Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The sun has riz, the sun has set, and we ain't out of Texas yet.
Driving out west from Dallas always enchants me. It was a slow-dawning occurence--my love for the rugged desolation of the west--but these landscapes are cemented in my affection among my favorites on earth. West beyond Fort Worth the terrain goes from relatively flat to gently rolling hills and distant mesas. Before you hit Wichita Falls, the first oil pumpjacks appear doing their perpetual grasshopper routines while hoovering up the water of life from deep underground. This landscape gives way to more hilly farmland (I noticed cotton growing) and lots of grazing for cows and horses. Beyond Wichita Falls is a farm with a herd of camels who looked quite happy, actually. I wondered if someone is manufacturing camel sausage or something...
On toward the Texas panhandle, the landscape becomes decidedly more sere, the vegetation consisting of more heat-hardy oily types such as sages and lots more cacti. This area is full of low-growing mesquite trees which have gnarled little trunks with fernlike foliage that sway in the wind like a forest of seaweed in the rush of tide. The earth here is bright red. There are occasional long bridges over flat dry areas that seem to make no sense. However, these bridges are over washes and forks from rivers (such as the Prairie Dog fork of the Red River) which are completely dry year-round except after a rain, at which time flash-floods barrel through the area.
By the time you reach the Amarillo area of the panhandle, you are baffled by the vastness of the flat plains stretching out in all directions. The wind there seems ever determined to sand-blast everything in its path, and storms there always seem spectacular to me.
We went to a family gathering (of dear friends of my mother's, not relations of our own) in Hereford which is about 40 miles southwest of Amarillo, and self-proclaimed cattle capitol of the world. If smelling is believing, then they've earned the title: the entire town smells like cow doodie. There I saw an enormous humpty-dumpty shaped woman riding a sparkly purple tricycle motorcycle. She was wearing tight polyester shorts with the waistband pulled up right under her tits. As long as I live, I'll wish I had a photograph to show you. It was very special. Maybe I'll make a trip to Hereford one day and stake out the corner where I saw her drive by, camera at the ready. If YOU were telling ME about her, I'd think you were exaggerating. Little stick legs, body round as a tomato, large and in charge.
Driving back east again on Sunday, we were astonished by spectacular cloud formations ahead, and a huge rainbow that was unbroken from horizon to horizon. The green of the new vegetation and the terracotta red earth looked especially vivid against the federal blue of the darkening skies. Suddenly, there was a sound like a gunshot hitting my car, and dozens more close on its heels. Hail. Hell. New car, and wouldn't you know it? We pulled off the road, as did most people: these quarter-sized chunks of ice were hitting cars hard enough without rushing to meet them head-on. The hail storm lasted about 25 minutes, which is the most protracted hail I've ever experienced. It was extraordinary and bracing, in a way, but I was concerned about having to drive the rest of the way home with no glass in the windshield. Remarkably, the vehicle came through with nary a scratch.
The whole trip was great, and I'll have photos later in the week. The junk shop I raided in Quanah yielded much in the way of goodies, but I opted not to buy the chicken, as I swore in the previous post. Instead I got a lot of other great crap. I got my crap-buying jollies enough to last me for a while, though I have vowed to take the pickup truck next time and fetch me a chicken. For sure!