Memoirs are like money—
You can’t take it with you,
But you can send it on ahead.
Okay, let’s take a little journey back through the 1990’s, by way of random excerpts from written and oral recordings of various trips during this time span. As a matter of simplicity, no chronological order will be imposed on the following commentaries, okay? So, kick back and lay off, or kick off and lay back, or whatever you do, and enjoy the ride. There’s no cover charge.
It was mid-December, 1991, and, metaphorically speaking, Ol’ Baleau was pawing the ground, ready to take flight on her rooftop journey, dropping off presents with care. Santa William’s bag was full of labors of love, mostly small, seasonal aquarelles. Just a year ago, I was making the Mystic East odyssey of gift-giving, Now it was the southern swing towards the east…Monroe LA (Ian & Sheena Millar), Birmingham AL (Ed Jarmin), Knoxville TN (Boo Farris), Kingsport TN (Jim & Reece Toohey), and Rockville MD (Ted & Karen Early and the four grandchildren). What a fulfilling feeling. I was seizing each day, yet trusting every tomorrow.
It was one of many “Last Blasts of Winter” escapes to Colorado during the 1990s (the last week of March). Pinching my nose to imitate Willie Nelson, I intone “On the Road Again”, as I pass through the one-traffic-light-town of Roanoke and out along the two-lane Texas 111 north of Ft. Worth. The pastoral farm and ranch land along the highway is being uncontrollably devoured by the insatiable developer’s appetite to bury the landscape with concrete. Two cases in point: the NASCAR racetrack and the Grapevine Mills Mall, a leitmotif that sorely rears its ugly head all over the North Texas Forty. And add to that, all the Daytona 500 freeways and the new airport runways that are currently engulfing the precious grasslands, and I foresee an apocalyptic urbanization from Dallas to the Red River, ninety miles to the north. Texas urban areas are developer-owned. Every square foot of real estate is turned over for profit. Greed is the law of the land out here in the west. And what about the issue of global warming? Everyone fosters the blame on energy-related emissions…the “green-house” effect. Well, anyone in the wide world of physics knows that man-made surfaces reflect the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere ten, or maybe twenty, times the rate of natural surfaces. Oh yeah, looking down from a jetliner at 35,000 feet, the problematic situation may appear to be insignificant. But, I’m telling you, this car and concrete orientation is a festering cancer on too much of this God-given earth. There has to be a compromise down the road, somewhere.
Sorry about the digression but 1 can’t resist standing on a soapbox now and then. TX 114 melds with U.S. 287 about 45 miles from my front door, and there begins the dullest stretch of the drive to Colorado…the 90 miles to Wichita Falls. A red and white striped-top fruit stand about midway offers a pleasant respite to pick up a cantaloupe and some peaches. However, on this particular trip I want to revisit my favorite courthouse. Only Rush Limbaugh is keeping my mind alert when I spot the imposing edifice positioned perfectly on a hill-top prominence. “Eighter from Decatur, county seat of Wise” (an old crapshooter’s prayer). I veer off on business route 287 and wend my way through town, keeping an eye peeled on the clock tower cynosure…there’s no problem finding the town square. I park in front of a barber shop with one of those revolving peppermint poles. Yes, they’re still there. My objective is to photograph a close-up (with the 135 mm lens) of the clock tower and the magnificent stone work. I then back off for another overall view, this one from a different angle than I had shot back in 1984. And lo and behold, there in the picture frame was the standard supporting all the highway directional signs, just as I had delineated them in my first watercolor, only from the opposite corner. That’s what is known as the privilege of using one’s artistic license, i.e., juxtapositioning certain objects for the desired composition. Finally, it’s off to the Rockies.
Calendar-wise, these excursions are actually taken during the first two weeks of spring. But, the Colorado high-country does not recognize the vernal equinox until the first of May. The high plains and majestic peaks are still blanketed with a canvas of unpainted white. The “high point” of each trip is to return (to Texas) by negotiating one last summit road, usually Cucharas Pass (elev. 9,991 ft.) through the San Isabel Nat. Forest on the “out-of-the-way” loop on Colorado Hwy 12 “between” Walsenburg and Trinidad, the last outpost before exiting to New Mexico. Within two days, I would see the green buds on the oaks and cottonwoods in the Texas Panhandle. So, for the “last inhalation of winter”, I pull off at the summit and put it in park. The outside temperature is 29 degrees (according to my outside/inside thermometer inside the van) as I stand there in a winter wonderland. A gauze of gray enshrouded the peaks, and white moisture weighted on evergreen limbs as far as I could see. There was not even a whisper of a wind (no chill factor). All I could say to myself was: “This is the coldest weather I’m going to feel for the next nine months”. Think about it. Well, that’s my compendium of winter trips, for now anyway.