PENNSYLVANIA—There are three men sitting on a bench outside my hotel. They are wearing crimson jackets with giant University of Alabama logos on the backs.
I am in a remote community in Pennsylvania, not far from the New York line. A rural hamlet with sprawling fields, rolling hillsides, and breathtaking single-wide trailers with Chevy Camaros on blocks in the driveways.
In these parts, you do not see many Alabama Crimson Tide sympathizers.
I approach the men. They notice the University of Alabama ball cap I am wearing. When we see each other we are all smiles. We are complete strangers but it doesn’t feel like it.
“Roll Tide,” they say.
“Roll Tide,” I say.
“Roll Tide,” my wife says.
“Roll Tide,” their wives say.
“Roll Tide,” says their teenage son.
I know it seems odd that complete strangers would shake hands and chant a football related battle cry for a greeting. But you’re missing the point. What we’re really saying is “I love you.”
“Our dad lives up here,” says one man. “We always come up to
see him because this is the best time of year to see Pennsylvania. The fall colors are awesome.”
The fall colors in this place are no joke. Where I live in the Florida Panhandle, we have two colors. Green and greenish-green. Unless there is a forest fire.
But Pennsylvania has a wide scope of color. The rolling golden farmland is cut with the distant flame-red leaves of an autumn-colored Appalachia. There are old barns, grain silos, and withered cornfields. To say it’s beautiful would be selling it short. This is pure America.
Earlier today we got stuck behind an Amish buggy on the highway. That was a real treat. A young man and young woman were in the carriage together. She was bird-skinny. He had the faintest hint of an Abraham-Lincoln beard. I waved at them. They scowled at me.
Next, I saw…