FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arriving here last weekend was pure unadulterated fun, an uplifting experience. I found accommodating people extending bona fide and unfeigned hospitality along the way.

To begin with, the landscape was as appealing as a sorority house lawn with trees and greenery that were inviting and inspirational. It was like a blind date who puts you in a sobering mood.

What you see on the news about America is not what you experience when a sojourn takes you into the hinterlands. Americana is alive and well. We should elect our politicians from Middle America. The problem with that is that Middle Americans don’t want to serve in such a nasty business. They want to extend a helping hand. They are not greedy, self-serving or detached from the truth. The truth would indict all too many politicians. It would never set them free.

You extend a helping hand in politics today, more often than not, you get a Rottweiler or pit bull response. Don’t Donald Trump and Joe Biden both disgust you? Take ‘em both behind the woodshed. Impeach them both now.

Give me real Americans, the down home, good guys, the ones who underscore the notion that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is foremost in their lives. Live and let live. Everyday Americans — just can’t have too many of them.

I like it when pilots like Leo Tuorila and Milton Readdick, with over 60,000 hours on their resumes, ferry me to a destination. They love flying like a golfer who aspires to play a round of golf every day. I have been flying with Milton for over 40 years but was recently introduced to Leo by Chris Davis, a loyal Dawg and a great American.

Leo and I have something in common. We both have enjoyed Finlandia vodka in Helsinki, Finland. Easy for him, he was born there. I had the experience as a tourist.

At Walmart Beaver Lake Aviation, in Rogers, Arkansas, Chelsea Martin almost sprinted to fetch a bottle of water. She took a knee to plug in my cellphone adapter, all eager, all smiles, making everything all right.

At the Embassy Suites in Rogers, Elena Atanasova, rooms assistant general manager, was obliging and efficient in making a cantankerous laptop do right. Her accent and her name suggested that she might be Eastern European. I guessed Greece but missed. “I’m Bulgarian,” she smiled.

Turns out she came here for an American education, but marriage kept her here. Hers is a fascinating immigration story, one that raises your level of appreciation. “I have been an American citizen for 12 years and very proud of that,” she said, flashing a generous smile. Her husband works for Walmart, and they have a 1-year old daughter.

Elena has to manage the home front while contributing to the family budget. Doesn’t all this sound very American?

Then there was an Uber connection, which led to an introduction to Denita Murphy, a very attractive and effusive driver with a million-dollar smile. She had a first career in retail and her husband, Rueben, has continued in retail. She is the mother-in-law of Willie Snead, wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens.

She grew up in Ohio, Reuben is from Michigan and they once lived in Douglasville, west of Atlanta. She can talk football with anybody, which means that she can always put most of her customers in a good mood.

It is her demeanor and her extraordinary service that set her apart. She didn’t recoil with a sigh or disclaimer when she scheduled a lift to the airport on Sunday after the Georgia-Arkansas game, when it meant that she had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to deliver Eric Zeier and Neil Williamson of the Bulldog radio network to catch an early morning flight.

After a professional career and raising four kids, she rejected the thought of sitting on the couch and watching television. Her grandmother, who lived to be 97, told her the secret to living a long time was to stay active. She is following in her grandmother’s footsteps.

You can meet the most interesting people on a routine journey and more than likely they will make your day.

Here’s to my new friends in the Natural State.

Loran Smith of Athens, the long-time sideline radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, writes a regular feature column.

Recommended for you