NORMAN, OKLAHOMA — We meet at The Diner on Main Street.
It’s a common place for people to gather and talk.
It’s also a place where Rustin Sparks trolls for stories.
On this morning he works the room like a politician without an agenda or a salesman without anything to sell.
He talks a little.
He laughs a lot.
But, for the most part, he listens.
“It’s real easy to listen,” he says later. “You just don’t talk.”
Sparks doesn’t bother to get the name of the guy he meets who harbors hatred for squirrels.
He already knows Rita, his waitress at The Diner.
Rita jokes, “My mother is going to wonder what happened to me. ‘What did you do? I saw you on the news.'”
His stories ready for something deeper than casual small talk.
Rustin listens for small nuggets of humanity.
Then he takes a picture.
“You go for the natural shot,” he says while looking at the images he captured of Rita. “See, here she is telling me she’s not photogenic.”
He will eventually add the pictures and his observations to a collection he keeps on an online blog called ‘Oklahoma The Way I See It’.
“I just decided to start publishing some of the stories that I came across,” he says. “Everyone’s got one.”
He started a year ago, posting a story a day plus a picture.
He had a handful of followers at the beginning, but the numbers grew.
His blog and Facebook postings have close to 10,000 followers now.
He finds some of his stories just driving around.
He’s not intimidated by anyone with their nose pressed to a phone or laptop computer.
Sparks knows even these people like to share.
“I have 500 more friends today than I did a year ago,” he says.
Sparks also argues, “There’s nothing negative about a good conversation.”
His personal signature is an old, orange backpack from which he can quickly pull a camera and notebook.
Oklahoma, he says, is full of the best kinds of stories, and the people who like to tell them.
If you’re interested in reading Rustin’s online posts go to http://www.facebook.com/OklahomaTheWayISeeIt
Sparks has also launched a campaign on Kickstarted to raise money to publish a book of his stories and pictures.
You can find that at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1519505761/oklahoma-the-way-i-see-it-the-book