drive, don’t you?”

“Sure do.”

“Have any accidents recently?”

“Nope.”

He signed a couple forms and handed me a paper: “Here ya go.” Swiftly packing his briefcase, he followed me out, locking the door. Over his shoulder, “Have a good one.”

My new license showed up in the mail. It would be a few years before I was able to buy my own car — a powder blue VW Bug — and start getting in accidents.

A recent gray day, a few stray snowflakes skittering across the icy driveway, found us restless, in need of diversion. The cure for cabin fever: leave. A mellow hike was in order. I piled the kid in the truck and headed west.

“Where we goin’, Daddy?”

“We’re going to hike by the river and look for dinosaur tracks.”

“Can we look for heartrocks?”

“You betcha, and look, where we’re headed, it’s gonna be sunny!” I lied through my teeth.

“No, it’s not; it’s nothing but clouds everywhere.” She had me there.

To reinforce this harsh assessment, it started to snow as we topped Norwood Hill. We emerged from the squall, though, and indeed, the cloud cover appeared just a little thinner up ahead. We continued across the mesa.

At our trailhead the wind was a little raw and we bundled up. The kid wanted candy. I said no. We were alone, save a pickup with a horse trailer. I told my gal that we were going to see a cowboy pretty soon.

“How do you know that?”

“Because I can tell the future, and I know everything.”

“Oh yeah? What am I thinking about right now?”

“You’re thinking about candy.”

“How did you know that?!”

By the time we came up on the cowpoke, the thin spot in the clouds had turned the faintest blue, grown bluer, then a great hand parted the curtains, and we were startled with the sunshine, surrounding cliffs pulsating burgundy and rust, the river shining silver, bushes alive with birdsong. We stepped aside to let him pass, his two dogs sniffing in circles.

He stopped, smiled, touched his hat. “Sure is a nice afternoon,” I offered. His smile broadened, “Sure is.” We stood there a moment, each knowing that we were in a good place, at a good time, in a halo of sunshine with more weather on the way.

“See ya later,” I said. He chuckled, clucked his horse forward and gave us a hearty “Have a good one!”

“What did he mean by that?” my companion wanted to know. “Have a good what?”

I had to laugh. “Let me explain … ”

Sean can be reached at seanmcnamara58@gmail.com.