She stood in the shade of a tree near the bookstore, three medium-sized pet carriers strapped to the back of a two-wheeled cart by her side.
Inside were two cats. An almost grown German Shepherd puppy sat at her feet.
I went in the bookstore on an errand, came out 15 minutes later, and she was still there.
In her 30s or 40s, she was clean, average build, short dark hair. She wore walking shorts, a T-shirt, walking shoes and a fanny pack. And there was the cart filled with possessions and pets.
I hesitated, drove by, and almost left before I changed my mind. I came back, rolled down the window and asked a dumb question, “Are you a traveler?”
“Yes,” she said in a soft voice. She was from California and said she was going to Louisiana. Walking.
The day before, I’d replenished my hitchhiker kit because the week before I’d given one to a man from New Jersey.
He had a backpack and a dog too, and was headed for a secluded spot to spend the night in Oklahoma City. The sun was going down and he looked tired and hungry, as did the pooch. I passed him, turned around and stopped to give him the sack. He said. “God bless you.”
Now I opened the door to get the sack full of two Gatorades, two water bottles, peanut butter and crackers and toothpaste and toothbrush. I handed it to her.
“Thank you. I’m a Christian. God bless you,” she said. I said, “You’re welcome and God bless you too.”
“He already has,” she said, smiling.
Two hours later I returned to the bookstore to play chess with friends. She was still there, waiting out the heat of the day, drinking Gatorade and feeding the dog some crackers.
Inside, I told my friends about her and we watched through the window for a few minutes, as she tended to her cart and animals, watching storm clouds.
A young man sitting nearby listened to my story. He soon left, but 15 minutes later he drove up in his pickup. He got out and handed her two grocery sacks of items. Then he drove away.
When the chess game was over, I looked up and she was gone.
I lost the game, but it didn’t matter.