Grasshopper Soup: The story of the cowboy and the tourist
July 20, 2010
Being free on summer vacation in Tahoe City and stuck in Saturday traffic can drive you to do rude things. If you have been traveling for hours it can make you do cheeky things you might not normally do. There is a great punk-rock band some of you may have heard of who cleverly named themselves in honor of this very common human tendency. They are called and#8220;Me First and the Gimmee Gimmees.and#8221;
At 1 oand#8217;clock in the afternoon on a perfect Tahoe Saturday, a car full of adults and kids pulled out of the dense, slow moving traffic and in to a rare parking space right smack dab in front of a local cafe in Tahoe City. How lucky can you get?
The driver, a middle age man with graying black hair and the look of ambition in his eyes, helped a little boy of about seven out of the car from the back seat.
and#8220;Do they have food daddy?and#8221;
and#8220;Yeah, they have food.and#8221;
and#8220;I want a hamburger daddy.and#8221;
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A man in a white cowboy hat, sitting comfortably in a chair reading the newspaper in front of the cafe, overheard, immediately realizing he could be a big help.
and#8220;This place doesnand#8217;t have hamburgers, but just across the bridge they have great burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads and#8230; Itand#8217;s just right over there,and#8221; he kindly offered.
The man with the little boy heard but did not respond. Just then another car pulled in and parked beside him. Both groups were traveling together and were obviously good friends. There were about nine or 10 of them. They all let out a sigh of relief to be out of the cars and in Tahoe and decided to take the nice manand#8217;s advice and go for burgers across the way.
As they proceeded to leave their cars in front of the cafe and walk across the bridge, the man in the cowboy hat politely mentioned to them that there was plenty of parking available where they were going, and that the proprietors of this small business might appreciate it if they didnand#8217;t take up valuable parking spaces.
and#8220;Weand#8217;ve been in traffic all day,and#8221; said the dad as he turned around and headed off on foot.
and#8220;It would seem to me that these spots are reserved for people doing business here, at least thatand#8217;s how we do it where I come from,and#8221; said the gentleman in the cowboy hat, fully expecting that would be enough to remind him of natural good manners and civility so they could see what the right thing to do was through the mental haze of having been on the road all day.
Instead, the man who had helped the little boy out of the car turned to the guy in the cowboy hat and said, and#8220;Does it matter?and#8221;
Stunned and speechless, but not particularly surprised, the cowboy raised his chin. An intense gaze slowly crept over his face. His eyes were as sharp as razor blades. It was clear he was not a man to be trifled with. Calmly, if not accusingly, with a slight country drawl, as if he were chewing on a piece of straw, in the most gentle, kind voice you have ever heard, he looked the man squarely in the eye and slowly spoke the following words, in a slightly underhanded manner, tossing them softly off the tip of his mellifluous tongue directly at the dad, just loud enough so the entire group could hear: and#8220;Well and#8230; you know and#8230; I guess and#8230; it all depends and#8230; on how you were raised.and#8221;
Apparently this dad was raised with special privilege. Embarrassed, but defiant, leaving both cars where they were, he embraced his selfishness and walked away to feed his kids and enjoy some good quality family time, as people trying to get a quick cup of coffee or a sandwich at the cafe drove round and round, searching for a place to park.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.