If I ain’t never seen a more beautiful place in my life than driving down Interstate 20 between Weatherford and Pecos. There is a beauty that comes from that drive that only few people could understand or even appreciate.
If you are headed west towards Midland then you start off in what we Texans like to refer to as “Horse Country,” in Paulo Pino and Parker Counties. It is sure a beautiful place of rocks and cactus overlooking beautiful meadows of more dirt, rock and cactus. But it does have a magical beauty to it like few have ever seen in their lives.
The sweet fragrant smell of weeds and wildflowers mixed in with tangy aroma of horse shit. On second thought, it sounds kind of like the start of the Texas Legislature, which we call “The Lege,” that meets every two years. That’s a whole other chapter in itself, which I am sure that we will get around to talking about.
Now, most people think it is a long drive full of nothing. And you’d probably be right. But what it really is happens to be a long drive of time to think.
As you start your journey west you begin to think about just how beautiful this place is and how lucky you are to live here. In fact, if you ever doubt that fact, you can stop into almost any gas station or cafe and just ask them—they will validate your thought process if you ever begin to doubt it.
In fact, on this drive you have time to think about why you are hear in the first place and where you will fit in here in this big old state. It is a time to ponder the meaning of life of the wonders of mescaline, if like many you are so inclined to natural remedies.
Like most of the state, this is a land of football and oil wells, ranches and rocky hills. It is a land where you can stop off at the Loves in Weatherford and not stop again until you need gas or something to drink at the Allsup’s in Midland. This is one damn desolate drive and an even more desolate land. But, the irony of it all is that people have lived here for years and not only have they lived here—they have somehow managed to thrive.
Once I get out to about the other side of Ranger Hill, I reckon this is where the reality of it all begins to set in that you have one Hell of a long way to go before you get to Anthony, way out the other side of El Paso. For the most part, I reckon this is what most people have Texas pictured as when they read about it in a book or a magazine that shows the down right false reality of this grand old state of which I am a native son.
Good people, they are. Salt of the earth, mostly Baptist and the only thing that love equally as much as God is themselves and their state. They also hold the damn high school football team in high regards, in part because it is about the only thing that they have to collectively really take pride in.
I myself was raised about 400 miles away in Floresville and about the only difference between there and here is the dot on the map. Mostly Republicans and mostly good folks who believe in living by the Golden Rule—for the most part, that is.
They, like most rural Texans are a proud bunch. Too damn proud in fact to admit that they are scared. Scared of the world around them and scared of the change that might actually occur unless they resist it.
Now, to hear them tell it, they ain’t scared of nothing. But I’ll be damned if they ain’t. You see, out here in this part of Texas it is not uncommon to be scared of things that you don’t understand. Some examples of that might be homosexuals, which they just call “queers.” They are also scare of blacks from places like Houston, Dallas and Austin. They just call them “thugs” because use of the n-word is just not proper in these days in public. That must be saved for exclusive use at home and within tight circle of “polite” friends. Fear here is real and they have a lot to be scared. Out here, they wore guns on their belts in wide open public before there was a law allowing them to do that. Open carry was a way of life long before our current bunch of buffon tails landed in Austin.
They had to carry pistols on their hips to make them feel less scared or as if they were sort of vigilante, self-protecting lawman assisting in the protection of the fortress. They had to protect themselves against the “thugs” from the city, the occasional roughneck (oil field worker) or news reporter who came out asking questions about things. It was a way of life and frankly, I’m not so sure I want to totally change it because in a weird sort of way, I do respect it.
But out here they have a lot going for the, in a sense. They have their freedom to do whatever the Hell they want to do when they want to do it. They can get drunk and drive then have the cops take you home—if they like you and all. They also have a tendency to ignore laws that were written in Austin or Washington, partly because they feel as if they are so far removed from both that the laws that are made there just do not apply to them. Hell, half of them have never seen an abortion clinic or even a condom. Their idea, or “idie,” as we call it, of birth control is to just encourage your son or daughter not to have sex until they are married—or a senior in high school, whichever comes first.
They don’t mean any harm by the things they do here. Lord, knows they don’t. They just don’t know any better because they were never taught any better.
You see, the biggest form of accomplishment out here is to have your kids grow up to be just like you. But then again, that isn’t all that different in most other parts of the state, either. You see, daddy was a welder and by-god his son is a damn welder, too. Taught him every damn “thang,” he knows. “Thang” is Texas for “thing,” in the case you didn’t know.
But the one thing about it here is that you are always welcome…to stop and sit a spell, then move on. You see, they don’t need you here unless you come from here. You don’t have much to offer them anyhow because you wasn’t born here or understand the local culture.
So the next time you are driving out near Gordon or Wickett along or near Interstate 20 and your mind gets to wondering about what kind of people live out there, you might ought to do yourself a favor and stop on in and sit for a spell. Tell me if when you get back in your car the first thing that comes out of your mouth aren’t “if I ain’t never?”