Thursday I desperately wanted to watch bad tv. The House of Health doesn't really "do" tv, so much so that the channels don't even show up, so it's always a mystery and sucks the fun out of channel surfing. I settled on a random show about the creation of Marble Falls, Texas. I forced myself to watch, thinking that I should know more about my new state and why the natives love it so much. As Adam Johnson's sister or cousin or niece or somebody rambled on about the beauty of Marble Falls, I could barely hear her over my dad's voice echoing in my head about how "these ain't hills...huh...it's not green...they don't even have water."
In a mad dash to try to get to Camille's crawfish boil Saturday, I mistakenly took the scenic route from Austin to Odessa. Even though it took 6.5 hours to get there, I saw a lot of Texas and loved it. Apparently LBJ was not the only Johnson from Texas to improve domestic affairs. Marble Falls is gorgeous which is not something I am comfortable saying about Texas. Thus far I have been unimpressed with the "scenery". The blue bonnets are in high season which I realized once I passed several cars randomly pulled over taking pictures. It was like driving on the Parkway with all the leaf lookers. That was the first of many things that reminded me of Waynesville. I stopped three times and over heard gas station cling-ons and motorcycle wives blabbing about being out "doin' the blue bonnets". They are okay but much better when paired with their red-headed stepsister. No one even knows what the stepsister is called......it's worse than being referred to as "my sister" when I'm standing in the room and Lisa is talking to JT who clearly knows who she means if she ventures to use my name.....they don't even get a name.
Beyond the hills I was still entertained by the numerous small towns, each with a Main St. just begging to hold a saloon shootout. I started feeling like I was passing through the same place repeatedly....that too is much like North Carolina. The major difference is the type of bbq and the frequency of gas stations. Amazingly driving through the middle of oil country and along side the pipeline, does not guarantee gas stations. West Texas rule #1: if you pass a gas station fill up....who knows when you'll see another one.
The further I drove, the bigger the sky became. I've never seen so many white fluffy clouds....they make the flat land beautiful. Just as I was beginning to get bored with the clouds, I passed by the gates of Eden, which apparently keep the barbwire industry alive. Then I began realizing how many songs are written about Texas and felt the urge to listen to Johnny Cash.
I always rolled my eyes and thought South Carolinians were crazy about their state with all their tree and moon paraphernalia....Texas pride completely trumps it. In no other state will you be invited to sit down in a chair resembling the state flag and then realize everyone around you has the same chair. It's crazy and extreme and seems to be universal for Texans, even transplants. I am a little dumbfounded by it but it's actually really interesting. It is kinda cool that people are so into their state, most places no one even knows the state flower, much less the symbol or motto. In my amazement over the chairs I joked about having a pledge to the Texas flag because it is EVERYWHERE......not a joke, apparently they have one. A warehouse dedicated to jerky and taxidermy is also real....and not to be giggled about.
West Texas rule #2: washers is a serious game, worthy of tournaments and prize belt buckles. #3: asking where one gets a crazy huge belt buckle is not acceptable..."um at the boot store"...right, obviously. #4: you're never too old to do a keg stand. #5: water from the dirty oil land is gross.
Monday, I took the shorter route back to Austin via I-10. I was super excited about the 80 mph speed limit and had to call Camille to verify I was not just seeing things. I guess they have just accepted that it's straight, flat and empty. I drove for several hours with no phone service, one tejano radio station and no other cars in sight. Speed limit signs are rare gems along the highways here, oh, excuse me the "farm to market roads". I was however constantly reminded to obey state signs which demand I drive friendly and maintain my vehicle. I guess when the most common vehicle is an extra large, Texas edition truck with a mean grill guard, there is a need to remind people to drive friendly. The cliffs, endless sky and empty highway made me feel small, free and like I was driving a lowrider.
West Texas is much like western North Carolina in very bizarre ways. Maybe it's that "I'd like to check you for ticks" is an acceptable pick up line on the shore of Tow Head Creek and the Pigeon River. Mostly it's the feeling of not having to force yourself to relax. You don't have a choice. But really I would choose to sit outside, watching the sun set, talking with Camille over a lot of things....even if it is in a Texas flag chair.