Randa and I both woke up around five o’clock Saturday morning. After an earlier than usual waffles-on-the-porch breakfast, we decided to take advantage of the day’s cool beginning to do some landscaping. After three hours of digging and transplanting hostas, lilies and some very large tomato plants, I decided to take a bike ride.
Against an eastern breeze, I made my way across the Walnut River bottoms and headed up the edge of the Flint Hills right past Spring Hill Vineyard and Wheat State Winery. A variety of blooming wildflowers scattered on the banks added a welcome bit of color: blue, pink, red and orange among the hues. From the crest of the second series of slopes, a panoramic view opened up. Miles of green prairie pastures scattered with scrubby hardwoods spanned between the horizons.
With the temperature edging well into the eighties, I made my way up a long slope. A guy in a red quad-cab pickup passed me and disappeared around the curve a quarter mile ahead. I shifted down another speed and pedaled on, taking an occasional draw from the tube of the hydration pack strapped to my back. The bit of ice I’d packed in had all melted a few miles earlier but even though the water was no longer cold, it was still water. That’s important in this kind of weather.
As I rounded that curve a few minutes later, I saw that red pickup stopped in the road ahead. As I continued on the slighter slope toward it, the driver began to back up. A hundred yards ahead of me, he stopped and got out of the truck. I continued watching him, cautiously, and kept pedaling, though at a slightly slower rate. I could not tell what he held at his side but saw something in his right hand.
As he came closer, the young man lifted a bottle of water toward me, its sides covered with condensation. “I know you’ve probably got water with you,” he grinned, “but I figured you might enjoy this.” The bottle felt as if it had just been taken out of an ice chest.
“I do have water,” I replied with genuine gratitude, “but it’s not nearly as cold as this. Thank you very much! This is really very kind of you.” We introduced ourselves and I thanked him again, “God bless you, Tom; I really appreciate this.”
He walked back to his truck and soon disappeared over the hill. I tucked the bottle into the holder on the bike frame and pedaled on a bit. I stopped on the downward slope and took a couple of pictures of sumac growing against the limestone cut. Just another half-mile up the road, I stopped by Rose Valley Cemetery and leaned the bike against the bank where yucca blooms sprouted from tall stems gleamed white in the mid-day sun. I twisted off the cap of the bottle and took a long drink of crisp, cold water.
With another sixteen miles to go, I gave thanks for the day and for someone who went out of his way to give a cup of cold water to a stranger on hot day.