On a road less traveled I found… The Smiling Guy

004There is an old country road I like to travel. The first portion of it is paved, and then a portion is gravel before returning back to pavement. As you drive along the 5 miles or so you see hay fields that often hold geese, turkeys and deer. In the fall when the leaves change your eyes are assaulted with deep oranges, reds, yellows, and browns, with the grasses of varying shades of green. One cornfield in particular sits on top of a pretty good-sized hill, and you can see the mountains miles away in the distance.
You will encounter farmers cutting hay, and you will see horses, and cows. There are many picturesque farms and homes, both old and new. We have watched turtles lay eggs, a barn cat teaching her kittens how to hunt, and a fat blind porcupine feeling its way along the edge of the road, searching the vegetation for its preferred greens.
Sure, the road is rough, but no matter the time of year, it is full of things to see! But as great as all of those things are to me, they don’t come close to my favorite thing to see out there.
Sometimes you will see him walking; occasionally you will find him out at the end of his driveway, or riding along on a vintage bicycle in a gentle meandering swerve that takes up most of the road.
I call him The Smiling Guy, because you never see him when he doesn’t have the biggest most genuine smile on his face. Rain or shine, spring, summer, fall or winter he will look directly at you like he has known you all his life, and wave. You know it is him long before you can make out his face, because you see that smile!
If a day ever comes that I see him without that smile of his, I will surely stop to ask him what is wrong, because you will know that it is something horrific.
I have spoken to him a few times, when he has had items placed at the end of his driveway. Pretty much any time there is something out there, it is free. Something he has collected from somebody who knew he would see to it that it made it to somebody who could put it to use.
The only time I ever saw anything with a price on it, he explained to me with that same warm and totally genuine smile that he had been selling things to help raise some money for a lady friend who had recently passed on.

In a time that he had every reason to be sorrowful, his smile told you that he KNEW with all his soul that his friend had not lost her battle with cancer, but had finally won. The pain and sickness she felt was gone forever, and that she had met her end with dignity, and courage.

His smile told you that although he would miss her, he would never forget the time he shared with her. I don’t know what the relationship was. It may have been nothing more than something neighborly. But if The Smiling Guy is your neighbor, it will ALWAYS be something more.
I don’t know the man’s name, perhaps I never will. But each time I near his part of the road, I eagerly search beyond the curves in the road, trying to spot him… trying to catch him BEFORE he can smile at me, but I know I never will.
Sometimes I wonder if he recognizes the cars that pass him, and the people inside. Sure, I know he sees some of the same people every day, but does he recognize people like me and my little family even though we only see him once or twice every few months or so? I bet he does. I bet he even noticed that we changed cars back in October, because he pays attention.
I hope you read this, and decide to take a lesson from The Smiling Guy, and smile just because you can! Smile just because you are alive, and you are able to get out, and see people, even if it is only on a five-mile piece of road in The Middle Of Nowhere, Maine. Smile at somebody simply because you just might make their day! I know The Smiling Guy has made mine a time or two!

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.