Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Trip - West and Central Texas

(Written July 3, 2007, 8:30pm - No internet available then, so it's posted now)

We got to Roy's this afternoon, and had a happy reunion with him and his wife. Then we pulled the car off the tow dolly, and headed to Dairy Queen while Roy started working on the dashboard air conditioning.

All the rain around Cisco didn't get into West Texas, where it was over 100 degrees. My mom and I had some ice cream decadence, but Scooter had to wait in the car with the windows partially down. We brought him a small bowl of ice cream when we finished ours, which he devoured like a dog. Then we went back to Roy's to wait in his office. It felt like our home away from home. My mom and I crocheted, and Scooter slept off his overindulgence.

It's different in West Texas than around Cisco, where my mom and sister live. West Texas is dry, with pale scrub brush for long distances, dotted (in some places, spattered) with oil pumps. It reminds me of the scene near the beginning of Glory Road, when the old assistant coach is driving three of the new basketball recruits back to El Paso on a bus. He announces proudly, "West Texas. God's country." And one of the recruits replies, "If this is God's country, He must not want any neighbors."

Most of God's neighbors in West Texas seem to be in the oil business or something related to it, twice removed. And if the people here appreciate the beauty around them, it's because they're able to see past the obvious. Sure, it's easy to find beauty in Western Montana or the Pacific coastline, but it takes patience and an open heart to recognize a common spirit in the scrappy plants that have fought against the hot extremes of nature and not only won but sometimes even managed to bloom.

In Central Texas (they call it Big Country), the landscape is prettier to the eye. The plants are the right color green, not pale like their western cousins, and there are more of them. Wildflowers grow everywhere along the roads, tall and profuse.

Once you get outside of town (which doesn't take very long), fields stretch to the horizon. The trees are a little lower than in other parts of the country, but they're still trees, not oversized bushes. I drove up to Breckenridge to pick up a prescription, a thunderstorm flashing bolts of lightning to the ground off to the left, but the thunder never reached the car. The fields along the way looked like farmland, with farm-style houses, but other than a quarter-mile stretch of three-foot high corn growing along both sides of the road, I didn't see much of anything that looked like crops. It might be good ranchland, but there were no cows. I just couldn't say from observation what that part of Texas does with its wide-open land.

But I'm starting to like it there. Small town life is growing on me. People are different in Cisco than in California. People don't go out for lunch after church very much. They go home or to a family member's house to have a big meal. There are only a few restaurants in town, and when my mom and I realized we didn't have any food for breakfast yesterday, we headed to the one restaurant that serves breakfast, only to find a sign on the front door saying she was on vacation and would be back July 6th. We ended up at Sonic Burger, because Dairy Queen and Subway don't serve breakfast, and those three are the only fast food chains in town. But that's the way it goes in places like Cisco.

At my mom's church, the people are friendly. They ask me where I'm from, and when I say, "California," they usually have some connection with the state. One of the two former motorcycle-gang members--now born-again Christians---is from Sacramento and was the head of a chapter of Hell's Angels in Southern California for a while. A senior lady tells me she lived in Bishop, and she still misses the mountains and tall trees back there, but she doesn't say what brought her to Cisco, and she's been in Texas long enough to sound like one of their own. They welcome me, though, and the few that I met on previous trips here greet me as an old friend.

The biggest practical difference between Cisco and California is that in Cisco, you take your car to a place named by the owner's first name. You take it to Stan's or Ed's or Howard's, depending on what needs to be fixed, and sometimes they'll come to your house to look things over. People know these guys, and they know each one will either fix your car right or tell you where you should take it to get it fixed.

But not in California. There, you wouldn't dream of taking your car to a place with a man's first name, not without making sure several of your friends take their cars there and recommend the place highly, and even then you would hesitate. In California, too many businesses can operate for a long time without being any good at what they do or by charging outrageous prices. But in a small town, word gets around quickly about whether the new guy is any good or not.

It's been relaxing being in Texas, and while I'm tempted to chalk it up to small-town atmosphere, it probably has more to do with not having to go to work every day. Some days I've had to devote to studying--I've finished all the work now for my two 8-week online classes, and I have five more chapters (with quizzes) to finish by mid-July for Medical Terminology. But other than that, I haven't had anything to do that was more stressful than making sure I got ready for church on time.

No, wait. Driving the motorhome (with my car being towed) at night in the rain through a construction zone was scary. And when semis with the box-trailers pass us on the highway with two lanes in each direction, their displaced air tries to push the motorhome to the shoulder as the cab goes by, and then the tail of the trailer tries to suck us back toward the center line.

We've had to learn how to handle the passing trucks, but I still white-knuckle when it's my turn to drive. And we have to plan where to park whenever we stop somewhere, because we absolutely, positively must not back up--ever--when the dolly and car are being towed.

Some of the things in the motorhome don't work quite right, but we're adjusting. And Scooter is doing well. His place whenever he goes for a ride is riding shotgun or sitting in Shotgun's lap. The motorhome is no different for him. With Scooter in your lap, you can't do much besides reading a book or looking around, but that's just fine. The crocheting and the laptop can wait their turn.

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