- Associated Press - Sunday, July 6, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - On a glorious early summer morning, you could see Gary Tuttle as the sun itself, making the day.

He reminds you of the famous and selectively quoted lines by the playwright Arthur Miller: “He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine … A salesman is got to dream, boy.”

He reminds you of the late and beloved John Deere man in Gering, Reuben Drumheller, or the young fellows you knew years ago in Omaha, whistling up an attitude first thing in the morning: There are people who make things go to the black side of the ledger because they simply cannot help themselves. It’s what they are bound to do.

Gary Tuttle is selling us. Nebraska. Or, rather, the fun things in Nebraska. The Lincoln Journal Star reports (https://bit.ly/1rP0HJa ) at age 78, he’s at the Melia Hill westbound rest stop on Interstate 80 two or three days a week, working for the Nebraska Tourism Commission.

He’s tantalizing the hundreds of people who rush into the rest stop for purposes other than being persuaded by a brochure to stop at Grover Cleveland Alexander Days in St. Paul.

So it takes cunning and years of reading, knowing and genuinely liking to visit with people who may decide not to give you the time of day.

The secret of salesmanship seems - among those of us who admire it from afar - that for every abrupt or rude rejection there are many more opportunities, heavy with silver dollars, coming soon.

Watching and talking to Gary Tuttle, you can sense the potential at mile marker 431, 24 miles inland from the Missouri River coast of Nebraska. U.S. 6 may have bypassed Melia, dooming the Sarpy County village a long time ago, but the westbound world is rushing by on I-80, and anything probably will happen.

Of course it does.

Tuttle warms up talking about being reared in Laurel, attending his 60th high school reunion there just after the recent storms, about his teaching, coaching and his sales career with Jostens, the class ring, yearbook and high school nostalgia company. He has camped all over the state and traveled with his grandkids from New York. The rodeo at Fort Rob: “Those are real cowboys,” Tuttle says. “Not like those indoors at Omaha. My grandkids were impressed, let’s say that. They thought that was pretty good.”

Of course he knows Nebraska. He had to pass the rigorous state travel counselor certification program exam. Tough questions such as, between which two I-80 exits does the time zone change? Which Nebraska city is equidistant between San Francisco and Boston?

He knows his business. So when Mark and Kim Bocher and their kids come in, on a break from their first overland trip in an RV, Tuttle is receptive and ready. They’re headed to the Grand Canyon to deliver their expectant daughter, Taylor O’Brien, to her husband, a Marine.

It takes no time to discover the Bochers are from Kewaskum, Wisconsin. Fifty years ago, Tuttle sold pots and pans door-to-door to young women setting up housekeeping. Regal Ware pots and pans. From Kewaskum, Wisconsin. And the Bochers just moved into a home formerly owned by Jim Reigle, the chairman of the board.

This bond leads from one thing to another until the Bochers are like old friends. Sure, they’d like to stop and have a look at Memorial Stadium. And the Kearney Arch, too.

“If your kids are interested in history, trust me, that’s a great stop,” Tuttle says. They do, indeed, trust him.

“It’s beautiful,” says Kim Bocher, surveying the Platte River valley west of Melia Hill.

“It’s a lot better than driving through West Texas,” concludes a drive-by trucker, on his way.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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