We came out of the woods and stopped at a little village that straddled a secondary road that led in the right direction. It had a country store and gas station. A building that had once sold antiques, and a couple houses, only one of which was manufactured. I could see a few more houses on the side of the hill and another trailer hidden mostly by trees and bushes behind them.
The hill itself had a large garden that was fenced in with a mix of materials. I stopped for two reasons. The store had a hand lettered sign up saying "Fresh Vegitables." The other reason was they had the American flag flying. Not the American flag with some other flag flying with it. Nor was it a hand sewn flag invented by some Prophet as a sign to passerby's that they had entered another world. No. It was the real deal hanging on the pole and occasionally unfurling a bit in the breeze. I was surprised by how moved I was by seeing it. Of course everyone in town could be insane goat fuckers but it was a good sign.
I took the dogs with us. The kid showed promise but I would rather have Woof at my back. Especially after we were spotted and a bell started ringing. So they were organized too. That was even better. Organization was a sign of brains and people giving a damn. People like that were usually easier to talk to I had found. I mentally mapped the activity by sound and movement. Woof helped too. He was looking around and sniffing the breeze. If he stared at a point in the woods or up the hill and I hadn't registered anything I would take another look at it. Woof was always right.
I slowed down a bit to let them finish. I was pretty sure we had taken them by surprise. About the time we were about twenty paces from the gas pumps the window closer to the back of the store slid open. They let that register with me and then an old man stepped out the front door. He was clean shaven and had an old ball cap on with yellow braid and a design of a ship on the front on his head. He was wearing faded khakis and his shoes were polished. I was impressed. He may have been the best old school dressed man I had seen in months.
I stopped and said "How ya doing. I'm interested in the vegetables and whatever else you might have."
He studied me. I studied him. After a handful of beats he said "That so."
"Damn" I thought "Everyone has to do laconic." So I replied "Yep" and waited for the next two word sentence. I was wrong. Maybe he had some coffee earlier. I got four words "Where you coming from?"
"The woods" was my reply. He looked at me like I was being a smart ass." I knew that look. I used to get it all the time a few years back.
I waited. If it was going to go down hill it would start in the minute. Instead I got "C'mon and sit down and talk a bit first. I always like hearing news from travelers.