Since leaving my Kentucky home in June of this year, I have driven a little over 5,000 miles. I have been through at least six states, dozens of cities and even more small towns. I have seen bluegrass, lush forests, desert, steppe country and mountains. I have seen so much beauty, yet the most beautiful things I encounter are the stories of people.
During my travels I have met many different people, all of whom have their own life story, but one of the most captivating stories I have encountered so far involves a woman I never had the honor of meeting, and sadly I never will.
I was on my way back from Colorado, accompanied by three good friends, and driving across the panhandle of Texas when we came to a small town in which we had booked an Airbnb. The town is called Vega, population around 900, and it’s on the old Route 66 highway. Prior to booking the Airbnb two days before, we had never heard of it, and were pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Vega is a small, but beautiful little town and every person we met was kind and willing to share. After we got settled into our (very nice) accommodations, two of us went out to explore. It wasn’t long before we happened upon the Milburn-Price Culture Museum, a treasure trove of history and artifacts about Vega and the surrounding area.
The first thing that caught my eye was the amazing mural painted on the side of the building.
It was a stunning piece of artwork and it drew me in. My friend and I stepped onto the front porch where we were greeted by the lady who curates the museum. She was so kind and filled with knowledge and passion. She was an amazing hostess who showed us everything in the museum, and there was so much to take in that it was nearly overwhelming. Each artifact, from the old hand-operated printing press, to the early examples of barbed wire and saddles were visual representations of life along Route 66 down through the years.
However, there was one thing she showed us that made a deep impression on me. It was located in a separate building, and the moment I laid my eyes on it I got goosebumps. It was a magnificent mural, on which was the likeness of Vega’s own Valerie Doshier.
The mural was a tribute to Valerie, an amazing artist, and was created by fellow artist Joshua Finley. There are several murals throughout Vega that were painted by Valerie and Joshua.
The museum’s curator told us how Valerie was loved throughout the community, how she had travelled around the world touching hearts with her art and her sweet spirit. That’s where the story takes a sad turn. Valerie had been traveling when she began to feel ill. Her mother said she should return home and she did. Later, it was discovered that Valerie had a brain tumor.
I don’t know all of the details surrounding the events that followed. I do know that Valerie married her love not long after finding out about her cancer. I also know, from the way she is spoken about in Vega Texas, that Valerie was a special soul who left a legacy of love and art.
I wish I could explain why Valerie’s story touched me so deeply, but I cannot. I just know that it touched something within me that yearns to live each moment of my life in a way that is both meaningful and valuable.
It pains me to know I will never meet Valerie and let her know that her life impacted mine in a way that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it, but in a small town in the Texas panhandle, I discovered a kindred soul, and though her light was extinguished too soon, she shined so brightly that a small town boy from Kentucky was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
*images in this article from the Milburn-Price Culture Museum Facebook Page