I don’t think it was the Internet that opened up the doors to friendships between people who otherwise would never meet in real life. Ham radio operators used to have whole communities of “friends” out on the airwaves. Even before that, people had foreign pen pals with whom they shared years of correspondence without any expectation that they would ever shake hands in real life. Sometimes it was better that way. I remember a professor telling me a story about Henry James that may or may not be apocryphal. Among the many woman, James corresponded with regularly was one he had never met even through years of letters where they found themselves to be soul mates in matters of literature and philosophy. Finally, returning to America after a long stay in Europe, James decided to visit this woman in New York or Boston or wherever it was that she lived. According to the story, just before James walked up the drive to this woman’s home, a housemaid, distracted by something, dropped a basket of soiled linen on the front stoop. Henry, who we all know was a bit of a prig, saw this basket of unmentionables where no respectable home should allow it to be. He was so horrified at the indelicacy that he turned around and never wrote to the woman again. Who knows if the story’s true? But it might tell us that some friendships work best on other planes of existence.
That was my friendship with a guy who called himself Jeffro Bodine. I never knew his real name. I assume at least part of it was Jeff. At first glance, he was someone I was hardly likely to meet, let alone come to appreciate, if not for the Internet. He was a long-distance trucker born and based in Cimarron Kansas. He was a pretty right-wing Republican, a Reagan fan and an avid collector of guns. Somehow, he found his way to this blog and started following along and commenting. I tracked him to his blog, The Poor Farm, and did the same. We both also frequented the witty Dustbury blog, where the politics were more his than mine, but the humor and good writing were intriguing to us both. As I say, on the surface, we didn’t have much in common. We probably would have appalled each other in real life. On the Internet, it worked.
Jeffro had more than a little of the homespun poet in him, as evidenced by his blog profile:
“I’ve lived here on The Poor Farm most of my life. Located in western Kansas, where the wind blows – supposedly the Dodge City weather station at the airport has the highest average wind speed in the continental U.S. It would be the “sticks” out here if there were any trees, but I like it. I really like the spring – when it is calm, and the smell of the fresh wheat and other plants fill the air with a unique “green” smell. My real love is the fall, when the air is cooling and calm, when you breath the air it is like a drink of cool water. Speaking of cool water, my well produces some mighty good tasting stuff. It is hard water for sure – all the faucets have lime on them, but I’ll take it over soft mossy smelling reservoir water from the city any day.”
His profile picture was the iconic last shot of John Wayne in The Searchers. A shared love of John Wayne can go a long way toward establishing a bond.
Here’s why I think the Internet facilitated this unlikely friendship. Some of my Liberal opinions might have infuriated him in “real life”, but he reacted to me in cyberspace only with humor. The respect worked both ways. His blog was more political than mine, but I tended to skip over the posts that included anti-Obama or pro-Reagan cartoons and sentiments to comment on the posts I found most fun. Those would be the times he was on one of his trucking runs and took mystery shots of the highway and ran “Guess This Location” contests. I never won, of course, because my roadtrips always avoid large Interstate systems. However, when I took off on roadtrips, he’d usually show up in the comments with humorous suggestions for sights I shouldn’t miss and to provide some little known history of the area. Of course, he was always in evidence when I posted about Johnny Cash or classic Westerns. Most often, he included some fascinating historical tidbits to the discussion, such as this one on my musings on the remake of True Grit: