We have all gotten used to the highways -- cars and semis zipping by, roadside scenery that is almost a blur, and everyone rushing to get "there" -- wherever "there" might be -- ahead of the other guy. But, at least for an afternoon, a different perspective could be found in Chugwater. The diner itself was like a lot of small town eateries -- faded pictures of nearby attractions on the walls, joke books stacked on the table to keep patrons occupied while waiting for eggs, hamburgers, and sandwiches, and a friendly waitress who scurried to the kitchen as she kept up with an impossible number of tables. What made this eatery different from all the rest was one of its patrons -- a 74 year old man, charming and charismatic, whose nickname was improbably "Woof Woof."
Woof Woof, real name Bob Brownell, watched celebrities do wacky stunts to raise money for their favorite charities and decided that it should not require celebrity to do the same. So he set out to raise money for the Cary (IL) Amvets Post 245 by travelling from Illinois to Laramie, Wyoming. An 1100 mile trip doesn't sound like it is so special -- we all have made trips of that length without once thinking it was newsworthy in any way. But what sets Woof Woof's journey apart from the rest is that his vehicle -- legal only on the back roads and side roads -- is a 1969 Ford 4300 tractor. A tractor whose maximum speed is a blistering 15 miles an hour.
Woof Woof sat and talked with us for a while as we ate huge bowls of red and green chili that turned out to be just the right mix of meat, beans, peppers, onions, and heat. He is a Korean Vet, an RVer, and a passionate supporter of his local Amvets, an organization that helps veterans pay their medical expenses. He assures us that 100% of the money he raises will go to the Amvets -- he is not even recovering his own costs. I didn't think to ask what kind of mileage a 39 year old tractor gets!
As we were talking, I realized that he has found something that escapes most people who make the trip between Illinois and Wyoming. Maybe it's because he's helping a charity he is passionate about, or maybe it's because he isn't trying to get those 1100 miles behind him as quickly as possible. Whatever the reason, when you look in his eyes what you see is calmness, happiness, and contentment. Obtained on the back roads of America, at 15 miles per hour.
If you wish to donate, make checks payable to Cary Amvets Post 245, and mail to Bob at 4300 Giant Oak Drive, McHenry, IL 60051