goldenrodThistle and I often hike in the national forest near our house. I never know who we’ll run into up there–hikers, hunters, cyclists, foragers–there’s quite a variety of folks. Yesterday, though, was unique.

We pulled into the gravel lot and I noticed some people poking around in the tall weeds. If it were July, I’d assume they were picking blackberries, but this time of year I couldn’t think what they’d be after.

Thistle hopped out of the car and headed straight for the closest human being, since human beings are her favorite thing. Next to treats. I followed and saw that our neighbor was a young man, hair in a topknot, cigarette dangling from his lips. And he was . . . picking flowers.

And not just picking flowers–he’d assembled a gorgeous little bouquet of blue and white asters, goldenrod, thistles, and ferns. It was straight off of Pinterest. I exclaimed over how pretty it was and commented on the thistle, telling him that was my dog’s name.

He got excited and called out to his two friends, exclaiming over knowing the name of the flower that was the same as the name of the dog. Now, his friends were also, um, not stereotypical flower pickers. T-shirts with no sleeves, cigarettes, a beat up cowboy hat–and a handful of purple asters.

They greeted me, cocked wary eyes at Thistle, and climbed into their car. Three good ole boys and their perfect nosegay of autumn flowers.

I wanted to ask them who the flowers were for. Someone’s mother or grandmother? A girlfriend? Their own pleasure? I wanted to take a picture of a redneck boy holding a bouquet suited to a flower girl at a wedding as ash fell from his cigarette.

But I didn’t do any of that. I just tucked the image away in my heart. Because those were my people. Mountain people. Contradictory people. People who will bring you flowers, but would rather you didn’t ask any questions.