January 30, 2014

WILLIAMS: Another way to live

When I was in Florida in Decem-ber, we met a girl in a restaurant parking lot next to the beach. She looked to be about 19, certainly no older than early 20s. She lived in her van with a miniature horse. It was just a basic van, not an extra-large one or a specially adapted one, just a van. It was more or less divided in half on the inside – half for her stuff (cot, clothes, books) and half for the horse (hay and harness).

When we met her, she was sitting on the ramp, smoking a cigarette with the tiny horse standing beside her, hooked to a cart. Where she fit the cart into the van I have no idea but she was evidently a consummate packer.

She was a very pretty girl – obviously of mixed race heritage – I’d guess black and white and Asian all mixed together to form an appealing combination. She wore her long black hair in dreadlocks and spoke with a slight lilting accent, perhaps Jamaican or Bahamian. She told us she supported herself by giving rides to children coming out of the restaurants. She said parents didn’t always want to stop but usually they couldn’t resist when their kids said, “Oh, look at the little horse. Can I have a ride? Please!”

I would have liked to talk to her longer but she wasn’t especially forthcoming. For all I know, she had a fine house on one of the Keys that she retired to when her day job ended. But I don’t think so. I think she lived in her van with her horse.

And that got me to wondering what that would be like. I tried to put myself in that position but I simply couldn’t imagine it. I have been called adventuresome at times because I was always willing to take a flyer to some new state to see what was there while most of my friends stayed pretty much where they’d always been. But at the end of every highway was a house or apartment, a job, a school system, more or less the same lifestyle I’d had in Indiana only with bayous instead of creeks and live oaks instead of maples and azaleas instead of lilacs.

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